Gearing Up: Head, Shoulders, Knees and… Eyes?

There’s a saying in sports:  leave it all on the playing field. The same should not be said for motorcycles and the road. If you want to protect you in a crash, avoid serious personal injury when you’re on the road, and keep all your body’s requisite components in their original configuration, you need to be dressing yourself in head-to-toe protective gear. Remember what we talked about last week? MotoGP riders never climb on their bikes covering up from all angles — and these are the professionals. 

Sure, none of us will ever go that fast, but that doesn’t matter. A run-in with pavement is going to hurt at any speed. You might as well reduce your risk. From broken bones, to life-threatening head injuries, to a skinned knee so bad it looks like you’ve been run through a medieval torture device, you put a lot on the line when you hop on your bike.

In our next two posts we’re going to talk about the gear you should have in your closet; the protection you should never ride without. 

This week, it’s the major body parts:  head, face, torso, arms and legs. Let’s get started, with…

Helmets

Need we say more? Yes. Yes we should. Wearing a helmet should be a no-brainer. Why? Because not wearing a helmet is also a no-brainer. That is… according to government crash surveys, riders without helmets are 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injuries and three times more likely to receive traumatic brain injuries in comparison to their helmet-wearing counterparts. 

So what should you be looking for? By California law, all motorcycle riders and their passengers must wear a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant motorcycle safety helmet. Compliant helmets must have been certified by the manufacturer, and will be marked as such on the back of the shell. This DOT lettering should NOT be a sticker, or easily removed. If it is, it’s probably not compliant.

Click here for more information about helmets, including what to look for in style and fit, from the CA DMV.

Eye Protection

Eye protection can come in many forms, but the best option is a full face shield that clips onto your DOT compliant helmet. Some people might opt for goggles or sunglasses, but those only protect the eyes. While sunglasses are essential eye protection under normal circumstances, they’re not conducive to safe riding. They’re surrounded by gaps, which won’t stop the wind from getting beneath them, meaning they won’t keep your eyes from watering. Not only that, but they’re all but guaranteed to go flying the second you turn your head. So any minimal protection you did have will be very short lived.

The reason why you want to opt for something with more area, life a face shield, is because eye protection isn’t just about preventing injury during a crash. It’s about making sure you always have a clear line of sight. Eyes that are left exposed to the elements will dry out and get blurry. It’s impossible to know what kind of evasive maneuvers you should be taking if you can’t tell what that fuzzy blob is up ahead.

A good face shield will also protect your eyes from dust, debris, or any unlucky airbug insects that fly into your path. It will also be free from scratches, be puncture resistant, allow you a clear view on either side, fasten securely, and allow air to pass through it to prevent the dreaded fogging. If you opt for a tinted face shield, you’ll need to get a separate one without tint for when you’re riding at night. You should also make sure you have enough room to wear sun or eyeglasses beneath it.

Jackets, Pants, and Suits

If you’re worried about the right gear costing you an arm and a leg, think about the arm and leg cost of no gear. If you’ve ever experienced roadrash, you know just how deeply unpleasant it can be. Perhaps you fell off a skateboard when you were a kid, and promptly discovered just how useless jeans are when sliding knee first down a hill. If so, you learned a valuable less. Common wisdom might say that you should wear jeans on a motorcycle, but the reality is that your everyday street jeans will not hold up when you’re skidding across the pavement at highway speeds. It takes very little force to tear a hole through denim, and after that you’ll only be tearing a hole in yourself. 

Let’s face facts:  road rash only gets worse as your speed goes up. The general rule of thumb is that for every mile-per-hour you travel above above 30 mph, the friction of the asphalt means the loss of an additional millimeter of flesh — meaning at highway speeds of 55 mph, you’re facing a loss of 2.5 cm of skin. For those who don’t know metric conversions, that’s road rash going an inch deep. At that point you’re looking at damage to bone, nerves, muscles, and tendon. It’s brutally painful, and not something we would wish on our worst enemy.

The solution:  unless you want to leave a part of yourself behind on the motorway, a suit or jacket and pant combo are a necessity. In addition to often containing padding which can soften the blow of a crash, they also protect you from the elements when it’s colder out. Often times riders will wear leather jackets, which will work to protect you during a single crash. After that, they’ll need to be replaced. Jeans made specifically for riders should include protective kevlar, often around the knees. And then their are full-body suits, or the jackets + body armor that we talked about in our last post. Though they don’t come cheap, neither does a skin graft. And on the plus side, they could see you safely through more than one skid across the 101.

Coming Up Next…

While helmets, face protection, and pants and a jacket will keep most of you covered, we’re not entirely out of the woods yet. There are also your hands and feet to think about, as well as your hearing, and what happens when the Southern California weather gets inconveniently rainy. They may be considered accessories in most other circumstances, but on a motorcycle boots and gloves might just save your life.

Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.

Ventura County’s Favorite Law Office

Check Out These References for Further Reading:

California Motorcyclist Training.” California Highway Patrol. Retrieved 16 September 2019.

Motorcycle Safety.” California Department of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved Retrieved 16 September 2019.

Wear the Right Gear.” California Department of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved 6 September 2019.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Motorcycle Safety Gear.” Gizmodo. Retrieved 6 September 2019.

You and Your Motorcycle.” Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Retrieved 6 September 2019.