Every day that I ride, it seems, that I come across a rider wearing little or no proper riding gear and I cringe.
Many years ago, I was one of those riders; I rode wearing chaps, a beanie and a leather vest.
Then I witnessed a really bad crash. The rider of a sport bike was speeding coming into a construction zone between Vernon and Armstrong on our way home to Mara Lake BC.
He center punched the tailgate of a pick up; the very buxom gal on the back of the sport bike was wearing a bikini, flip-flops and a full-face helmet. She got launched over the truck, landed basically face first on the pavement and skidded for some 2-300 feet, and when they turned her over, I nearly puked at the sight. This once very buxom young gal was now dead and you could see her raw rib cage – no triple D’s left.
From that point on, May of 1987, I have been, for the most part an all the gear all the time type of rider; I have lapsed from that mantra a few times in extreme heat. But as gear evolves, so do I, and I take less and less chances with my hide and my life than I used to in order to ride.
There’s simply no need to.
The new mesh jackets with armor in them allow you to be as cool as in a tee shirt, but still offer you valuable protection. There are hydration bags, Kevlar jeans, Kevlar shirts and all sorts of new products that weren’t around back in 86, 96 or even 2006…and yet I hear the same reasons why people ride with little or no gear now, that I did in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, as to why so many riders go out on the road with no protection today:
It's too hot out
I'm just doing downtown
I only dress this way for short trips around town
I love the way I look
And on, and on it goes.
Well folks, I am living proof of what I preach – “Dress for the slide, not the ride”.
I pulled a stupid rookie mistake while I was in Ireland and had I not been wearing good gear, I would probably have been dead or in the hospital at the very least.
The mistake I made was one I could easily make on any road, in any city or country in the world.
The mistake I made had nothing whatsoever to do with being in Ireland or riding on the opposite side of the road to what I am accustomed with.
It had nothing to do with curves or challenging riding.
In fact, the mistake I made happened on a sunny day, on a straight stretch of road at about 30/5 KMPH.
The mistake I made is a compound one and one I know the dangers of.
I took my eyes off the road ahead of me for a second.
The video footage I have of my crash shows that fact clearly. I looked right, using peripheral vision, and moved my head slightly right, I detected brake lights, looked fully forward and saw brake lights, there was no where to go and I reached for the front brake, and pulled in the clutch to down shift, but I was already in first gear.
I fumbled looking for the back brake, and I ended up getting way too much front brake and compounded by the clutch being pulled in, because now I had no engine braking, the next thing I know I am being pitched off the bike as it twists right and then the bike rolls over top of me and I roll three times.
Beyond the fact that I took my eyes off the road, literally for a second, something every rider does when scanning the ditches, side roads or looking at the scenery, something else contributed far more to this crash than just that one act.
I had not taken enough time with the bike I was riding to learn panic stopping on an Adventure Touring Bike.
From the crash video, one can see that we had been riding in staggered formation with the rider in front of me on the centre line. We had just come around a corner, I was picking up speed from having rounded the corner to close the gap with the bikes ahead of me, the rider in front of me chose to stay in the middle of the lane, and as I turned my head, to look at the fair on the right hand side of the road, the riders in front of me had begun to check up, I caught their brake lights out of the corner of my eye. (Remember when watching the video– the camera has a 180-degree view and you can’t see my eye movement)
At that moment that I turned my eyes to look forward, there was nowhere to go to the right to swerve to avoid the bike in front of me as there was a black mini approaching in the opposite lane; there was a rider right in front of me and it was time for the panic stop. The one I had not practiced.
THIS IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I MADE!
Watch my crash video and remember, it happens that fast and IT CAN happen to you!
Watch my crash video and remember, it happens that fast and IT CAN happen to you!
Any time you get on a bike you don’t know you should practice emergency stopping with it – I KNOW THAT.
I am used to a back brake that you access with your foot in an upward angle. (My personal ride is a Street Glide) A light, nimble adventure-touring bike is a completely different beast from a heavy touring bike.
Because I have never ridden an adventure touring bike with a back brake you access by having your toe pointed downward, I should have gone for a few practice laps to get used to that back brake and how to do a panic stop on an adventure touring bike so that I would know how this bike reacted, but no…I let excitement get the better of me.
What a DUMASS MISTAKE TO MAKE.
I rode the bike for 9 days before the crash, never in any of that time did I think to try a panic stop in a parking lot to see what the bike would do…stupid and costly.
Rider error...it happens to us all at some point or another – we are after all human.
In spite of having a 400 + pound bike roll over top of me hitting both back and front of my chest, I sustained only bruising and swelling on my left hand and thumb and tenderness in the ribs along my bust line front and back and my pride got a little wounded too…Been around bikes since 1976, and this is my first and hopefully my last crash...and it's my own fault!
No broken bones, no head injury, no one behind me when it happened… I got off very lucky.
Why was I so lucky? Because I was dressed for the slide not the ride and it wasn’t my time yet!
I was wearing Held Gloves, a Bell Pit Boss Helmet, StylmartinBoots, Macna jacket and pants along with Draggin’ Jeans and a Draggin’ Shirt.
Having great gear on, for me, minimized the damage to my body in my humble opinion.
My first reaction on getting up was to walk over and shut the bike off.
The next thing I did was move to the sidewalk and sit down. Then I examined my injuries and assessed my next step, which was to talk to a fellow rider who checked my pulse and eyes.
I was not in shock. My pulse and color were good as were my eye reactions, and cognizance.
I did not feel sick to my stomach or light headed. I refused an ambulance.
I took a bit of water and some ibuprofen out of my first aid kit and I had a granola bar with a wee bit more water.
I then, with help, stood up and reassessed how I felt physically and mentally; my pulse was checked again.
Paul from Celtic Rider took the bike for a 10-minute ride before he would let me get back on to ride.
When I decided I was ready to get back on, we rode for the ten minutes to our destination where I was assessed by the first aide staff on site.
I was fine, but I was going to be sore. I knew that already, but it never hurts to get checked out.
We took two and a half hours off the bikes and my hand was packed in ice right away and we had some lunch. I was able to complete my trip safely as my wounds were very thankfully very superficial.
The bike sustained predominantly superficial wounds too, albeit because it’s a BMW, they are expensive ones.
The windshield was scraped but not broken.
The right hand mirror broke off but the glass stayed in tact. The right hand signal had broken. The top and right hand boxes (panniers) sustained damage and need to be replaced, the handlebars have a slight twist and have to be replaced and an inspection of the frame and front end are scheduled to be done to ensure the bikes integrity. There are other minor cosmetic damages like scratching of side covers as well.
The top and right hand boxes (panniers) sustained damage and need to be replaced, the handlebars have a slight twist and have to be replaced and an inspection of the frame and front end are scheduled to be done to ensure the bikes integrity. There are other minor cosmetic damages like scratching of side covers as well.
My two Drift Ghost video cameras need to be replaced.
The gear I wore all needs to be replaced because while the damage to it was minimal its integrity has now been deteriorated.
I lost my deductible – 1,500 Euros (Approx. $2,160 Canadian).
But I am alive, walking and working and those things mentioned above are all replaceable.
What a tough bike that BMW F650GS twin is!
Because of my crash, Celtic Rider has decided to take their world-class rider training course to a whole new level.
Celtic Rider has a dedicated motorcycle training school located at their rental station, called M50 Rider Training School and currently they offer a classroom rider training course that is mandatory before you ride out on their bikes.
The safety course covers everything from signage and roundabouts to riding on the left and how to be successful doing it.
They have decided that from now on, that since an adventure touring bike is so different from a touring or cruising bike they will be teaching emergency braking to anyone who comes from the touring/cruising background and chooses an adventure bike to ride so that you know how your bike reacts. They may in fact look at doing that with all rental customers.
I say bravo!
These guys are riders who really want you to enjoy your time in their country, on their bikes, on their tours. They want you safe, healthy and whole so that once you catch the Irish bug, you will come back to them to rent your next bike and take your next tour. It is no wonder these guys have won so many awards. This to me is customer service that is above and beyond.
I have ridden with other rental companies. I have never been offered any kind of training course that I can remember and they sure do not take the time to ensure that you are 100% comfortable with your choice of bike. I think the fact that Celtic Rider offers a course and wants to up their game, shows they really do want to help riders have the most safe and enjoyable time.
More than anything else they offer, the gps rentals, the fabulous service providers, the incredible riding and the amazing attractions, this one service – rider safety training coupled with great gear for rent, says the most about how they feel about you, their customer.
I want to thank the manufacturers of the gear I was wearing.
My HELD gloves did their job, and I had no road rash, no broken bones – only a sprain and swelling/bruising on my left hand and a wee small cut at the wrist. The gauntlet on these gloves is small and contributed to the cut when my wrist was exposed.
My Bell "Pit Boss" Helmet stood up super too. A few good chunks of the outer layer were taken out of the back of the helmet; the beak had some scraping – other than that the helmet looked brand new – which it was. I never had a headache only a sore neck. No scrapes or abrasions to my face.
My new Bell Pit Boss Helmet is now in the garbage, but I have to tell you that is/was one comfortable and well fitting helmet.
I need to get a new one!
The all-weather Macna riding gear supplied by Celtic Rider sure did its job. There’s a fair amount of tearing on the jacket and pants, but it wasn’t my hide that was torn. The Stylmartin boots were not compromised.
Because the gear is armored and I tucked in, I had no broken bones – and oh, that means no osteoporosis yet either - YEAH! (I also found out that I still have a very high tolerance to pain.)
I also wear Draggin’ jeans and shirts that are made out of Kevlar and Dyneema – I wear that as my gear under my gear so that if it gets too hot I can just have the mesh jacket with armor on and my hide is still protected. Draggin’ jeans and the Draggin’ shirts offer excellent road rash protection. It wasn’t called upon to do anything this time, but after this little episode, I am grateful I have it for those days when I just have to go up town quick, or it’s so hot I want to melt.
Good gear saved more than my hide; it saved my piece of mind.
As a rider I know that scanning the side streets, and ditches for dangers or looking too long at some gorgeous piece of scenery means that sometimes my eyes are off the road, and that can result in needing to panic stop.
I found out the hard way, that when you do make that one stupid rookie mistake, that lapse in judgment that we humans are prone to, and compound that by just hopping on a strange bike and heading out - good gear can save your life.
I cannot thank Paul, Mick and the gang at Celtic RiderMotorcycle Rentals & Tours enough for their care and concern, and the great gear and safety course they offer.
The tour was amazing, beyond words really.
Ireland is gorgeous, the people are wonderful, the food is incredible, the history is mind blowing and the riding is absolutely, positively some of the best this girl has ever ridden.
I can’t wait to go back to Ireland and ride the Wild Atlantic Way that is opening up spring of 2014. It is the longest coastal ride in the world, (2,500 KMs) hugging the west coast of Ireland.
I loved it so much I made a promo video:
I can’t wait to ride another BMW and share the road with a ton of great people.
And as always, I will dress for the slide and not the ride…
How about you?
Belt Drive Betty
Editor & Rider