We've all read about it. We've seen the pictures. Some of us know or have seen someone who did it or has experienced it first-hand. Motorcycle crashes - the big (or little) one we all fear.
My personal nightmare is not the single-vehicle crackup or the multi-car-in-the-fog pileup, but the moron that turns left in front of me at an intersection. In this day and age of high-tech urban cruisers like the Vulcan S ABS we have the power-to-weight ratio afforded by our engines balanced by our antilock brake systems and we HOPE we've got the riding skills and situational awareness needed to use them and avoid being just another statistic.
My wife and I have a Vulcan S ABS and two other bikes - a Harley Ultra (road sofa) and a BMW K1600 (well-upholstered cruise missile). All three have antilock brakes, good balance and response for their respective classes - hell, the BMW even has traction control and an adaptive headlight. But I got to thinking back in March about our riding gear and made some changes, hopefully for the better.
ONE - HELMETS
I know, it isn't cool to ride with anything more than a minimalist skullcap in states that require helmets - ABATE members need not reply, I've heard the arguments and respect your views. These lids may/may not have DOT stickers on them. Especially riding a Harley. Yup, I have full-face lids that I used during rainy months here in NW Oregon (OK, that's about 7 months of the year).
The change this year was going to modular (flip-up) Nolan N-104s; they fit us well, protection is great, have a drop-down sunshield and include
the pinlock visor insert for no-fog goodness. They can also be locked in the UP position and worn as a 3/4 helmet. The chin bar sits close to the shell in the open position for little-to-no additional 'helmet drag'. It also has cool, ratcheting chin strap that you can secure - and release- with gloved hands.
The N104s have one of the widest viewing areas of any modular or full-face unit and (for those of you that use BT intercoms) the liners are pre-sculpted with cavities for ear speakers and a boom microphone.
TWO - ARMORED GEAR
Whaaat? Don't all 'real' cruiser riders wear wife-beater T-shirts? Add ratty jeans (never shorts...we might be mistaken for the squiddly rice-rocket sport bikers) and work boots (OK...have to agree with that one - a nice hi-top boot IS great protection). Tennis shoes and flip-flops to the end of the line, please.
Top it off with leathers - at LEAST a road-worn leather vest obviously being held together with the stitching from all those patches that declare your club affiliation, constitutional rights, general insults or inappropriate references to females. OK, if it's cold add chaps and a jacket, but make sure your vest is big enough go on the OUTSIDE of the jacket so you can be a flying billboard. Oh, and make sure you have enough ride pins, etc. so in poor lighting you might be mistaken for a Disneyland addict or a Wal-Mart employee. Now we're talkin', bro!
The change for us was armored gear...mostly going to armored textile riding gear. This year our gear is either Joe Rocket Alter Ego (her) or Tourmaster Flex (me) gear. Both have good abrasion resistance, removable liners, reflective piping and panels, pockets with armor (more on that later) and - when it gets hot - zip off outer shells or panels to convert to mesh riding gear...while still retaining the armor. Look Ma, no rain gear...because it can also do that job.
THREE - CHANGE OUT THE ARMOR
Most textile (and some leather) riding gear comes equipped with armor or at least has armor pockets. Typical armor (if included) with your purchase is probably CE-rated Level 1. CE ratings can be Level 1 or 2, hard or soft armor with Level 2 affording better protection.
It may be tough finding good retrofit armor that goes in the riding gear pockets of the shoulders, elbows, back, hips and knees without doing some research and occasionally trimming to fit.
This year we are gradually transitioning to D3O armor panels. D3O panels are available from a number of manufacturers (Icon, Klim, etc.) thru your favorite distributor like Revzilla or Competition Accessories.
The really cool thing about D3O panels is they're available in CE Level 2 and are comfy, soft and pliable UNTIL they are hit hard...then they instantly
stiffen up and afford great impact resistance. Called 'adaptive armor' by some in the industry it is the next big thing in protection. You have to see this stuff to believe it.
FOUR - GLOVES
"No way, bro...I like to have the breeze thru my fingers and feel the freedom, except when I wear my fingerless gloves that look sooooo cool." Not.
All it takes is one tipover or low-speed getoff to make a believer out of you...or having a large bug do a Kamikaze into your knuckle at less than freeway speeds to change that attitude.
Minimum standard this year is a full-fingered leather glove; I have a pair of Apenstar Thinsulates for cooler/wetter times and a pair of waterproof deerskins...hot weather it's Toumaster Intake Air mesh gloves.
I know motorcycling is all about choices...modding your bike to reflect your particular take on what riding means to you - and that extends to riding gear as well. I'm not advocating you all run out and change your gear, just sharing what we decided to do this year to improve our chances if bad things happen.
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