I'll give anyone who will listen a hard time if they don't wear a helmet. Wear a damn helmet. If you don't you're stupid, plain and simple. The proper gear doesn't end with just a helmet, though. You need to protect other parts of your body as well.
Boots, pants, a good jacket, and some quality gloves are all extremely important. I see a fair amount of riders out there cruising around with just a helmet on. It's important to put you noggin inside a helmet, but if you leave other parts of your body exposed, you're asking for at lease a little road rash and at worst, serious disfigurement.
I can't stress the importance of proper riding gear enough. No matter how good of a rider you are, at some point, you'll be put in a precarious situation, one that might end up with you skittering across the pavement, and you want to have the proper protection on when that happens.
If you don't know what kind of gear to get, click over to the gear section of the website. I recommend all sorts of good stuff. Or read up on other publications like Motorcyclist Magazine or RideApart. They make gear recommendations as well.
Wade Thiel is the creator of Wind Burned Eyes. He is an automotive journalist and a motorcycle enthusiast who now lives in Indianapolis, IN. Check him out on Twitter or read his automotive work at Web2Carz.