Staff Sgt. William Whiteside knows how important good personal protective equipment is to a rider. After all, he got the chance to wear out $5,000 worth of it in just one accident. That said, he's still alive, can walk, and count to 10 on his fingers.

As you get ready for the peak riding seasons this spring and summer, it's wise to put something durable between your head, your hide and the highway. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has the following suggestions about good riding gear.
  • Helmets -- Ensure they meet Department of Transportation standards, and consider a full-face model to protect your nose, cheek and chin should you hit the highway face-first. Novelty helmets shatter like cheap plastic cups, splattering their contents on highways, jersey barriers, guardrails and other objects that don't give.
  • Footwear -- Sturdy boots with oil-resistant, rubber-based composite soles will give you a strong grip on the pavement and help keep your feet on the motorcycle pegs. They also provide extra protection against foot and ankle injuries.
  • Jackets, pants and riding suits -- Gear purposefully designed to protect riders will better resist wearing through when sliding down the road in an accident and also can be cut to match the motorcyclist's riding position without binding.
  • Gloves -- Full-fingered gloves protect hands from blisters, wind, sun and cold and help prevent cuts, bruises and abrasions in a crash. This is especially important as the skin on the fingers is comparatively thin ­-- and no match for asphalt.

-- Bob Van Elsberg