ATV Safety Blog

Choosing Gloves, Goggles, and Riding Boots

July 4, 2011

Making your riding experience safer and more comfortable

By Steve Casper, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council


The basic design of most off-road goggles is pretty much the same—flexible plastic frames with a foam perimeter that works as an air filter to keep dust and sand out, but allows for circulation to keep fogging down. More expensive goggles might feature things like no-fog coatings, light-sensitive lenses, sweat-wicking face foam, or micro-filtering vent foam.

The lenses are made from plastic rather than glass and are easily replaceable on any quality goggle. This not only allows users to replace badly scratched lenses (which scratch quite easily, especially while riding in muddy conditions), but it also lets them switch to different tinted lenses for different weather conditions.

Right behind helmets, goggles are probably the one piece of riding gear you can’t do without. Dust, sand, rocks and all sorts of debris will try to make their way into unprotected eyes while riding, and no one needs to tell you how painful and dangerous that can be!

Goggles take more of beating during a ride than you would imagine,and the inexpensive ones (under $15) tend to not last very long. So before you buy,take a good look at the construction of the frame and especially the foam that contacts your face. Does the foam look durable and is it glued on securely?

If you can, try the goggles on, preferably with your helmet. Make sure the goggles fit your face and that there are no gaps where sand and dust can get in. You also want to check that the frame isn’t pushing on the bridge of your nose. Goggles should fit to the point where you hardly even know they’re on.

Goggle Roll-Offs

Roll-Offs consist of a thin, clear plastic film that is held tight against the outside of the goggle by two small drums on either end of the goggle. They are useful when a rider gets splashed with mud, as they allow a rider to simply reach up and pull on a little cord that swipes a new layer of clean plastic across the goggles.

Riding Gloves

Just about every sport has its own set of gloves that are used for protection and performance. ATV riding is no exception. A sport-type glove for ATV riders is usually lightweight, vented, tight-fitting, and features padding in the palm area and protective, soft plastic pads sewn on the back of the hand and fingers.

Riding gloves keep you from getting blisters and protect your hands from debris and in the case of a spill. As an added bonus, if you stop to do some chores or have to work on your ATV, you’ll be glad you already have some gloves on.

If most of your riding is done in warm weather, consider getting gloves with lots of venting and that are brightly colored, rather than black. Be sure to check out the stitching and workmanship for durability. A padded palm is a nice feature that keeps the glove from bunching up on the grip. Another sign of a good pair of gloves is if the fingers are constructed of multiple sections (which makes for a better fit when gripping the bars).

Some off-road gloves are waterproof. In summer weather, it really doesn’t matter if your hands get wet, but in the spring and fall, wet, cold hands can be a real nuisance. Simply keep a pair of waterproof gloves packed in your ATV in the event of bad weather.

Winter ATV riders should consider buying snowmobile gloves. Look for plenty of insulation and a waterproof shell in these. A medium-weight insulated glove could also serve well in the spring and fall. Most snowmobile type gloves are gauntlet-style, meaning they fit over the sleeves, further blocking the flow of cold air. However, be careful that you don’t purchase gloves that are so bulky that it becomes difficult to use the ATVs controls.

When trying on a pair of gloves, the tips of the fingers should just touch when you interlock your hands and push down at the base of your fingers. This is a good way to tell if the gloves are the proper size. Another test is to put on a glove and make a fist as tight as you can. If the glove feels really tight over the knuckles, it may be too small. Or if the tips of your fingers feel tight, the glove may also be too small for your hand. Try on a few different sizes and perform these tests.

Riding Boots

Sure, many riders could probably get away with wearing work boots during their trail rides, but they’d be a lot more comfortable and much better protected with riding boots. ATV riders actually move their feet and legs quite a bit while riding, so strong and sturdy riding boots will add considerably to your riding pleasure and are well worth the price.

There are basically two kinds of OHV boots on the market: motocross boots and ATV boots. They look quite similar, since the main difference is in the soles. The motocross boots don’t have much of a tread on them since the riders stick their legs out and drag their feet in the corners.

Of course, ATV riders don’t do that and need good cleats on the bottom of their boots for walking around in the typically slippery and muddy conditions they may find themselves in during a ride. So before you begin looking at any specific brands or colors make sure they have cleated sole.

Off-road riding boots are generally made from a combination of leather and plastic pieces with Velcro and plastic or metal buckles. Some also feature laces with a quick one-pull tightening system.

Like the helmets, the best way to choose your boots is to first try them on. You’re, of course, looking for the most comfortable fit, but be aware that new boots are very stiff at first and need to be broken in. However, you can get a good feel for them by trying them on and walking around a bit. You generally want the fit to be just a little looser than you would for other footwear. Riding boots that are too tight could get quite uncomfortable by the end of the day.

Pay special attention to the buckling system. If it seems like that particular system will be a hassle for you every time you go riding, try another. And keep in mind that it gets considerably easier to buckle up after the initial adjustments on the straps are made for your feet and ankles.

If you’re used to wearing comfortable shoes, or just want to make your boots cushier, you can add insoles just like you would with other shoes. You’ll also want to get a pair of cushy, long motocross socks to go with your boot as well. Street socks really don’t cut it in the off-road world.

One of the first things that typically fail on off-road boots are the buckles, so take good look at them and make sure they fasten easily and securely. If you have a quad with a foot shifter, check to see that the boots have a plastic toe patch on the left boot. A lot of boots are also reinforced around the inside ankle/calf area, where the boots tend to rub on your machine a lot. Some boots offer a faux suede material in that area, which helps eliminate scratches on your machine.

For more info on safe riding practices and to take your ATV Safety Course online, please visit the homepage.