Doesn’t that stuff get hot in the summertime? Isn’t it a pain to have to put all that stuff on every time you go to get on the bike? Everyone else thinks it looks more badboy to wear jeans, and a t-shirt or tank top. Other folks are riding in flip-flops and shorts.
Ok, what if….
What if you are making your morning commute down a crowded four-lane Atlanta highway? Traffic is running 60 mph. You see a flash of something out of the corner of your eye. You turn to see what it was – nothing. A car started to weave into your lane, but they saw their error and corrected. You look back up and the cars in front of you are all on their brakes and sliding to a stop. You grab your brakes. The back tire locks up and begins to slide. You are staring at the back of the car in front of you and considering the stopping distance. The backend of the bike starts the death wobble. It slides to the left then the right. Someone stated in a safety briefing you heard a few months ago to not release the rear brake in this instance as the bike will “High Side” if you do. The presenter said, “Ride it out. It will usually right itself”. On the fourth left to right motion of the rear sliding tire, the bike gets way out of shape to the right and you go down. You begin sliding face first on the asphalt and you can see the bike slide and bounce into the right lane and stop.
You are now lying face first in the right hand lane of a very busy highway during morning commute. First thought, “Am I alright to get up or do I have any injuries requiring me to lie still?” Second thought “I have to get out of this highway before the 2.5 million cars behind me run over me like a speed bump.” You decide that you are a bit bruised but ok. You can feel an abrasion on your wrist where the glove pushed up a little and the sleeve pushed down just a little. You can feel an abrasion on your cheek below your protective glasses. A full-face helmet would have prevented that one.
A kind-hearted gentleman helps you get the 800lb bike up and off to the side of the road. You inspect the damage to the bike and realize that it is all cosmetic. You convince the kind lady that was driving the car in front of you that you do not want an ambulance or a fire truck. You put the bike in neutral and start it. You inspect again, no runs, no leaks, no errors. A co-worker stops to check on you as traffic starts to move. You convince him that despite the blood trickling from your cheek that you are ok, and you are going to continue on to the office. You co-worker notes that the left shoulder of your Joe Rocket mesh jacket has sustained some damage but it has done its job. The body armor in the shoulder has been roughed up but you have not wounds under the jacket. You notice your leather chaps look seriously scuffed up, but they also have protected you. Your gloves are seriously scuffed up but other than your wrist where the glove pushed up. They also protected you. The right lens of your protective glasses have a huge area that is worn down that you can’t see through, but they are still intact and also protected you.
You look down at your right boot and notice the leather on the toe is scraped away enough you can see the steel in the tip of the toe. Those steel-toed boots were worth the price as well.
On your way to the office, you stop and pick up some 2x2 gauze pads, tape, and Neosporin from the local drug store. The lady behind the counter notes your cheek bleeding. You thank her for the information. You ride up to the office and head to the bathroom to cover the two abrasions. You walk into the office to a couple hundred questions and assure your co-workers you are ok. Your Monday has started a bit rough, but could have been a lot worse.
What would this story be like without the gear? No protective glasses – perhaps a damaged right eye. No helmet – perhaps the whole right side of your face and ear would be ripped up. No Jacket – damaged left shoulder. No Chaps – serious road rash on both knees. No gloves – road rash on both hands. No steel-toed boots – some seriously messed up feet.
Why do I wear protective gear all the time? Because I cannot predict when something like this is going to occur. I cannot stop, get off, and put it all on when I see it starting. Monday was a tough day of commuting in the biggest city in the south, but I am grateful I had on my gear. I am grateful neither I nor the bike struck anything and I did not break any bones. I am grateful for all of the kind folks that stopped and offered assistance. I am grateful I could ride on to the office and work a full day. I am grateful I can ride another day. The rest of the week I have evaluated what went wrong, what I did wrong, and what I can do to prevent this in the future. Lessons learned. Experience gained.