When I bought my first motorcycle in May 2008, I made a lot of mistakes. There was a ton of gear that I needed and shouldn’t have left the dealership without. There was gear I bought ahead of time, before delivery, that was all wrong. So in the interest of serving the first-time rider, here is what I recommend you will need when you finally take the plunge and buy a motorcycle:

On a trip through New England with some friends last summer. Full-face helmet in hand.

A good full-face helmet. For at least the first year, I recommend you wear a full-face helmet every time you ride. Once you have experience, you can switch to an open face or shorty helmet but until then, play it safe. And if you live in a state that lets you go helmetless, for God’s sake don’t. And don’t skimp on the cost of your helmet. I made this mistake and bought a $40 (yes, $40) full face helmet from an online discounter. Ouch. It was excruciating pain every time I wore it. And a massive dent in my forehead where the helmet rubbed against it.

So a few weeks later I had to go to the dealership and pay money for a real helmet. If you do buy online, make sure you try it on in person first because sizes really vary from helmet to helmet. One manufacturer’s XL is another manufacturer’s L. And it’s essential that you get a properly-fitting helmet. A Scorpion EXO 700 can be had for just around $170. It’s a good durable helmet if not the quietest one out there. My current helmet is a Shoei Qwest, which can be had for $300ish. I like it because it’s quiet and super-comfortable (even if it does make me look a bit like Marvin Martian.)

Rain Gear. I didn’t know I needed rain gear until I got caught in the rain. It was a beautiful day when I left the office to go out to lunch; I knew I was in trouble when I heard thunder rumbles during my meal. I was soaked to the bone by the time I got back from my lunch break. Fortunately, I keep an emergency suit in my office for when I forget to dress up for a client meeting, and I changed into that. But the next opportunity I got, I headed to the dealership and bought a rain suit. I got a fairly nice FirstGear suit for about $150, and it’s currently on its fourth season. Frog Toggs also makes a good rainsuit for under $100.

Gloves. I keep two pairs of gloves in my saddlebag, an inexpensive pair of fingerless gloves for warm days ($15 no-namers) and a kick-ass set of Olympia Gore-Tex lined riding gloves. The latter were relatively expensive ($80) but worth every penny. And they’ve held up extremely well and are on their fourth season. I also keep a pair of glove liners from the local ski shop in my saddlebag. They come in handy on really cold days.

Sunglasses/Goggles. I keep two pairs of glasses in my saddlebag, a clear pair for night riding or cloudy days and a tinted pair for sunny days. Even though I wear a full-face helmet I also wear glasses under the face shield. Sometimes you just want to flip up the shield to let in the fresh air, or clear some fog, and glasses will protect your eyes. Various kinds of goggles and glasses can be had at motorcycle events or motorcycle shops for about $20 a pair if you’re frugal. I’m frugal.

Boots. My current bike is a cruiser, so any boots will do. I try to find boots that will do double-duty as hiking boots. I’m currently rocking a pair of Asolo hiking boots that don’t look so cool when I gear up with chaps, but they do the job, they are incredibly sturdy (probably the most important quality in a riding boot) and they are Gore Tex lined so they keep my feet dry in the rain. Got ’em on sale for $80 from an online camping gear retailer. Sport bike riders seem to have more need for expensive technical riding boots but I can’t really comment on whether they are really necessary.

Chaps or riding pants. I am never without a set of chaps in my saddlebag. There have been any number of times when I’ve set out in warm weather, only to ride home in cold. It’s great to have chaps to throw on – they really keep the wind off your legs and are a real difference-maker when it comes to keeping warm. Mine are River Road chaps and were an $80 investment that has paid for itself over, and over, and over, and over again. But chaps are only really fashionable if you’re a cruiser rider. And in fact I have some friends that ride cruisers who refuse to wear chaps (blame the Village People for that.) But I’m not too proud – this is a matter of function, not fashion, for me. Sportbike and Adventure Sport riders tend to wear textile motorcycle pants instead of chaps. I’ve never worn ’em, though, so can’t comment, but they range in price from $100-$300.

Jacket. Nothing defines the motorcycle rider like the motorcycle jacket. Cruiser riders tend to wear leather jackets, and sportbike/adventure bike peeps tend to wear the textile variety. I have 2 leathers to choose from, a River Road jacket that is really functional and has lots of vents; and a less-functional but way cooler Triumph leather jacket modeled on the one James Dean wore. The former was $200 at a local dealership, and the latter was $250 on Ebay (it was a discontinued  model.) I also have a mesh Triumph jacket for warm weather riding that I found in the sale rack for $100 at my local dealer.

So if we tally up the investment in equipment and gear that a first-timer needs to get riding, here’s the budget (approximate, and based on my level of frugality. Obviously you can spend a lot more on any of these items. I know guys who rock $300 designer sunglasses, but you’ll never see me in a pair!)

After buying a bike, you're looking at about $1,000 of essential riding gear.

So, would-be riders, you’re looking at a thousand-dollar investment to get riding AFTER you’ve bought your bike. But in my estimation none of this gear is optional. Gotta have it. If you don’t have it at least packed in your saddlebags when you ride, you will one day regret it.

I have often wondered why my dealer didn’t try to sell me any of this stuff when I bought my first motorcycle.  “Joe, you’re gonna need raingear. It’s gonna rain one day and you’ll be REALLY glad it’s in your saddlebag.” That’s a sale. “Joe, you want one of these cool Triumph leather jackets, don’t you?” That’s another sale. Gloves, chaps, a couple pair of goggles. That’s a lot of incremental revenue. I already had a helmet as a result of the buy-a-cheap-helmet-online mistake and it wouldn’t be until a few weeks later that I would realize how much that helmet hurt and how miserable I was wearing it, but he could have sold me at least half the things on this list without even trying.

One idea would be to package all of these items in a “First Time Rider’s Package”, discount them, and then maybe even roll them into the purchase price of the bike so the buyer can finance them. After all, $1,000 rolled into the finance deal on a $10,000 bike changes the monthly payment by less than $20. That’s painless. But $1,000 out of pocket makes a real dent in the bank account. Harley-Davidson used to be famous for doing this. When I was shopping for my bike and checked out a Harley, the dealer said, “Christ, Harley will let you finance orange and black underwear with the bike if you wanna.” But I think they ran into trouble with the credit quality and stopped doing it; I’m not 100% sure.