Riding gear will always be a very personal thing, but you do need to plan for all types of weather. Being too hot is just as dangerous as being too cold and if you get wet through, it could lead to hypothermia and fatal loss of concentration. Warm as it is cruising through France, the temperature soon drops as you climb into the Alps. Roadside snow in not uncommon in May!
With modern synthetic materials you can now get base layers that breathe and deal with temperature variations and which are also easy to wash and dry overnight. Good boots are a must, and you can also get waterproof socks if your boots are not designed with waterproof membranes. Make sure you really break in any new gear before you set off on tour !!
Most people find modern Gore-Tex fabric suits with built-in armour are best so as not to have to carry over-suits, or having to stop every time they encounter a shower.
If leather is your choice however, you will need a good over-suit, we use Oxford Bone-dry suits, easy to put on and take off, very effective and cheap. Downside is they really are water proof so you sweat like a proverbial if you leave it on and the day warms up. A spare pair of gloves are a useful addition, preferably of a different grade (warmer -cooler) to the ones you will be using most of the time.
For general touring a ‘Flipfront’ helmet provides the best compromise as it does not have to be removed every time you want to speak to someone, of just get an extra deep breath of mountain air when stopping to take photographs. A neck sleeve or ‘snood’ to keep the wind out of the gap between helmet and collar will be welcome on cold mornings.
If you are using a helmet with a tinted visor a spare clear spare is a must. Likewise a pair of sunglasses if using a clear visor unless your helmet has a built in sun visor. A visor cleaning kit is essential to maintain it in a clean safe condition, as multiple bug splats before the morning coffee break are very common.
If you are carrying a pillion you may wish to consider a cheap Bluetooth headset/intercom system so you can communicate on the move, and so that your pillion does not feel so isolated, We have used this make NXET® BT 800M which is cheap and effective and available in pairs or as singles on eBay. These can also be used to get verbal directions from most modern Sat Navs via Bluetooth and you can also connect to other riders in your tour group if they have compatible sets.
RIDE magazine tests lots of gear and is a great source of comparison information. Don’t pooh-pooh cheap stuff from the likes of Aldi and Lidl however, some of the best under layers we have ever had came from these stores.
Finally if at all possible try it on before you buy it !! You need to be comfortable when spending six hours a day on the bike, so it’s well worth the time taken to get the gear right.