Today I’d like to visit a familiar topic that I mention a lot, however from a slightly different angle. It seems that lately I’ve been seeing a lot of my friends (local and from social media) getting into motorcycle accidents, both on a closed circuit and on the street. They all brought an ache to my heart and have made me question my riding.
Not in the sense of should I continue, or is it worth the risk; but rather more of a reality check in what can I do to make myself even safer out there.
When I ride track I know that crashing is inevitable. Both my crashes on track last season were due to inexperience and whole heartedly of my own fault. Both of them taught me valuable lessons. And as I continue to push my boundaries on track I run a higher risk of crashing yet again…which I’m ok with because that is what track is for if you choose to push yourself. However the street riding side of it all has started to severely weigh on my conscience lately. Crashing on the street is a completely different animal. I have many friends now that have turned away from riding road all together and solely focus on track. The risk is too great for them and I am starting to see and feel why.
Despite these concerns, there are many good reasons to ride the beautiful open road, and for a majority of riders it is the ONLY place they will get to ride. The fact is, few of us have the want or luxury of riding on a closed circuit — and racing is a very small group out of the entire motorcycle riding population. So with that, I think personal safety and well being should be revisited. I would like to share with you what happened to Natalia.
A couple years ago, I befriended this wonderful woman from across the pond thanks to Instagram. Natalia and I quickly came to realize we had a very similar outlook and mentality when it comes to riding, and we both enjoy the street and track. Amongst sharing the same interests within bikelife, I came to enjoy her wit and personality soon realizing that we could be wonderful friends if we only lived closer. For now, I follow Natalia’s journey closely and enjoy her daily posts.
Then last month came the one dreaded notification that we all hate to see—Natalia was in a terrible motorcycle accident which landed her in the hospital with a medically induced coma.
Patiently I waited to see any signs of life and hear that she was getting well. After 2 weeks Natalia was brought out of her coma but still has an extremely long time to recover. When I saw her latest post it brought me to absolute tears and I continuously get emotional when I think about it. We all are so focused on breaking bones or roadrash in a crash that we often forget about our head. Natalia found out the hard way that her helmet was ill fitted and too old to withstand the impact she sustained.
This is why I would like to revisit the importance of having a properly fit helmet.
If your helmet is too lose or doesn’t fit your head properly — it won’t matter how expensive or high quality your helmet is — fit is the most important thing! I’m seeing a LOT of posts about concussions lately. While in some instances concussions aren’t avoidable, the number of concussions has been alarming, even with all the advancements in modern helmets. I’ve even seen crash videos where helmets move up too much or fly off all together.
If your helmet moves and wobbles on your head, it will do close to nothing in protecting you!
Poor Natalia suffered pretty severe brain damage and a part of her will never come back. On top of that, her head was shaken in such a manner that she also sustained very serious injury to her eyes and it’s possible she may need surgery to properly see again (time will tell). These are things not all of us think about when gearing up, but we have to remember that the human brain is extremely delicate and is the most important thing in our body that connects everything together. We have to protect our brain properly.
So I implore you — please get yourself measured properly, perhaps even by a professional at a gear shop for the optimal fitting helmet.
And not all helmets are constructed alike—some brands may simply not fit your head shape properly. So when trying on helmets look for a very snug fit—when you shake your head side to side the helmet should not shift around. A street style helmet will be in fact a bit loser than a race helmet, however if it moves too much then that’s a bad sign. On the flip side if you are feeling distinct pressure points (hot spots) then that indicates that the helmet is an improper fit for you even if it is nice and snug.
I pray that Natalia will regain more of her memories as her nerves make new connections. Because of her gear she is still amongst us today and that is truly a blessing.
I’ve seen many people crash without gear (and they were fine), where on the flip side, I’ve had friends geared to the gills crash and have detrimental damage done. This sport is unforgiving at any moment and we shouldn’t forget that, so protecting yourself in gear is just part of the equation.
I know it’s easy to get carried away when you’re having fun. We’ve all been there—overtaking a car we shouldn’t have in a dangerous spot at a merciless speed. Pushing 100% in a canyon without knowing what’s around the blind corner. Getting angry at a bad driver and letting our anger cloud our judgment while on 2 wheels. The list goes on… But in light of so many tragic recent events I challenge you to ask yourself…is it worth it all?
Slow down a little, keep a calm head, give yourself room for error. Room for error…I cannot stress that enough. It’s so easy to get immersed in the moment and excitement, but we must remember that this is an open public road we’re dealing with. The factors that can end you are vast, so leave yourself time to react to them.
And lastly I ask you to respect your machine. I know we all feel like we got this…but the truth is how many of us actually do?? (Borat voice) “You never get this, you never get this…”
I’m pretty sure Marc Marques has got this—how many times has he now forced the bike out of a lowside with his knee/elbow? But the reality for the rest of us mere mortals, our machines are way more powerful than we like to think they are.
You could be used to riding your machine for years but if you’ve never encountered situations where you’ve had to react abruptly then you may not really know your abilities or lack there of. I’ve personally always felt that 1000cc bikes (for example) were super easy to ride on the street. Solid, smooth, well balanced — they practically ride themselves! Truth of the matter is that as soon as you come across a not so optimal situation that same machine becomes beastly to wield and will spit you off real quick.
Anyways, these are just some of the things that have been swirling around in my head as I watch my friends around me have some mishaps. These are the issues I remind myself of as I head out for a ride because it all feels too close to home right now. And as I think back on some situations that were so close to going bad real quick for me, I shudder.
Let us all take a step back and reassess our riding style and attitude. Let’s look over our gear and evaluate it’s safety. I implore you as Bike Family to treat each other as such and look after one another. There’s only one of you, you are all uniquely special human beings and I wish you all safety and many more pleasant years of riding.
And to you dear Natalia, I wish you a speedy and smooth recovery. I know the road ahead will be increasingly difficult and frustrating so I wish you strength and serenity to get through it all. And when you are ready your machine will be waiting on you along with the rest of us.