At 209.9 mph, the human body might as well be Play-Doh. That’s the thing about evolution, though: we’re a bit ill-equipped to be run along the ground at speeds so fast they’d make a wedge of Roquefort appreciate a cheese grater. And yet when Marc Marquez, reigning two-time MotoGP world champion, crashed during a 2013 practice run near the end of Mugello Circuit’s hair-raising, 1.1 km long start/finish straight, he didn’t just survive: he walked away.
Telemetry data showed his front tire locked at 210 mph. At 198 his wheel caught again, pitching him off the track. He’d officially lost control, motorcycle and man on a line that would be rapidly intersecting with a concrete wall. At 173 mph, with inches to spare, he bailed — body slide-bouncing to the end of the grass verge and into the gravel trap like a stone skipped by God. The entire crash took 4.25 seconds, with 8 recorded impact spikes — the highest at 25 g’s.
The reason we know this is because of Marc’s suit. It’s also the reason he’s alive. At the time of the crash he was wearing the Alpinestars Tech Air Race suit. Electronic sensors detected the crash within 50 milliseconds. By the time the 30 more milliseconds had passed, airbags around his back and shoulders had deployed. They were fully inflated before he even hit the ground. His only injuries were some scrapes on his chin, a strained neck, and bruising on right side where he’d first made impact.
None of us could dream of riding as fast as the sport of MotoGP calls for, nor will any of us ever have the level of skill required, but there’s still lessons to take away from riders of that caliber: not a single one of them climbs on a bike without head-to-toe gear.
Marc Marquez was barely hurt, and he crashed at 209.9 mph. Think about how fast that is. He leapt off his bike going faster than most jetliners do at take off. And yet, the average motorcyclist, including us, would probably see worse injuries were they to get in an accident on their way home from work going just 40 mph.
The reason for this difference is fairly simple: skill does not protect you in a crash. Once you’re off the bike, you’re at the mercy of physics. What protects you are the choices you made before you started that day’s ride: the helmet you wear, the fit of the jacket you buy, whether you have gloves on, or invest in over-the-ankle boots.
Or maybe you opted for a full suit, or streetwear air bag system from Alpinestars. Believe it or not, the kind of self-contained air bag vest worn by MotoGP racers can be purchased for less than $1200 dollars. Considering most of us wouldn’t think twice about buying a TV at that price, it’s actually something to think about.
Life is precious, and motorcyclists have a better chance of avoiding serious personal injury by wearing protective gear and apparel every time they ride, even if it’s just too the grocery store. So take heed of the lesson of Marc Marquez and MotoGP racers everywhere and GEAR UP. Don’t get complacent, and don’t think it could never happen to you — because everyone thinks that one time or another… until, one day, it does.
This article was the first post in a new series we’re doing called GEARING UP! In this series we’re taking a more in depth look at what you should look for in motorcycle safety gear, and what you should avoid — which includes the most common injuries suffered by motorcycle riders. It’s such an important topic, and we’re so excited to bring these articles to you.
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“California Motorcyclist Training.” California Highway Patrol. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
“Motorcycle Safety.” California Department of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved Retrieved 6 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.