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Old 30 Oct 2006
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Safety First


I came across this while trolling the internet sat in a wheelchair after a particularly spectacular dismount in may 2003. Its well worth a read by anyone remotly involved in motorcyling.

I take no credit for any of this.

“Riding without boots and crashing might cost you some road rash or foot mash or even in an extreme case might lead to amputation. You might never walk without a limp. You might battle a weight and fitness problem for the rest of your life. You might never walk with pain. But it probably wouldn't kill you.

Riding without gloves and crashing might cost you some road rash or a munched hand or the severe, excruciating pain of mangling a body part rich with nerve endings. Or you could lose a finger or two. It could cost you the ability to play ball with your son, or to hold a . But it probably wouldn't kill you.

Riding without at least an armoured jacket and leather trousers or full leathers or an Aerostich or even just leather jacket and jeans and crashing might cost you serious road rash. You might grind off a nipple. You might embed gravel in your elbow. You might get beef jerky all over your back. You might grind off your kneecap or have a scar resembling Australia on you calf like a friend of mine does. You would be scarred for life and not be able to walk on a beach shirtless without feeling self-conscious. You might end up like Kevin Spacey's character in "Pay It Forward" and have to deal with the same awkward moment every time you remove your clothes with a new lover. But it probably won't kill you.

Riding without a back protector and crashing in all but rare crashes would be inconsequential. However, there are so many variables out there- curbs, fenders, poles, guard-rails, debris in the road- any one of these could be the golden BB that nicks your spinal cord in just the wrong way and leaves you in a wheelchair for life. Or, maybe you just have constant sciatic pain in one leg. Or you can't move your legs. Or you have to wear diapers for when you crap yourself, and/or a colostomy bag you have to pull out of your pants leg and squeeze your waste out into the toilet at a bar like a guy I know. Or you can't move from the chest down. Or from the neck down. Are you good at working joysticks with your mouth? Or maybe you might need a respirator? Or 24 hour care? Certainly, there are impacts that are completely foreseeable that would permanently injure you even with the best back protector in the world. But there are crashes and subsequent impacts that even mediocre back protectors can make that little bit of difference in- the ones you get up and walk away from, sore all over, but *walking*. Do you want the last time you walked to be when you walked out of 7-11 with a pack of smokes and then got on your bike? Those precious few steps out the door and over to the bike to be the five steps you remember the rest of your life because the next time you were off the bike you were lying strapped to a backboard staring at the headliner of an ambulance, tears running down your face because you couldn't feel the little piggies and you were almost ready to vomit at the stench of your [censored] because you lost control of your bowels? Riding without a back protector and crashing might not make a difference, or it might make all the difference in the world. It might not kill you, but it might make you wish it had.

And, finally, helmets. Riding without a helmet and crashing might be of no consequence. You might never even touch terra firma with your head. Or you might give yourself an asphalt facelift. You might get a concussion that results in only a bad headache the next day. You might get a serious concussion that lands you in the hospital for endless CAT scans and MRIs, and for the rest of your days be plagued by migraines. You might fracture your orbital and lose your vision. You might fracture your skull and end up fully functional but with a horrible Frankenstein like scar and a metal plate that bothers you on cold days and sets of metal detectors in airports. You might have a closed head injury from which you don't awaken from for hours or days or weeks or months- all the while your mother, father, sister, brother, children, workmates, and/or riding buddies come a visit you, filling an utterly depressing hospital room into a gauche jungle of flowers and bright card saying "get well soon!" that you never see or smell. Sure, you might awaken completely normal besides the hole drilled in your head to reduce pressure. Or you might awaken a little fuzzy, unsure who these people are. Or you might awaken and have to re-learn everything it took you all your life to learn, eventually returning to normal or even better like Harrison Ford in "Regarding Henry". Or you might awaken a man-child, drooling and laughing as you try to stack blocks, wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt signed by your mother, father, sister, brother, children, workmates, and/or riding buddies- which you will never read. Or you might have an open head injury, from which the "you" you know will most likely never return. The rest of your life -be it a day, a week, a month, a year- will consist of feeding tubes, the endless beep and whoosh of the heart monitor and respirator, and the drip-drip or IV fluids, catheters in your rod, and feeding tubes. Of course, you won't mind all of this; you'll be in a dreamland no one knows about. Your body will waste away and a trophy. Eventually, the shell that used to be you would give out, and your loved ones would have to make the most gruelling decision of their life. Or, you might die on the road, fluffy grey brain matter mixing with blood and cerebra-spinal fluid. Perhaps you last ride would be twenty miles an hour down the street by your house combined with an impatient young driver and an ignored stop sign. Or perhaps it would be a ride on the freeway and a pothole denting your rim and popping the front tire off the bead sending you into the guard-rail. Or you might go out in a blaze of glory with a 100-mph wheelie ending the wrong way. Whichever way, would make maybe a 10 second news story depending on where you live, maybe a paragraph buried on page 32B of the paper. Riding without a helmet could be of no matter- or it could mean the difference between going on as you are now, or having life taken away from you as if God flipped a switch.

I can live without toes or a mangled foot- but I choose to try and prevent that. I can live with a hand that looks like a burn victim's and maybe relearn to write with my left hand- but I choose to try and prevent that. I can live with a scar in the shape of Australia on my calf- but I try and prevent that. I can live with road rash on my torso and arms- but I try to prevent that. I could live in a wheelchair, agonising through every day, but I chose to try and prevent that.

I can't live as a man-child. I've already played with blocks. I only drool when I sleep.

We all make choices. Gear can't always save you. All the best leather, denim, Cordura, Kevlar, fibreglass, and plastic is useless when fate throws the Immovable Object or the Irresistible Force in your path. But I choose to stack the deck in my favour. If it all ends up for naught and the stacked deck and the cards up my sleeve end up losing to Fate's royal flush, so be it. But I'll try
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