From the Editor ~ 181

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Posted on Aug 3 2013 - 4:34pm by Dave

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It’s been the same thing every summer for as long as I can remember but the din seems to be getting exponentially louder year on year; in fact sometimes I get the distinct impression that a large chunk of the Internet is spending every minute it isn’t wasting playing pointless social media games or spreading random unsubstantiated bullshit, tut-tutting about one thing or another, whether it’s riding a bike in the first place, riding it too fast, or – apparently worst of all in the current climate (i.e heatwave hot) – riding while inappropriately dressed!

It’s easy to understand why someone who has never thrown a leg over a bike might get vexed about anyone daring to pay such scant regard to such outrageous danger; but the overwhelming majority of the real ‘Armour Nazis’ are motorcyclists themselves, which always makes me wonder if they really understand the potential hazards they face every time they take a bike onto a public road?

So do all you belt and braces and back protector wearers (that’s ATGATT for the sake of our American cousins) honestly believe that you are safe as long as you’ve got all the correct safety kit on? Road rash is a terrible thing indeed, I learnt most of what there is to know about it nearly forty years ago: it smarts like hell (my nuts have shrunk into a protective kernel just thinking about it) and it takes forever to heal because it needs air to get better but you have to keep the wounds covered to keep infection out and stop them sticking to your clothes…

Ultimately though in 99% of cases that’s all it is – very painful. Skin might well be the largest organ in the body (or should that be on the body?) but by the same token that means there’s a lot of it and it’s spread all over so unless someone boils you in oil (and you really should try to avoid people who are likely to do that sort of thing) you’re unlikely to destroy all of it at once. Your internals however, are another thing altogether; if you should be unfortunate enough to find yourself hitting a solid object at any sort of serious speed, if the impact doesn’t kill you outright, the sudden deceleration is likely to rupture one or more of the organs that you rely on to keep body and soul together – and if that organ happens to be your brain, it won’t matter if you’ve got over five hundred quid’s worth of Arai protecting it, it’ll still be spread across the inside of your skull.

I hope I haven’t upset anyone by being so graphic about the potential dangers we all face, I know that many of you prefer not to talk about that sort of thing because with the help of a little advanced training and by the grace of your god, it’s not going to happen to you; and I can entirely understand where you’re coming from. What I don’t understand is why the same people are so often the first to point out the danger of riding ‘unsuitably dressed’ and to post photographs of other motorcyclists with horrific injuries to their skin? I can’t help thinking how they would feel if they were constantly assaulted by pictures of suitably dressed but stone dead motorcyclists; broken bodies laying in pools of dark fluid with limbs in horrifically unnatural positions, posted by well meaning non-bikers bemoaning the terrible dangers that we all face?

OK let me run a scenario by you: at the height of the heatwave I was reading half a dozen comments a day from apoplectic motorcyclists who had been appalled to witness an absolute idiot/cretin/tosser/dickhead* riding his R1/Blade/Gixxer/Ninja* on the M1/M2/M3/M4567* in shorts, trainers and a t-shirt (*delete as appropriate). But let’s take a look at this; let’s say this supposedly brainless chap is actually a very capable rider and he manages to arrive at his destination without any dramas (as most of us usually do in spite of the madness that we see all around us on the average motorway – check out Dermot’s exchange with PC Graham below last month’s column!), providing he remembered to use the correct protection factor sunscreen (well you can’t be too careful with your skin), you could hardly blame him if when he got off of his bike, he turned and raised his middle digit to all the haters. OK, say he continues to ride the same way throughout the summer whenever the weather dictates (and he continues to wear sunscreen) and he still doesn’t get creamed by marauding motorists; when he finally covers his suntanned limbs with a leather jacket in the early Autumn is he allowed to feel a little bit smug?

Obviously I know the conventional answer or I wouldn’t be asking: he’s dead lucky but that doesn’t detract in any way from the hopelessness of his decision making. Which is all very well and I know that our in-house PC would be the first to endorse that position, but he also said last month that the police only deal with collisions because there is no such thing as an accident – and if that is the case, then surely luck doesn’t really come into it. Couldn’t the man with the deep suntan and the sportsbike be an experienced, advanced motorcyclist, who has internalised just about everything there is to know about safe riding but just doesn’t happen to subscribe to the prevailing view of what constitutes a minimum level of protection before you can ride a bike?

A few weeks ago as the wife and I fought our way through heavy traffic on our way home after a lovely afternoon spent wandering around the lake and (imported) Roman ruins in Virginia Water, we pulled up at a set of traffic lights and as we were facing a long sequence before we’d get to go again I killed the Burgervan’s engine because the temperature gauge was showing a worrying four bars. A GS1200 pulled up alongside with a pilot in full leathers. He looked at us in that superior way that most ‘real bikers’ look at a couple riding a scooter in light clothing and – in the pillion’s case – flip-flops. I’m sure he would have liked to have offered us a sneer but the horrible truth was he couldn’t quite pull it off because his face was melting. Wendy, who’s a nurse incidentally, looked at his dripping red face before turning to me and saying, “Surely that’s not safe?”

“Well” I replied, “I guess that’s a matter of opinion.”

So, as all the Armour Nazis seem to have absolutely no qualms about sharing their opinion, here’s mine: as far as I am concerned the most important thing when I’m riding a bike is that I am comfortable and at ease. I struggle to envisage a situation whereby riding without protective gear would actually cause somebody to have an accident, whereas it’s not difficult to imagine how heat exhaustion and dehydration might have a profound effect on a rider’s abilities.

I’m much too lazy to try to organise a major web campaign but it would be interesting to see what would happen if I could persuade masses of people to point at motorcyclists and laugh at them for being so ridiculous whenever they saw them wearing full leathers in scorching heat because in my experience there’s nothing like a bit of peer pressure to prevent people making up their own minds.

Enjoy your summer wearing whatever suits you best and why don’t you try making an effort to leave others people to do exactly the same in their own sweet way.

Dave Gurman

 

 

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15 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. andy tribble August 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Bit see-though, that shot, Dave! Hope the missis is wearing enough protective clothing!

    • Dave Gurman August 4, 2013 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      Don’t worry Andy, she was wearing knickers!

  2. Graham (Pc) August 4, 2013 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Dave,
    Some would say I should tut and wag a disaproving finger in your direction, but you do speak the truth, from my point of view safety clothing does/can reduce injuries in the event of a collision, but can it cause one? Certainly some internet available images of virtually naked pillions could cause a crash as other drivers don’t look at the road…
    The best use of protective clothing is to keep everything together, I was at a crash last week when the rider broke his:- Pelvis, both femur’s, Tib & Fib both legs, sternum, both clavicals and had a small skull fracture, at least at hospital all the bits were there, as he had hit trees and if not wearing leathers we would have been looking for bits..
    But like smoking etc, each to their own and I’ve not preached to anyone this season as there is still free choice until some rash legislation comes in…….

  3. dunc August 5, 2013 at 9:34 am - Reply

    I’m an inbetweener, shortish journeys were doc martins, jeans and leather jacket, going for a blast meant donning the leather jeans. Having a few spills over the years meant a few bruises, butno ggravel rash. I’m all for choice as long as the risks are pointed out in no uncertain terms. Gravel rash at 20 – 30mph is one thing, gravel rash at 80 -100 will be a bit more harsh.

    • Dave Gurman August 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm - Reply

      As I said in my editorial Dunc, I knew most of what there is to know about gravel rash by the time I’d been riding my first bike for a month. By 1979 I was sharing a flat with another courier who had had an off on the M4 after getting into a tank-slapper at around 90mph and he was dressed in the standard uniform of the day – boots, jeans and a leather jacket – the biggest lesson I learned from him was never to wear nylon underwear on a bike because he had to have his surgically removed after they melted onto him.

      Just so that I’m 100% clear though, I’ve never encouraged anyone to ride in anything less than full head to toe protection; I’m simply asking for a little light relief from that all the sanctimoniousness when I choose not to myself.

  4. Ian Kew August 6, 2013 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Very sensible editorial.

    The last time I fell off (30 years ago) I was wearing a Barbour and jeans and light boots. Managed to trash the bike – the chap I was following reckoned we were doing @60-70mph when I came off. Buggered the jeans, sent the Barbour back for repair and have a couple of small scars on my right knee and elbow to this day.

    Since then I have been practising not crashing and wear pretty much the same these days. I don’t intend to crash again.

    Graham(Pc) needs to read up on Risk Compensation about how ‘protective’ clothing could actually increase the chances of people taking greater risks…..

    • Dave Gurman August 8, 2013 at 7:14 am - Reply

      Practicing not crashing sounds like a very sensible policy Ian, it’s infinitely safer, cheaper and more comfortable than adopting ATGATT!

      As for the question of Risk Compensation, I do believe that the wonderful Lois Fast-Lane (late of this magazine) wrote a typically brilliant piece on the subject a while ago – I must have a sort through the archive.

  5. Patrick August 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Whole heartily agree with your summation of the situation Dave. Two things I’d like to add if I can…
    How much of the leather clad culture is to do with image and culture and how many of the clobber coppers are car drivers first and motorcyclists second?
    I see many a biker who seems more concerned with matching his bike and leathers or portraying a ‘dangerous’ edgy image than learning his craft ( the guy who hit the stationary lorries for example).
    I’ve also had more than I care to mention conversations with born agains’ who perceive motorcycling in terms of car travelling, trying to shoehorn driving principles into riding bikes. They think of safety in terms of protective shells & visibility and not in terms of awareness and road positioning. You can tell them, just by following one riding just to the left of the centre line albeit a left hander or a right hand bend (where they would be in the car!)
    I reckon they should introduce a minimum mileage per year rule with at least 33% of your miles done in winter. That’ll sort it 🙂
    (Off my soapbox now and breathing easier)

    • Dave Gurman August 8, 2013 at 7:56 am - Reply

      Interestingly ‘the leather clad culture’ is something I touched on in the first edition of the Digest I edited – 101. I saw a press release for a brilliant product called ‘d3o’, a soft, thin, flexible armour that was (and still is) more effective than the bulky hard kit most riders use. I contacted the manufacturers and said that I assumed the major bike gear makers must have been beating a path to their door, but they informed me that there was very little interest, that it seemed that most riders who used safety kit, like the whole knights in armour look.

      As for riders who are car drivers first, I’m pretty sure that they constitute the majority these days and as you say many of them do make the mistake of riding as if they are tucked away indoors, but the last thing we need is any more regulations (yeah I know you were joking). Sit back and enjoy the ride, along with the feeling of superiority!

      (If anyone hasn’t seen ‘the guy who hit the stationary lorries” – wearing all the correct colour co-ordinated gear – you can check out the video and the ensuing discussion on the Digest’s Facebook page starting on August 2nd)

  6. Graham (Pc) August 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Ian,
    I had not heard of Risk Compensation, but now had a look. This effect is something I knew of, but not the label, most young car drivers have no fear of crashing due to standard safety features in all new cars, and of course I would point a finger at X-box etc and gaming in general which makes us seem invinceable.
    For car drivers the invention of power steering, servo brakes and engines with power sounded the death knoll for driving and thinking for some of the population, simply put there is no planning, just point and go.
    The planning, or lack of it, is also easily seen in motorcycling as Patrick says in terms of awareness and road positioning, and its sad to see the amount of poor riders we see and the bad lines and dodgy overtakes.
    Needless to say I have no faith in the protective equipment I have been issued as a motorcyclist mainly as I fear the parting from my machine, in some of the situations I find my self, means it may only assist my family with I.D.
    Forward vision, planning and re planning as things alter in front of you is the key, and on that basis, wear what is your personal choice.

  7. Chris Parrett August 9, 2013 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Nicely put Herman…. It seems that a lot of riders go out today expecting to have an ‘off’….they see the racers sliding off a lot then getting up, and equate it with normal practice if you have a racer stylee bike. As you correctly state, don’t put yourself in the jaws of danger, and you’ll be less likely to get bitten by them. I’m not saying that it’ll never happen, but if you ride within what you can see and react to, and if you assume that every potentially endangering other road user has already started to target you, then you’ve got a good chance. It only leaves the homicidal falling tree (we do get those here in the country) or lamp post……or possibly the deranged cereal killer with his pop(corn) gun.
    I certainly don’t feel safe if I can’t move freely, and as old age and excess avoir dupois join in, being bound up in all kinds of layers when it’s warm enough to ride a bike ain’t much fun…..I don’t even like wearing gloves FFS.

    In the south of France the other summer, one couple of our party would wear full leathers with armour on every ride. at each stop, and there were many, (we were staying at my brother’s and playing grockles) they would have to peel off and put on light clothing. Before most of us had finished our eau avec sirop menthe or café crema they were having to start rebuilding the exoskeletons….and the only one that dropped anything on the whole trip, was one of those two while trying to manouever the bike around in a car park.
    I took my gloves off, when we stopped to meet up with the rest of the group near Heathrow on the morning we left, and forgot to put them back on when we left for the chunnel. I didn’t put them back on till two weeks after we got back.
    To each the choice….we’re grown ups (we just forget to show it)

  8. ian dunmore August 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Just to say I agree with Dave on this on the safety side.
    I also agreel that a lot of the leather fetishists are fashion victims.
    Having said all that when it is cool enough I like wearing my black leathers.

  9. John August 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Having been a despatch rider in London in early 1980’s and having bounced down Park Lane at about 30 mph, I prefer to be ATGATT. Why?

    One of my “offs” was due to diesel on the road. It’s a strange sensation, going in a straight line, to realise the bike isn’t upright! OK, it was raining at the time (summer rain) and the diesel was all but invisible. Broken indicator and bent gear lever was the damage to the bike. The clothes (Belstaff) weren’t damaged but I now suffer from a frozen shoulder when riding sports bikes for more than 30 minutes.

    As to you not wanting to be ATGATT. That’s your perogative, just so long as it doesn’t cost me. Selfish bugger aren’t I!

    As to risk compensation. I notice that I do take more risks in the Paris traffic when ATGATT than when not. Though my idea of not being ATGATT is a few hundred yards in jeans rather than changing into my kevlar trousers. The kevlar trousers have a 2nd benefit in summer – they keep the heat of the engine off my legs whereas, in jeans, my legs cook slowly.

  10. Steve August 18, 2013 at 5:41 am - Reply

    My view on motorbikes is that as long as you pay for it you can ride what you like. I have the same attitude about motorbike clothing. It is your skin, cover it with what you will. We are all adults and we all know the risks.

    It has now come to the point where “motorbike tourets” is endemic. Just mention anything to do with riding without helmets, protective gear or god forbid a vis vest, and half the biking world start shouting, even though they don’t realise they are doing it.

    Steve….who does wear a vis vest.

  11. Dave Gurman August 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    I received the following by email from one of our contributors – Wizzard – but as he’s not particularly technically savvy and he’s limited to using a dodgy French dial-up, he asked if I would add it to this discussion on his behalf.

    “Hi Dave,
    I like the editorial in this month’s issue. It was a subject I covered (in a humorous way) in one of this year’s TRIKE magazines. I’ve tried all the clothing options here in summer (it was 42 degrees the other day), from full leathers on a sports bike while on holiday many years ago (nearly passing out at traffic lights), to what I normally wear here in summer – jeans, sweatshirt, leather vest (to carry paperwork, keys etc), open face helmet and lightweight boots. That’s the norm over here, even in the lower classes of a recent drag racing event, I have a young female friend who wears so little riding her scooter she would be as well naked (sorry, no pics), and yes, I have been given lectures about the dangers by older/wiser (?) / over cooked friends. I don’t wear shorts and tee shirts primarily to stop large stinging insects flying up legs and arms, although at that drag event the loos were half a mile from the camping area, and it was well over 30, so I took the Harley wearing just tee and shorts, remembering to keep my bare leg well clear of the exhaust.
    I believe in freedom of choice – my mate wears a dayglo belt/harness thing but I don’t take the piss – so anyone that tries to lecture me gets a bollocking.
    Cheers, Wizzard

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