How to Spot Fake Riding Gear

They rode slowly and still wore OEM gear 1 photo
In these times when the financial crisis is still echoing strong in certain economies, money may be hard to come by. And since riding gear (or motorcycling) has never been a cheap passion of business, riders may be at times tempted to save on very cheap gear they plan to buy, believing they’re making the right choice, at least from a financial point of view.
Fact is, that they’re not making the good deal they hope, as fakes can be seen almost everywhere and come in the most seductive designs, most often mimicking expensive, original gear from the top manufacturers. And you’ve probably guessed it already, fake riding gear is NOWHERE NEAR as good as original equipment when it comes to protecting riders when luck runs out.

Spending money on fake gear is literally wasting it completely, and you’d be better off donating it to a charity. The prayers of the guys who’ll be helping you in the time of need may be just as effective as the protection such crap is offering.
Seen from afar, all leathers and textile riding gear looks good and looks pretty much the same, but this is where similarities stop. As soon as you lay hands on fake gear and analyze it meticulously, you’ll realize (or at least should be able to) that you’re dealing with fakes.

Good riding gear has a justified price, and even though it partly covers the great feeling one gets when wearing the brand’s logo across the chest, no OEM is selling crap. Most of the leathers and textile equipment sold as brand-original is in fact commissioned to one of the top makers in the industry, or at least has massive safety-focused input involved in the making of the product.

BMW, Harley-Davidson, Yamaha, KTM and pretty much any motorcycle manufacturer which is also selling riding gear is having Dainese, Spidi, Aerostitch, Alpinestars and so on manufacturing their products and branding them. Underneath the shiny badges customers are actually wearing top-of-the-line gear, manufactured according to the world standards, tested for compliance and thus able to provide the required level of protection.

Likewise, helmets and boots might be almost perfect lookalike copies of the original equipment, and their much lower price is quite appealing to riders more preoccupied with looks than with actual protection. A close visual inspection is the first thing riders should do prior to spending their money on gear with too-good-to-be-true prices.

Looks and feel. Open your eyes!

High school is really far back in time so I can’t remember the exact percentage of the total amount of information humans receive by means of sight, but I know it’s a pretty high one. So even though a quick glance from several meters away might deceive the rider and make him or her believe they’re looking at original riding gear, a close examination should be a pretty effective first step to tell fakes.

Premium riding gear costs a lot because premium materials and craftsmanship are used to make it. Don’t fool yourselves that Dainese is using the cheapest leather it can find and them sells it to you with a 5000% profit margin. If such a thing were feasible, everybody would be in the business, right? At the same time, a premium motor clothing manufacturer also knows that good looks bring good money, and sets up internal quality control routines to make sure its products live up to the advertisement, standards and customer expectations.
A lot of time and manufacturing efforts are spent to make everything fall in place perfectly, be functional and look good. Cuts, stitched, sewn, painted or embossed insignia and pretty much every detail should look as sharp as the price. I’ve never seen a BMW-branded jacket with loose threads hanging from it, or top-drawer Rev’It one-piece leathers with a shorter sleeve. And that’s because OEMs can’t afford to let imperfect gear reach the stores, and it spells bad business.

Bad news travels way faster than good news, and OEMs are not really into having customers talking to each other in such terms as “hey mate, checked that Icon jacket I told you about. Looked good, but the stitching was all crappy, and in a corner, the embroidery was already coming loose. Forget about them, I’ll go with Furygan.”

First of all, if the tailoring looks weird and has “hesitant” shapes, you’re probably looking at fake clothes. Most serious manufacturers invest a lot in their R&D departments to come up with the most comfortable designs which offer zero-compromise protection and there’s also at least a fashion designer involved in the process. He or she will simply not allow crap to wear the brand’s logo, because that’s why these guys are paid: make technical gear look great and fashionable, and this includes colors, tailoring, sewing and all.

You should also be able to tell genuine leather from fakes. There are a lot of synthetic materials which look like leather, but almost none is as good. In fact, those who could rival leather are also damn expensive, so you’ll not find them for low prices. Leather has limited elasticity, whereas vinyl and knockoffs tend to be more “rubbery”. And if you can find a portion where the grain or actual texture of the material can be examined, please do so. Seriously, if you look well enough, fakes are really easy to spot.

Certification, comparison. And names!

The level of protection is determined by batteries of tests carried out by the manufacturers themselves and by third-party organizations. In pretty much any part of the world where major motorcycling markets exist, one will find such standards. The ones for helmets are the most draconic, but this doesn’t mean other riding gear is treated with less care.

I’m sure you’ve seen DOT, SNELL, ECE stickers on your or other helmets. They are a testimony that those specific lids meet the minimal requirements of said standards, and only manufacturers are allowed to install them. They are usually located on the back of the head, and sometimes the same picture can be met on the labels. Since they are an important indicator of compliance with existing motoring laws, and their absence can lead to momentary sales halts, stocks seized and all, manufacturers are making sure they look official.
Fake helmets may also display such stickers, but rather negligently applied, or applied in weird places. The same goes for other riding gear: original garments usually come with a lot of booklets and labels, tags and whatnot, describing the materials used and their properties, advertising their superior quality over the competitors’.

Serious riding gear is never sold without these, so their absence should raise suspicions. Even though the guy you’re buying from may say that they’ve been re-stocked or come up with all sorts of stories to justify the absence of such labels, things are to be considered iffy.

One of the best ways to educate yourselves in this respect is paying visits to authorized dealers and touch, feel, test, weigh, smell original gear. Once you know what original MotoGP Alpinestars Repsol Honda replica one-piece leather looks like after a hands-on experience, it will be virtually impossible for someone to sell you fake ones.

Boots, helmets, gloves and everything connected make no exception. After you’ve worn a pair of Held waterproof gloves for 4 seasons and they still hold water at bay for countless hours in a row (like I did), it’s rather hard that you (or I) would be that easily tricked by fake ones.

Finally, it’s back to being more attentive at what lies beyond the glamorous colors and graphics. A close inspection is usually enough to at least raise suspicion and make you run a quick online check to see what a specific apparel line looks like.

Rest assured that there are riders out there wearing Yanaha and Kavasaki gear, “Arai” helmets which look like Nolans with strange types of diseases, Daytona “Gore Tex” boots which can only take half an hour of moderate rain and the like of those.

What’s the risk?

In the end, some might ask why anyone should spend big bucks on original, certified gear, and why wearing gear sold for a third of the OEM price is wrong. While the question is totally justifiable, the answers are even more eloquent.

Riding a bike IS dangerous, even for experienced riders. There are so many things that might go wrong and cause you to spill, and when it’s time for skin to meet the asphalt, you’ll wish to have something between the two to save your hide. Or head, for what’s worth.

Putting things bluntly, they’re only a tad better than wearing shorts and coming off the bike. Fakes might look almost like the original gear, but they will only provide a small fraction of the protection the latter will, when the bell strikes. As you could see in the BBC documentary, the fake Yamaha leathers provided just over 3 seconds of abrasion-resistance compared to the 5+ EU standards demand. In case you are tempted to say that 3 seconds is enough, try scraping your knee or hand against the asphalt, pressing hard and see how it feels. Then, picture the same thing but at 70 mph (110 km/h) and you’ve found the answer.

I am definitely not an ATGATT fan, in fact I am wearing shorts today at work and riding, but still I wear my helmet, kangaroo leather summer gloves, a leather jacket and medium boots. I know I will be sorry if bad luck crosses my way today, but I really trust the 60% gear I’m wearing, because I know it’s for real.

Ride safe and don’t skimp on your riding gear. It may set you down a bit every now and then, when you get new stuff, but if your luck runs out, you’ll be ever so glad for every dime you spent.
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