How to Avoid Skinning Yourself Alive

Briter2Morrow

Have you seen my video about where I’ve come from? Ever wonder why I am so passionate about making the world a better place, and why I think motorcycling is the right avenue for me?  Why do I take what I do so seriously, and love every second of it?  All your questions are answered in less than four minutes…   in a simple video I made about three months ago.  If you’ve never seen it before, I urge you to take a gander.  If you have seen it already, I hope you enjoy it again!

My heart on a sleeve…  in a video. 🙂

How to Avoid Skinning Yourself Alive – Brittany Morrow from Brittany Morrow on Vimeo

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WHY WE ROCK THE GEAR

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course defines a good rider as not only someone with exceptional skills and a positive mental attitude, but also one who has the desire and motivation to choose to reduce risk while riding.

All good riders have a way of thinking and planning to avoid trouble, even if that means wearing gear to minimize the risk of injury in case of a crash. Therefore, wearing gear every time you ride is not extreme, it’s part of being a good rider… and it could save your life when you least expect it.

Rock the Gear has created a CRASH COURSE on what you will need every time you ride, which includes details about the following gear: helmet, jacket, gloves, pants, boots, and eye protection.

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Helmets

A helmet is designed to save your head from impacts that would otherwise be life threatening or altering. brainer… err…. a brainer? Whatever.

Nothing is worse than a life altering head injury that could have been prevented with one piece of protective equipment, especially for those in your life who depend on you.   Rock the Gear has guidelines to help you choose the right helmet, make sure it will do what it promises, and that it fits just right. Click any of the hyperlinks to learn more about the technical elements we mention.

How to identify a great helmet: A proper helmet is made of four equally important parts: outer shell, foam liner, comfort padding and retention system. All of these parts work together to protect your skull and brain from injury, so skipping even one component would be a bad move.

1. Outer shell– designed to protect your head from abrasion and penetrating injuries. It can be made of many materials, including a polymer or even composite materials.  No matter what the outer shell of your helmet is made of, you can make sure it is trustworthy if you find a DOT FMVSS 218* approval marked somewhere on the helmet itself.

2. Foam liner – designed to protect your head from the forces of an impact. MAKE SURE your helmet has a layer of EPS foam underneath the shell. It serves to absorb and disperse the energy from an impact around your head without passing too much of it to your brain (causing concussions or worse). If there is no foam, you might as well wear a plastic bucket from the kitchen and hope for the best.

3. Comfort padding – designed to conform to the intricate shape of your head and ensure a snug fit. The comfort liner is designed differently (materials, shape, removal system, etc.) in every brand and model of helmet.  There is one thing that stays the same among the lot; it will change over time. With this in mind, generally all motorcycle helmets get more comfortable as you continue to wear them. Always make sure you start with a tight fit (see below) to ensure that the helmet never gets too loose.  Usually, these pads can be removed for washing, which usually helps them “perk” back up a little as well.

4. Retention system – designed to keep your helmet in its place. The last piece to check for is a chin strap. Make sure it is strong, well secured to the shell, and straps tight enough under your chin so the helmet won’t come off even if you pull extremely hard on it.

IN A NUTSHELL (no pun intended) you want something that is going to prevent head injury, be comfortable every time you ride, and look good (in that order), so take your time when choosing the right helmet.

How to make sure you have a good fit: A perfect fit is just as important as what the helmet is made of, because the fit can affect the way the helmet performs during that crucial moment. The first step is knowing your head shape and matching it to the internal shape of the helmet. Did you know there are three general head shapes, and each helmet model corresponds to one of those three shapes? Learn how to find your head shape HERE.  The second step is to measure your head for a baseline measurement. Each manufacturer uses slightly different methods for sizing, so knowing your measurement can help more than knowing your general size.

Tips when trying on a helmet: If you can remove the helmet with the chin strap buckled tightly, if the helmet can move easily and independently while it is on your head, if your ears are not touching the internal comfort padding, or if it falls down over your eyes, then the helmet is too big. If you can significantly bite the inside of your cheeks when you open and close your mouth while the helmet is on, if you feel extreme pressure on your temples, if your chin sticks out from under the chin bar or if it gives you a “hot spot” on your forehead, then the helmet is either too small or the wrong shape.

Important to remember: No matter how well the helmet fits, it’s not going to protect your head if it is strapped to the backseat of your bike…. don’t be “that rider.”

*SHARP  (UK ), ECE 22-05 (EUROPE), SAI AS1698 (AUSTRALIA) & SG (JAPAN) SAFETY AND TESTING STANDARDS are also highly regarded certifications and standards from outside the USA… so look for those ratings on imported helmets.

Jackets

A motorcycle specific jacket has four major functions… the first two are to save you from the perils of motorcycle crashes, the third is to keep you comfortable and last is to make you look like a badass.

Mike Gayda

Newsflash! Long sleeve shirts, hoodies and even fashion leather are not protective equipment and will do nothing to help prevent injuries even in the smallest crash. What it really comes down to is what you’re willing to risk and what consequences you’re willing to live with. Of course, what you chose to wear will be based off many different factors, and no two riders are exactly the same. As technologies advance, the possibilities become quite endless. The good news is that there is a jacket out there that fits every rider’s style, shape, size, protection and wallet.

Part 1 – abrasion resistance: Jackets should be made of specific materials, usually textile or leather, that act like a second skin while you’re sliding down the road during a crash.  In regards to leather, the grade, thickness, dye process and animal it comes from will all help determine the amount of abrasion resistance offered. Textile is just as versatile for several reasons, including thread components, weave pattern and thickness, and number of layers. Each material is ideal for specific types of riding, weather, longevity, and style. Friction burns are not only painful, but they can also take weeks or months to heal and are very susceptible to infection and complication. However, abrasion resistance that will help prevent road rash is only half of a jacket’s purpose.

Part 2 – impact protection: Look for CE approved armor or other materials inserted in the jacket that provide impact protection. Street riders quite often meet with a fixed object (car, sign, guardrail, curb, tree, etc…) which causes internal trauma. In cases such as those, body impact protection can save your life. The jacket liner also serves a very important protective role, especially for riders who get caught in rain or unexpected cold weather. A liner will help protect you from hypothermia, which is easier for riders to catch than you might expect.  If you ride in hot climates, keep ventilation in mind when trying anything on, and look for perforated leather or breathable textile. Remember, if it seems too hot to wear a jacket, just ask yourself if you’d rather sweat for an hour or bleed for a week.

How to make sure your jacket fits: Find out if it stays in place by pulling on the sleeves, the waist, the collar….  Chances are, if you can expose a large amount of your skin with a simple tug, the jacket is too big, and won’t offer the best protection in case of an accident. Also, check to see if the armor in the jacket stays put, an elbow pad won’t do much good if it slides around to your bicep. Just remember, your jacket should be snug, but not so tight that it becomes cumbersome… we’re riders, not models!

*Road rash, the most common form of injury among motorcyclists involved in accidents, is also known as a friction burn. A friction burn occurs when skin is scraped off by contact with a hard object, usually the road. Because road rash is caused by a hard surface and the heat that builds up between that surface and your skin, it is almost always both an abrasion and a heat burn. About 70% of road rash injuries are 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The temperature it takes to cause a third degree burn on an adult is 160 degrees Fahrenheit with less than 1 second of contact. Keep that number in mind the next time it’s “too hot” to wear your jacket when you ride.

Pants

Is that armor in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? Riding pants are one of the most commonly overlooked pieces of gear, but they are just as important as any other protective equipment. Sit on this for a while…

Raffie Taffie shows us that pants aren't just for knee draggers!

Raffie Taffie shows us that pants aren’t just for knee draggers!

Here is what you should be able to find in a good pair of riding pants: Impact protection in critical impact areas (knees, shins, hips, butt), abrasion resistance for your skin, and a shield against the elements we encounter as riders.  Most riding pants will come with removable armor; don’t take those pads out if you value your ability to walk. CE approved hip armor, knee pads, and even shin pads are designed to keep bones from breaking and to absorb impact force to reduce internal injuries. Whether your pants are made from leather, textile or a mixture of both, they are designed to protect your skin from burns and abrasions.  Riding pants can come with liners to keep you warm, perforation to keep you cool, and even moisture wicking material to keep you dry.  If you like to drag a little knee at the track, make sure you pick up a pair of knee pucks so you’re not grinding on things you’d rather keep stock!

How to find a perfect fit: Make sure your pants are snug enough to act as a second skin but still allow you to move easily. A good way to ensure you can bend your knees enough is by squatting all the way to the floor.  Swing your leg up as if you were getting on your bike to make sure the crotch isn’t too high or snug.  Check to see if the legs are long enough, do they cover your boots or fit underneath them easily?  Most pants will come with zippers or another type of cinch closure to keep them from riding up over the boot and exposing skin in case of an accident.  Ladies, make sure the pants are high enough to cover your lower back even in the riding position.  Make sure the armor sits where it should, doesn’t rotate easily, and is comfortable against your skin.  Chaps or overpants can be used in place of riding pants but do not provide full protection against injury without armor. Find a pair of pants that looks good and feels great, and you’ll never look back…. except maybe to check out your well-covered asset!

Gloves


Take a minute to think of all the things you do daily with your hands, and how your life would change if you couldn’t use them… no more high fives, wedgie picking or middle fingers. Unfortunately, that nightmare could become a reality.

Megan Wondo shows us that a high-five with the ground is only cool of you're wearing good gloves!

Megan Wondo shows us that a high-five with the ground is only cool of you’re wearing good gloves!

What good gloves should do: Gloves will protect you from your body’s natural reaction to put your hands out when you’re falling.  The ground is unforgiving at any speed to the soft skin on your palms and fingertips, so gloves act like a second skin and take the worst of any fall.  Most gloves now come with reinforced knuckles as well, to disperse the force from impact and help keep the fragile bones in your hand from breaking so easily.  A moisture wicking liner will help keep your hands from getting swampy in the heat, and a well insulated glove will help keep your hands from turning to ice in the cold. There are so many good reasons to wear gloves, and there are so many styles, Rock the Gear assures that you can find a pair that is just as comfortable for you as it is protective.

How to find the perfect glove: Make sure the glove goes on without WD-40, but one that slips on too easily will be likely to slip off in an accident.  The tips of your fingers should only lightly touch the tip of each finger in the glove.  Just as important, make sure the fabric fits snugly AROUND your fingers and that the fabric isn’t easily twisted while you’re wearing the glove.  Check to see if you can make all normal hand movements and gestures to ensure mobility.  If there are reinforced knuckles, make sure the molding fits well with the natural shape of your hand.  Most gloves are pre-curved to fit nicely around the handlebars or clip-ons, so make sure you can squeeze and open your hand easily.  Short gloves provide no wrist protection, so make sure your jacket covers that area if you decide against gauntlet style gloves.

Squid tip: If we see you riding without ‘em, we’re gonna give ya 2 thumbs down.

Footwear

Rock the Gear wants to keep you on your toes… literally.  There are 28 bones in each of your feet and ankles, and 25% of all the bones in your body are found below your shins.  Hopefully those numbers are enough to urge you to wear protective boots or shoes to keep you happily riding (and walking) for years to come.

Cole Carmack

A good pair of riding boots is made to do 3 things: The first is to protect your feet from injury in case of an accident.  Obviously, this means your boots should be made of an abrasion resistant material that covers your entire foot and ankle. The internal structure of the boot should be sturdy enough to keep your foot and ankle from bending in an unnatural manner, protecting you from broken bones and torn tendons or ligaments.

The second thing a pair of boots should do is keep your foot comfortable, dry and at a neutral temperature.  If it’s hot, your foot should stay cool, if it’s cold, your foot should stay warm.  Some boots are waterproof or water resistant and will keep your feet dry in case of rain or other inclement weather.  You need your feet to shift and brake, so if they are uncomfortable, it can affect the safety of your ride.

Sean SayeThe third and final thing a good pair of riding boots should do is LAST.  We’re not saying you should only have to buy one pair of boots in a lifetime, but depending on your riding style, they should be made well enough to make it through several seasons of cross country trips, a year or two of track days, or many years of bike nights.

Find a pair of boots that is comfortable and durable, reinforced for riding with heel, toe, and ankle protection.  Most boots will be stiff at first.  Take a walk around the mall, wear them around a bit, they will soon conform to your foot!  And if you buy road racing boots, remember, the squeaking noise they make is a GOOD thing.  It means they are doing their job.  Take a walk on the wild side…. just don’t do it without the proper footwear!

Eye Protection

A beautiful road is in the eye of the beholder…

R1.toeknee 2

Usually, eye protection is as simple as flipping the visor down on a full face helmet.  If you choose to ride with your visor up, or in a less-than-full-face helmet, we strongly encourage you to wear shatterproof eye protection.  Find a pair of riding glasses/goggles that keep your eyes protected, don’t obstruct your vision, and help you see well whether you are riding during the day (tinted or mirrored) or at night (clear or yellow). Most glasses/goggles designed for street riding will come with padded frames to keep air from drying your eyes out or making them water.  Reinforced lenses will help keep bugs from making it into your peepers, and rocks from rendering them useless.  Seeing clearly at all times is essential to your safety on the motorcycle, so take the proper precautions before hitting the open road.  We hope this helps you see the light!