Dress for (Motorcycle) Success
by Christopher Gil
New to riding? In need of a style makeover? Trying to figure out how to buy gear that’s protective while still turning heads? MAD Maps sat down with Joanne Donn of GearChic.com (no “k” on “chick,” by the way) to get the skinny on great riding apparel.
MM: What’s your ride?
GC: I love my 2003 Suzuki SV650S for touring. I’ve had it three years now and put over 20,000 miles on it. But in the city, the electric Brammo Enertia can’t be beat.
MM: What’s your life like right now?
GC: I currently live in San Francisco and try to eat, sleep and breathe motorcycling. Aside from running GearChic.com, I work part time as an MSF RiderCoach and sell apparel at Scuderia West, a local motorcycle dealership.
MM: With so much already going on, why start GearChic.com?
GC: I’ve worked in apparel sales and my experience made me realize the lack of understanding of how to choose motorcycle gear. For example, I’ve had motorcycle commuters ask me if they could wear full leathers over their business attire. I ask them if they would wear lingerie under their bathing suit! Protective gear needs to be like a second skin. Europeans seems to understand that fact more than Americans, so there’s a real need for protective-gear information in this country. My dream is to have a Mobile Gear Unit (MGU) that I drive around the U.S., fitting and sizing riders with as much “real” protective gear options as is available to them. Until I can make that dream a reality, I figured I’d do so in the virtual world.
MM: How does GearChic.com work?
GC: Aside from gear reviews, they’ll find helpful fitment advice on my Gear 101 page including my 5 shopping tips and how to shop for each piece of gear, a directory of manufacturers from A-Z that make real women’s gear and more. I can also answer anyone’s gear questions . . . for free. They can call or text me via Google voice (415-857-GEAR); or access me via social networking on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge during my time in apparel sales, so I feel I should “pay it forward” by sharing that information.
MM: What’s the biggest mistake riders make when choosing gear?
GC: That’s an easy one. Riders usually buy apparel that’s too large because they don’t realize that the safety and functionality of gear is tied closely to the proper fit. And because people are used to buying casual clothes that are bigger, looser and extra comfortable. Although your gear should definitely be comfortable, it shouldn’t be too comfortable. Let’s say you buy a helmet that’s too large. You just spent maybe $500 and will have a helmet that’s noisy because of the wind and, more importantly, it won’t protect you as well.
MM: Can you buy protective gear that is functional and still makes you look hot? Let’s face it: part of the fun of being on a motorcycle is making some heads turn!
GC: Definitely, but one person’s definition of ‘hot’ can be different from another. I’d say there’s something for everyone, but what you see on tv or in movies may not be exactly what you’ll find at your local dealership or online. The more protection you’re looking for, the less fashionable it gets. The more fashionable you try to look, the less protection you’ll get. It’s a tradeoff and you’ll have to decide what’s more important to you. There’s a scarcity of apparel that’s 50/50 when it comes to being protective/cool looking. Sometimes, that’s where I find riders make mistakes. They think, “Will my partner like how I look in this outfit,” or “Is this helmet stylish?” Wrong questions!
MM: Do you only advise women?
GC: Not at all. Although I only review women’s gear, I have plenty of experience working with men’s gear at Scuderia and am always happy to give out advice in either direction.
MM: What questions do you have to ask to be able to properly answer someone’s gear questions?
GC: There are several factors. I need to know what you ride, where you ride, how often you ride, do you run hot or cold and if you commute or tour. Most importantly, I need to know your body type and what kind of fitment issues you may or may not have to find the right brands/sizes that will work best. Understanding your riding needs/lifestyle is also important for me to recommend gear options that will work for you as well.
MM: Here’s the most important question. How can you stop helmet hair?
GC: There’s really only one way. Cut your hair short!