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Riding Apparel Trends and Consumer Insights in the Powersport Industry

Riding Apparel Trends and Consumer Insights in the Powersport Industry

Tristin Burdick | April 15, 2024


  • Men typically seek expert reviews from powersport publications for apparel decisions, whereas women value personal recommendations and a preference for testing apparel through in-store shopping experiences.
  • Consumers prefer apparel that offers superior fit and functionality over brand reputation, with 60% choosing lesser-known brands that better meet their comfort and performance needs.
  • Helmets are increasingly incorporating technologies such as Bluetooth and GPS, a trend especially prevalent among younger riders, presenting a promising opportunity for expansion.


Riding gear is essential when operating powersport vehicles as it offers safety, comfort, and functionality. Wearing the right gear can impact your overall riding experience. For instance, you can be left soaked in the rain or experience dryness by wearing the right pants.

We conducted a comprehensive survey among 540 powersport consumers to understand their preferences and purchasing behaviors regarding riding apparel. Our analysis covers powersports jackets, pants, and helmets – essential components of riding.  

Jackets: Safety Meets Style

Riding jackets are designed to protect the rider’s arms, chest, and neck from the elements. The choice to wear a riding jacket is often the first consideration for a powersports enthusiast. The primary factors that influence the reasons for wearing a jacket include weather resistance, comfort, and fit.

Most motorcycle riders own an average of three jackets and are typically used for about seven years before the wearer considers a replacement, highlighting a preference for durable materials and designs that maintain their appeal over time. Despite the importance of brand reputation, riders often prioritize functional performance and fit over the brand, with 60% of consumers willing to choose lesser-known brands that offer a better fit.

The survey highlights distinct purchasing behaviors based on gender; 63% of male respondents prefer relying on expert reviews from specialized powersport magazines and websites. In contrast, female riders tend to trust personal recommendations from friends and family, and significantly more women (73% compared to 53% of men) prefer purchasing jackets in physical stores to ensure the right fit and comfort. This strong inclination toward in-store shopping reflects the critical nature of a jacket's fit and feel, which needs to be comfortable while offering protection.

Retailers might see this as an opportunity to enhance the in-store experience with personalized fitting sessions, live product demonstrations, and interactive displays that showcase the tangible benefits of their jackets. Furthermore, price sensitivity plays a significant role in purchasing decisions, with many consumers drawn to discounts and open to buying previous season styles to save money, suggesting that promotional strategies could be effectively adjusted to highlight cost savings.

Pants: Functionality and Fashion in Harmony

When it comes to the lower half of the riding outfit, pants play a crucial role in providing safety, comfort, and mobility. According to the survey, the choices in riding pants are largely influenced by the type of riding activity and the desired level of protection. Most riders opt for specialized riding pants or jeans, with a few preferring athletic or casual pants, depending on the situation.

The decision-making process for pants mirrors some aspects of jacket selection, with an emphasis on durability, comfort, and fit. However, the specific demands for pants include additional protection against abrasion and weather elements, which are vital during rides. The survey indicated that while both men and women prioritize these factors, the fit is particularly crucial for female riders, who often face challenges finding pants that offer both an optimal fit and adequate protection.

The market for riding pants is diverse, catering to different types of riding activities such as motorcycling, dirt biking, and snowmobiling. Each activity influences the type of pants preferred, with materials ranging from heavy-duty leather to flexible textiles that offer varying degrees of protection and weather resistance. Interestingly, the survey revealed a trend towards multifunctionality in pants (riding pants used on multiple vehicles), with riders expecting their gear to perform well across different conditions and activities.

In terms of purchasing behavior, the preference for trying on pants in-store before buying is strong, reflecting similar trends observed in jacket purchases. This highlights an ongoing challenge for online retailers, who need to find innovative ways to provide assurance about fit and comfort remotely, perhaps through detailed sizing guides or virtual fitting technology.

The longevity and replacement cycle of riding pants are also significant, with most riders indicating that they keep their pants for roughly six years before replacing them. This suggests that durability and the ability to withstand repeated use are critical factors influencing purchasing decisions. Retailers and manufacturers could capitalize on this by emphasizing the long-term value of their products in their marketing strategies.

Helmets: Essential Safety and Advanced Features

Helmets are arguably the most critical component of riding apparel due to their direct role in protecting against head injuries. The survey results underscore the high priority that riders place on helmet safety, but also reveal that comfort, fit, and additional features such as visibility enhancements and integrated technology are increasingly important to consumers.

Safety standards remain the primary concern, with most respondents indicating that safety certification by recognized bodies strongly influences their purchasing decisions. However, beyond safety, the aesthetic design and functionality of helmets have become significant factors. Riders look for helmets that not only offer protection but also align with their personal style and riding habits.

The integration of technology in helmets is a growing trend, particularly among younger riders. Features like Bluetooth connectivity for communication, built-in cameras for recording rides, and even GPS navigation have become desirable. These tech features not only improve the riding experience but also enhance overall safety by keeping riders connected and aware of their environment.

Color and design also play a role in helmet choice, with preferences varying widely among the survey participants. While traditional colors like black and white remain popular, there is a noticeable preference of brighter and more distinctive colors. These choices are often influenced by the need for visibility on the road, reflecting a proactive approach to safety.

Fit and comfort are crucial, especially considering the extended periods during which helmets are worn. The survey highlighted a common concern among riders about finding helmets that fit well without causing discomfort over long rides. This points to an opportunity for manufacturers to innovate in the design of helmet interiors to enhance comfort without compromising on safety.

Implications for the Industry

The insights from this survey provide a comprehensive view of the current state of consumer preferences in the powersport riding apparel market. It is clear that while safety remains the non-negotiable, primary factor in apparel selection, other aspects such as comfort, style, and technological integration are also becoming increasingly important. For industry stakeholders, these findings suggest several strategic directions:

  1. Product Development: There is a clear demand for apparel that combines safety with modern technology and style. Manufacturers should consider these elements in their design and development processes to create products that meet the evolving needs of riders.
  2. Marketing and Sales: The data on consumer preferences can guide more targeted marketing strategies. Understanding the different needs based on riding type, gender, and age can help in creating more effective marketing campaigns and product offerings.
  3. Customer Experience: Enhancing the in-store and online purchasing experiences is crucial. For in-store, ensuring knowledgeable staff and providing fitting services can help. Online, virtual try-on technologies and detailed product guides could reduce the uncertainty about fit and comfort.
  4. Longevity and Sustainability: With a clear preference for durable products, offering warranties or services to extend the life of the products could be a significant selling point. Additionally, as sustainability becomes more important to consumers, using eco-friendly materials and processes could also become a competitive advantage.

The riding apparel industry presents several untapped market opportunities. By effectively addressing and adapting to the nuanced needs of the diverse rider community, stakeholders can harness these opportunities to enhance their offerings and customer satisfaction.

about the author

Tristin Burdick

Research Analyst, EPG Specialty Information

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