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They say you don't gear up for the ride, you gear up for the crash. Budget normally decides what you can choose, but if you value your head and your skin then buy the very best you can afford, and cover as much of your body as you can. Try to wear the most protective gear for every journey you make. If you can't, then take things even more carefully. Though don't forget, even the very best gear can't prevent injury, it only can cause less injury.
Your helmet is critical. In the US and Canada you need a DOT helmet and in Europe a ECE or BSI helmet. You are not legally required to wear a visor, but if you do wear one they have a ECE or BSI mark in Europe.
Leading brands are pricier but you do get what you pay for. Helmets can be very expensive, yet as your head is the most important part to protect, it's a price worth paying. Make sure the fit is snug, but comfortable. Wearing ear plugs reduces noise and the chance of damaging your hearing.
Leather is the best material for protection. Textile clothing is almost as tough and has the bonus of being waterproof. In either case choose clothing with body armour and get the best possible fit. Loose gear will not protect properly.
Boots and gloves need to be tough and durable. Hands and feet are often the first things to touch down in a crash.
The latest, most fashionable gear can cost thousands (literally), but there are ways of saving money without compromising safety. Buying slightly outdated clothing will be much cheaper. Don't however buy cheap quality stuff that will fall apart quickly or you'll be unsafe. Try to wear something bright and do your best to keep dry and warm. Bike clothing certainly isn't cheap. But neither is a few weeks or more off work.
Enjoy the ride! Eat Sleep RIDE