Tell Me Where it Hurts

Say no more.

Say no more.

The type of injuries sustained by motorcycle riders may not be what you think. We all know that a traumatic bonk on the head is the most likely way to become dead. The brain just cannot handle being bashed around inside your cranium without suffering some bleeding or bruising.

That’s why those who understand the risks of riding a motorcycle wear helmets, and not those skull cap, yamaka, pseudo brain buckets, but a real DOT or ECE (“Economic Commission for Europe), or Snell approved unit; preferably one with really cool colors and graphics (if that’s your thing).

Legs and Feet

Take a look at the pie graph (mmmm, pie, source: CDC). While the head and neck are understandably high on the list of parts we injure. Statistically, it is even more likely that you will have some pretty beat up the legs and feet.

I’ve experienced this first and second hand. I’ve broken a foot from a parking lot tipover (note to self: remove disc lock before flight, dumbass) and tore my ACL (it’s in the knee) from a dirt biking tipover. And Caroline broke her foot falling over in gravel on (or should I say “off”) the racetrack.

This is why I wear armored boots and riding pants with knee armor. I guess most other riders in the U.S. have not heard this fact, because very few I see wear more than sneakers and jeans with the occasional person of questionable intelligence wearing flip-flops and shorts.

Really?

Really?

Leg Protection

As a person who promotes track days, I often get questions about what riding gear is acceptable when riding on the track. Most serious riders have riding jackets that are decent enough to pass tech at some track days, like Tony’s Track Days. So, that usually isn’t a problem. But, invariably when I ask about what riding pants they have, they look puzzled and say “None. I ride in jeans”. Oops.

I get it. I didn’t begin wearing riding pants until after I had been riding for about 15 years. That’s when I started thinking more about the risks of riding. Back then, there weren’t a lot of riding pants to choose from.

I discovered that Motoport gave a discount to MSF instructors, so I bought an Ultra II overpant that I wore for several seasons. It provided years of comfort and protection. And from the looks I got from the ladies, it looked good, too. OK. there were no ladies, but I can dream, can’t I?

I digress. Today, there are tons of options in protective pants that are not expensive and offer pretty good protection from at least minor leg injuries.

Lookin' good in my Motoport Riding pants.

Lookin’ good in my Motoport Riding pants.

Now, I always wear leg protection when I ride, usually my high-dollar MotoPort Ultra II stretch Kevlar zip-on uber-pants. I know these look good because I’ve been told so (by my wife, but she counts, right?) These are undoubtedly the most comfortable and protective pants I’ve seen, except when it gets to be over 85 F.

But now I have another option. Jeannine just bought me my first pair of Kevlar jeans (with knee armor). I was quite surprised at how well they fit and looked (maybe the ladies will notice me now). I haven’t worn them yet, but I like having the option of wearing protective pants that look “normal” when I walk into a store.

Twisted Throttle (and others) sell armored mesh pants that offer great ventilation and enough protection for one small-to-medium sized crash. That’s enough to make them well worth their relatively inexpensive cost.

Do yourself, your knees and your legs a favor and wear protective pants.

touring boots are comfortable with good protection.

Touring boots are comfortable with decent protection.

Foot Fetish

Caroline and my foot injuries happened even though we were both wearing motorcycle boots, which just goes to show you that not all boots are equal. Had I been wearing my Sidi race boots at the time I may have avoided the broken foot…maybe.

But, I was on a street ride where I was doing a fair amount of walking, so I was wearing my touring boots. These are good, but are a compromise between protection and comfort. I’m in the market for new street boots and will be selecting one that leans a bit more toward protection than my current boots.

Believe it or not, even with my history of foot injuries, I do ride wearing work boots from time to time. Convenience and practicality sometimes trump maximum protection.

race boots aren't made for walkin'

race boots aren’t made for walkin’

What injuries have you suffered? Is the pie chart in line with your experiences?


 

 

Ken is author of "Motorcycling the Right Way” and "Riding in the Zone" (book and blog). He is also the "Street Savvy" columnist for Motorcyclist Magazine, and former longtime author of the Proficient Motorcycling and Street Strategies columns for Motorcycle Consumer News. Ken is Lead Instructor for Tony's Track Days, a 20 year Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, and owner of Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training.

Posted in All Things Motorcycle, Motorcycle Musings, Motorcycle Safety, Rider Education Tagged with: , , , ,
3 comments on “Tell Me Where it Hurts
  1. Wislon says:

    Ditto on the foot injury. I guess we all have tales about dropping the “stoopid bike” on our foot.
    But does any boot really protect against this? If there is, is it like those ski boots — basically solid articulated shells impossible to walk in? Lobster shells, my kid called them…
    is there one we can tour (and walk) in?

  2. John says:

    Those parking lot foot injuries seem to be common. Last spring I broke my foot near the ankle while wearing dayton style biker boots. The thick leather helped, but no side protection to stop 600lbs of metal from cracking my bones. I’m shopping for better boots at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show this coming weekend.

    My last injury was 25 years ago. I came off my bike at highway speeds when I hit my front brake too hard (something about seeing blue and red flashing lights causes a reflex squeezing action in the right hand). Wearing full gear from head to toe, I skidded and bounced down the road without a scratch except for the hand that first made impact. Bennet’s/boxer’s fracture at the base of my left thumb.

    Today’s gear is pretty amazing. Too bad a lot of younger riders can’t afford it, or perhaps can’t prioritize the expense.

    • Ken says:

      Decent gear does cost money, but not as much as many people think. If riding pants became as cool or fashionable as chrome or carbon fiber then more people would spend the dough.

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