I originally wrote this article in 2012. My views haven’t changed at all. I still wear all my safety gear all the time, no matter the weather, or circumstance. I thought I would share this again as it is worth repeating.
I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time but never seemed to get around to it. After yesterday, I have decided now is the time.
There was a motorcycle accident on Highway #1 in British Columbia yesterday in the HOV lane. Our son-in-law, Derek was right there next to the bike when he went down. The fool wasn’t wearing any protective clothing, only a t-shirt! He suffered severe road rash and I’m sure there were some other injuries to accompany the rash. His bike landed on top of him and Derek had to pick it up off of him. One can guess that he probably has some burns to go with the rash. Protective gear would have protected him from that as well.
First some background. My husband Ed and I have been riding for a long time. Ed started riding way back in the 60’s before he drove a car. I grew up around motorcycles with my brothers and took my first ride on the tank when I was about 4. Ed and I starting riding together two-up in 2001. We put on 100,000 miles in seven years before I decided to get my own ride. I have been riding my own now for 5 years. We do a lot of long distance touring, having been from coast to coast, Alaska, and all over the USA. (We only have 13 States to go) We have seen a lot, experienced a lot and even instructed motorcycle skills for a local school. We both come from an emergency service background and have seen and heard just about everything there as well.
That brings me to my point and very strong opinion about wearing your protective gear at all times, no matter what!! You may think it doesn’t look cool to wear leather or any other type of gear, but sliding across the pavement with nothing more than a t-shirt and shorts isn’t very cool either. Ever fall off your bicycle when you were a kid? Remember how much that hurt. I sure do. Picture the same hurt multiplied by the speed of a motorcycle versus a peddly bike. Ever seen a little kid fall while walking and scrape their hands or knees? Again multiply it.
I have a scrape on my leather jacket sleeve from where I dropped my bike in a parking lot. (I put my foot down when I stopped and there was a large dip in the pavement that I didn’t see) so I went over. I wasn’t moving! There was no speed, or God forbid another vehicle involved. Only me, and the pavement and it left a nasty mark. That mark is one of my many reminders to always wear my gear. Thankfully it is on my jacket and not my arm.
You may think that it is cooler, temperature wise, to go without your gear. We were riding in 120°F heat last summer for weeks on end. We rode with our full gear at all times. Like everyone else, we are human. Hard to imagine I know. We had enough of the heat and thought we would try taking our chaps off for a bit. (We did keep our jackets on). We rode down the road, about 20 minutes and we pulled over and promptly put them back on again. It was much cooler with them on. We found that the sun was beating on our legs directly through our jeans without the protection of the leather to stop it. I’m not saying that it isn’t hot when you’re stopped in traffic, but once you’re moving it really does help keep you cool.
We saw everyone around us wearing a colorful array of clothing. T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, swim wear, flip flops, you name it, other than being totally naked there wasn’t much there in the way of clothing. We couldn’t imagine doing that. Remember the last time you got hit with a bug, ouch! On bare skin! No thank you. We were also finding that dehydration could be a problem. Luckily we always had lots of water with us, hot, but it was still hydration. Just picture frying a steak in a pan, or on your BBQ. That’s what is happening to your skin in those temperatures. The wind is also key, as it is a hot wind and is also drying you out. Not to mention perhaps causing a burn all it’s own. If you keep your gear on, your body will work the way it’s intended to. It will sweat and cool you off. If you don’t allow your body to cool itself, again it will dry out and you will become dehydrated. Dehydration affects your whole body and can cause long term effects, even death. Keep your gear on and keep well hydrated. (We found freezing water overnight helped a bit to keep it cool).
We have occasionally rode with only our jackets and not bothered with our chaps. It may seem a bit cooler at times and you certainly don’t feel weighed down, but I personally am not all that comfortable doing that. I find that my confidence suffers causing me to be over cautious in some situations. I also found on my style of bike, 2009 Harley Davidson Street Glide, without having fairing lowers the wind beat on my legs and gave me very sore shins. Ed has fairing lowers on his bike, so he doesn’t notice that as much. Lucky guy! (He has heated grips too, totally unfair!)
Bottom line…where your protective gear at all times. Whether it’s leather, nylon, or Kevlar, or even a suit of armour, keep it on. It just might save your life, at the very least, your hide.
Don’t even get me started on helmets! That’s another day 🙂
Ride on…Ride safe!