A much younger friend of mine used to ride a motorcycle. Several years ago, his friend got in a fight with his girlfriend. Angry and emotional, my pal’s friend jumped on his motorcycle and sped off. He suffered a very serious wreck and was injured. When my friend got the call about his buddy, he buckled on his helmet and jumped on his own motorcycle. Emotionally charged, my friend wasn’t in the right mindset to ride and crashed on the way to the hospital, also becoming seriously injured.
When I ride my motorcycle I wear “all the gear, all the time” (ATGATT). That means specialized safety gear: gloves, jacket, body armor, pants, boots, and helmet. I believe that wearing safety gear helps a rider in the event of a crash. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Wear protective gear, reduce injury during a crash.
There may be some statistical evidence that those who wear motorcycle gear are inherently less prone to accidents than those who wear less (or no!) gear. I believe ATGATT motorcyclists “self-select” into a higher safety bracket because they have thought enough about safety and avoiding injury to buy gear in the first place. I’ve been pondering lately if the act of putting gear on in the first place makes one a safer motorcyclist.
I definitely go through a mental and emotional transformation when I put on my gear and prepare to ride my motorcycle. It takes a few minutes to put all of my stuff on. When I wear foam earplugs, putting in each plug takes 40 seconds alone.
Put on boots — five loops per boot.
Then overpants — two zippers and a belt buckle.
Then body armor — two clips and a waistband with three attachment points.
Jacket’s next — two cuff zippers, then the main zipper. I might have a liner in the pants and jacket, so that adds another round of snuggling and zipping.
If it’s raining, I have extra rain pants and a rain jacket.
Then out to the bike.
Put the key in the bike ignition, open the top case with the other set of keys.
Put on my helmet, adjust canalphones if necessary, put on gloves.
Put my bag in the top case.
Do a quick check on the bike. Mount up, take a deep breath, start the bike.
That’s a lot of stuff, and I have gotten shit from motorcycle owners and non-owners alike. “You look like a stormtrooper,” people have said. “How do you enjoy riding with all of that crap on?” “Hurry up, it takes you forever to suit up.”
However, this does something very important for me besides the obvious safety factor of wearing gear in the event of a crash. It’s a ritual that slows me down, and greatly reduces my chance of riding while emotionally charged. I have to think about riding, and the time it takes me to put everything on also gives me enough time to get into the mindset of being a safer motorcyclist. You might die out there. Screw up, not pay attention, get clipped by a minivan on the highway, and Evel Knievel your ass into a hearse.
Motorcycling is fun, but it’s not a game. Physically gearing up gives me time to mentally gear up. By the time I snap my visor down, I’m a different person and all of the usual joking stops.
Does this make a difference? Is this one reason I’ve been accident free in nearly six years of riding and approximately 50,000 miles in the saddle?