I've been writing an exceptional amount of copy on riding gear recently and it's been fun. Wearing, studying, selecting and buying gear is something that I've obsessed over since I started riding bikes and I've almost never not worn full gear when riding - the only exception is the time before I could afford proper kit.
That's when I had my first crash. I tore my new Arrow shirt, holed my cotton office pants and was caught bleeding while teaching a class and sent off to manage my own first aid in the toilet of NIIT's Okhla office on my own. Discovered there that I had scraped both knees, both elbows - one each quite badly and had an abraded patch on my right shoulder as well. Recovery was quite painful, especially after one of the knees froze up and the ex-Army doc substantially, but effectively yanked it straight again without a warning.
Then I came to my first magazine job and promptly lowsided both the Suzuki Samurai and the Yamaha RX135 I was riding for a story. But I was wearing denims, some sort of a motorcycle-jacket looking track suit top and ankle-high boots at the time. Speeds were low, lean angles were high and enthusiasm was overwhelming, so I limped away with no serious injuries. I had gloves on at this point and I had no problem typing the story soon after.
Then I went to Japan and finally spent some money on a proper riding jacket. Then a woman (who walked away later) jumped a pedestrian traffic light and ran into my Fiero and I went down into the median. The jacket took the whole impact and I came away with just a pain in the knee. Said pain was a damaged ligament that hurt for months on end whileI wore an itchy knee brace. Still can't climb more than a few stairs without the knee acting up a bit. This jacket saw a lot of lowsides and manfully tookthe punishment.
Then I finally got my first pair of riding pants. And in those I had some spectacular offs from all of which I walked away. I was careful enough to hardly ever crash into anything and all my crashes - knock on wood - have been me sliding along the road to a stop and then noting the melted nylon as a notch on the battle progress board.
It wasn't until my 90kmph crash with the wife that the moral of this story - which I subconsciously knew - took tangible form. We came off the bike at 90kmph which bounced up and landed on my thigh. Arti took a tumble ortwo of her own before rolling to a stop. I'd damaged the other knee now butwe rode home. When we returned from the emergency room, we lay in bed together for two weeks while various wounds healed.
But here's the thing. I correlated events down crash history lane and discovered something very interesting. I damaged my knees in every crash until I got myself a pair of riding pants and then it took a TVS Apache 180 that somersaulted on to the thigh to cause serious damage. If you look at the knees on this pair of riding pants, they're horrifically worn. Had I been in denims, there'd be tendon rebuilds, ligament repair, skin grafts and maybe even plates and screws involved. I wore a knee brace for two weeks and now have a long standing aversion to long staircases and climbing up to forts with energetic people.
Since I've worn gloves of some description right through, my wrists and hands bear no scars from motorcycling. I've never shied away from wearing the best helmet I could find - that's a lot of research and money and not just the latter - and it's worked. I've only retired two helmets with crash damage but I've - knock on wood once again - never even had a post-crash headache.
After the first riding jacket arrived, all my crashes left melted textiles behind. No road rash, no wounds, nothing. I even managed to crash at the BIC, clad in a mesh jacket and walked away withouta scratch.
But out there everyday, I see a lot of people who're into bikes but seemingly unaware that road rash and injuries and scars and pain don't have to be an integral part of motorcycling. Crashes are a given - we all run out of talent now and then - but the effects of it don't have to beso bad.
Talk on the street is riding gear is expensive and is for people with big bikes. I say riding gear is for everyone who is affected by motorcycles emotionally and by the laws of physics in the real world.
They tell me it's too freaking expensive. I think it isn't. I've compiled not only exhaustive buying guides but also shortlisted the most affordable kit in India..
Wear the gear when you're riding. It looks great. It protects you from weather and discomfort. It marks you out as a serious rider. But most importantly, it gives you the ability to dust yourself off, look the bike over once, swing a leg over and immerse yourself once more in the most amazing experience of our lives. That's better than a visit to the ER every day of the week and thrice on Thursday in my book. And if you think about it, a heck of a lot more affordable. Affordable and fun? That's what I'm talking about.