Although it may still be difficult to tell, with snow falling on Easter weekend, Spring is here, and with it motorcycle season. It hardly needs to be said that riding a motorcycle carries higher risks for the rider and any passengers than driving in a car. However, a story like the recent one from Fremont, in which a six-year-old passenger on a motorcycle was gravely injured while riding with her grandfather, after they were struck by a drunk driver, really makes one think.
There is a saying amongst experienced motorcyclists, and especially those who have experience with the motorsport side of riding. The saying is “dress for the crash, not the ride.” Essentially, the moral of the saying is that you will crash eventually, whether through your own mistake, or one made by another motorist, like the case in Fremont. When that day comes, you will want to have the maximum amount of protection that you can get, because you won’t have a seatbelt, airbags, crumple zones or a ring of steel around you to keep you from making high speed personal contact with that tree, guardrail, sign post, or oncoming vehicle.
The most obvious and essential bit of equipment you use to protect yourself is a quality, SNELL-approved helmet. We recommend the full face variety. Not only will it offer additional protection for your pretty features, but it will offer protection from bugs and other flying debris. Most people have had the misfortune of having a car windshield cracked by a stone or something falling off another car. Imagine that instead of being stopped by a tempered glass windscreen, that stone or debris is stopped by your face. The initial injury would likely be bad enough, but it could daze you or blind you and put you at risk for a really serious accident.
Beyond a helmet, a good set of riding leathers is essential. The leather acts like armor to take the punishment of road rash instead of your skin. Leather also tends to allow you to slide over pavement or gravel, rather than gripping and causing you to tumble like skin or jeans. Tumbling after hitting the ground is often what leads to broken extremities. Some leathers have built in padding to absorb the shock of a crash, which are an obvious bonus safety feature. Good leather outfits can be had in a multitude of styles, from full-out racing style outfits to leather pants and jackets (a la Terminator). You should be able to find a safe outfit that matches your ride and your riding style.
Fingers and toes are especially vulnerable in a crash, being some of the smallest bones in your body. A good set of gloves with armored knuckles and joints is a good investment. Chances are you can find a set that matches your leather outfit. Good boots offer similar protection, as well as protection for your ankles and Achilles tendons. In many crashes involving other vehicles, the feet commonly take a lot of the impact, so good boots are worth the cost.
There are other, more specialized forms of protection available to the serious rider, including armored spine protectors and fully padded/armored outfits. They offer heightened levels of protection, albeit at the expense of some comfort. You may only get one chance in a crash, though, so they are worthy of consideration.
Also, before taking your bike out for its maiden voyage after a long winter nap, have it checked out thoroughly by an experienced mechanic. Mechanical maladies that would be merely annoying or result in a wait for the tow truck with a car can be downright deadly with a motorcycle. You need to be twice as sure that everything is in proper working order and ready for the road.
Finally, if you are unfortunate enough to be injured in a motorcycle accident due to someone else’s negligence, you will need good legal advice and representation in order to obtain a full recovery of the damages you have suffered. Douglas, Leonard & Garvey has years of experience successfully representing injured motorcycle riders. Stay safe, dress for the crash, and keep your head on swivel for negligent drivers, but if that is still not enough, we will be glad to help you in the event of a crash.