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Monday, June 2, 2014

Riding gear--yes, it is worth the cost

Here is a fun fact, when I was the editor of HOT BIKE, I used to get complaint letters and complaint booth visits from members of ABATE about my consistent use of a full-faced helmet. They said that me being in the magazine, always seen with a full-face, was hurting their cause of legalizing no helmets in California. I thanked them for the compliment of thinking my sphere of influence was that great, but said, in reality, I was just exercising my right to choose--and I chose a full face helmet because it made me feel safest.

What gear do you wear when riding? For me, I have two levels of gear.
1- Relaxed mode--when I think I can't get hurt--which by the way is completely ridiculous. But if I am running errands, heading out for a ride just to get somewhere for a meal with a friend, or knowing I am not going to push the limits of tire adhesion.
  • Full face helmet--a current, quality brand. There is no argument here. A good helmet is worth every penny, especially if you are on a long ride and it adds time in the saddle because its comfortable and fits properly
  • Gloves--no fingerless, that's a joke. Real leather, not motocross or pit crew gloves
  • Riding jacket--proper body armor in proper places
  • Jeans--a fallacy of protection, if you hit the ground perfectly they can protect you, but how many crashes are perfect?
  • Leather shoes that cover my ankles--back in the 1990s I wore high top leather sneakers, all white, with plenty of padding around my ankles, now its work boots or riding boots
Like I said, this is relaxed mode. If its really hot, I have a vented jacket that does allow a lot of airflow, but still provides protection. Let me just say this, on the record and factually, the ground, concrete or asphalt, does not get less abrasive because the temperatures go up. Crashing on a 90 degree day is no less painful than crashing on a 60 degree day, the road will still chew your skin up, a fender will still crush your skull. Quality riding gear is your ONLY line of defense against accidents. And no, you are not such a good rider that it can't happen to you.

On those days that I feel the need to see how far my bike can lean, or I have a really long commute in rush hour traffic, I upgrade the jeans to a dedicated riding pant, or an over pant with body armor. It may make me sweat a bit more, but well worth the extra protection. Not much more gear. Why? Because I think about the crash all the time

Don't fool yourself into thinking a t-shirt and leather vest will protect you, they won't. Why? Well, think about walking or bicycling. When you fall or crash, what's the first thing to hit the ground? Your hands and arms. Gloves and a long sleeved jacket would be nice as you meet the asphalt. Want to survive a head on crash? I did, cracked an Arai Signet helmet on the landing, but I was able to tell the police what happened when they arrived. I had a bitching cool pair of Bates leather gloves until that accident. But thankfully they took all the abrasion and I was able to type the very next day. My leather jacket that day? Has some really cool scrape marks on it. Wonderful conversation starters at pre-ride coffee places.

Bottom line, spend on gear what you think your body is worth. Just because a jacket is made out of leather doesn't make it a motorcycle jacket. It needs double stitching, body armor or at least reinforcements in key areas. The stuff you wear to skateboard is probably ok for skateboarding, but how often do you ride a motorcycle at skateboard speeds versus highway speeds. Invest in the crash. And then ride to help prevent it happening.