These are all good suggestions, thanks for the thoughts so far.
I'm not hesitant to spend money, I'm just looking to follow a model like what I did for my helmet...
I could have bought the $100 HJC helmet with DOT certification.
I could have bought the $200 Icon helmet with DOT, Snell, European certification
I could have bought the $900 Arai helmet with DOT, Snell, European certification.
I don't just want to spend more in one category, I want to hit the sweet spot so that I can afford to spend more elsewhere in other important areas as well, and have good equipment all-around, without bankrupting myself.
So, I figure it's good to determine what experienced riders use-
I used to autocross race - the experienced guys weren't running Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and in fact most often not even cars modified sports cars like kids on the street do.
It's often interesting where "most effective" and "most practical" intersect.
Think about this. When you trip walking on the sidewalk what's the first thing you do when you are going to the ground?? You put your hands out in front of you. Same on a bike. I see so many people riding without gloves or with those stupid nose picker gloves thinking they are invincible. Google road rash and look at some pictures. Want that to be you??
That's a good sidebar on a safety topic actually-
The sentiment is understood, I actually try to teach this out of people-
I've had some interesting experience here - after a lifetime of skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX-riding, and other sorts of sports like that, if there's one thing I've achieved blackbelt status in, it's falling when unexpected and the world feels it's yanked out from under you. I've had almost every bit of the panic reflex worked out of me -
I actually volunteer in my local town to teach small children skateboarding lessons, and "how to fall" is one of those things. You should see my demonstration
If you can accomplish it - relax (sounds odd) and roll with it. Literally, roll, let whichever end is down hit first, and roll with it. Try to stay aware. It slows time down, you can actually think through the unexpected as it transpires, rather than panicking, stiffening up, and thinking willpower will somehow overcome physics. When you stiffen up - things get broken!
Of course, coming off a skateboard or snowboard is different than a several hundred pound motorcycle crashing with you, but it's something to think about - although without 25 years in these crazy sports I'm not sure how you mentally condition yourself to that sort of instinctual state to replace "panic" with "relax, roll, think", but it's probably related to why I'm trying to think through these scenarios before I end up in them...
So for someone like me, this beginner stuff is frustrating not being able to close my eyes and even picture the "going right" scenario, much less the potentials for "going wrong" scenario. I'm not used to the "just buy safety gear and let IT do the work of protecting for you." passive approach.
My apologies if it seems that I'm putting too much thought into these, I definitely appreciate all the advice.
"Reckless" isn't how I'm accustomed to approaching any sort of risk scenario -
This one I'm actually more fearful of, because there are more variables than those in my control, at least on a road/highway. Yike!