What is all this safety about?

I have recently been side-lined from the heaven of riding motorcycles. Unfortunately a car decided to turn in front of me: the bike didn’t survive, and I luckily did. While I am still in recovery from a couple of surgeries and new metal bits, I get to watch other riders and dream about riding again, one day, as soon as possible.

While having a coffee with a couple of my friends and watching the bikes ride by, I was struck by a number of emotions, as I had been since the crash. And my number one emotion watching other riders? Annoyance and disbelief. I am stunned by the number of riders out there who, most of whom on some amazing machinery, ride with barely the basic safety equipment. By this I mean a helmet, and then maybe a jacket. Shorts, shoes, often no gloves…… There seems to be some superhuman confidence that they will not be involved in an accident at all!

Now, if you are the rider to rides fully “suited-and-booted”, this venting session is not aimed at you. I am in your camp. And if you are that rider who rides with basic kit I am also aware of the reasons. Some include “its too hot”, “where do I put my gear when I get to my destination?” and my personal bugbear “but I am a good rider and don’t intent to crash”. We can all pick holes in these arguments and I am sure the psychology is the same as it is with seatbelts in cars. Some do and some don’t, for various reasons. But in motorcycling it doesn’t change the rule:

Dress for the crash, not for the ride.

I am willing to acknowledge that there is a certain freedom, and for some a rebelliousness from riding motorcycles. It is why we all love it. But there is also the responsibility to other road users, the attitude towards others and the respect that we all need to share. If you want other road users to respect you, to see you, to move slightly out of your way in traffic, you should sure-as-all-hell ride accordingly. This means riding well (and this topic is covered by many other articles all over the motorcycle-internet-world) and wearing the correct gear.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Europe last year and I was amazed by the standard of riding. The bikes were all number-plated and rear-view-mirrored, and the riders were all in full kit. And the modern bike is an amazing piece of engineering and fairly accessible to us all. The modern bike has all the assistance systems and aids pretty much possible. But what about the rider?

What is a suggested wish-list of the correct kit to wear? I am dead-keen to debate this and I would like to start this list with the following:

  • Helmet
  • Jacket
  • Gloves
  • Boots
  • Riding pants

And some new options I am seeing are neck braces and under-the-jacket airbag systems.

This topic has been discussed many times before, and I’m sure I will not change many attitudes of those who ride in shorts and so on. All I can say is that I was blessed in my accident to have great gear on, saving me from definite further injuries and potential paralysis, and the knowledge in my gut that I did all I could to ride conservatively and be a good ambassador for motorcycle riding. I can also say that accidents can happen, and they are unintentional in their definition. Lastly, I will say that I am blessed to have survived my accident relatively ok, and have deep gratitude and love to all who helped me, from medics, surgeons and nurses, to family and friends whom I put through the emotional wringer.

I will ride again, I will ride with as much safety gear as is available and I will continue to try and be an ambassador for motorcycle riding. To all of the car, truck, taxi and bus drivers out there, most of us riders are responsible and all we want is to share the road. Do not let your attitude be influenced by the reckless and irresponsible.

To the shorts, tekkies and t-shirt-only brigade – my trauma doctor was very clear in what he said to me. “Brett, we are waiting for the bikers, we know they are coming”. I can only hope that your loved ones aren’t hurt through your preventative and/or avoidable actions…..

And by the way, I cant wait to ride again. The road is for commuting and the track is for play. The next trackday is coming up and hopefully I’ll be ready….