...it's that time of the year again when the moralistic do gooders come out of the woodwork and tell us all about the evils of not using appropriate protective gear. Sometimes if you pay close attention to what they're saying, they make it sound as though we magically wont get hurt if we're wearing 'the gear' in the event of an off. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Protective gear isn't a magical forcefield that makes us impervious to injury in the event of an accident, that would be called 'a car'. So what can protective gear really do for us? Well fvck all really. At best it can help stop us from losing some skin. If we're lucky and we land on our armor we might not shatter a kneecap or an elbow or a shoulder. But it's ALL relative, and it's ALL a matter of luck. Getting hit by a car will make a mess regardless. Sliding off the road at 100k's an hour and hitting objects will make a mess regardless. The only bonus of wearing a full suit at this point, is it means you've brought your own handy take home bag for the ambos to use. In either of those two scenarios, if you're squidding or not the outcome is still the same. Messy. Gloves on the other hand (hehe, you see what i did there?) gloves are amazing little things. Nine times out of ten your hands are going to cop a beating in an accident. In a low speed prang you'll instinctively put them out in front of you to slow yourself. In a high speed prang they flop around or get trapped under things and can get ground down to nothing. If you manage to damage both of your hands at once, then it means you can't wank, wipe your arse or even fix yourself a sandwich. Not so bad in rehab, bit of a nuisance if they send you home. Boots are the same. Your legs will do all sorts of crazy maneuvers if you come off, and it can sometimes happen that your boots will come off when you do. The technology of boots has possibly come the furthest out of all the gear available. The top of line stuff has been designed to stop hyper-extension of the joints. If you've ever twisted your ankle, multiply it by a few thousand and that's what hyper-extension feels like. They also come with armor to stop strategic parts of your ankle from being ground off. The top of the line boots also have multiple adjustment points for tailoring your boots to your feet so they don't come off in an accident. What else? Back protectors, they're designed to stop hyper-extension of your spine and a little bit of crush protection if you get flipped. There are cases were it can be argued that a back protector actually caused more damage than it prevented, but in the scheme of things they've done more good than harm. However if you go into the armco at a 100 and your bike follows you in, the 5ml crush zone on your protector is going to get used up fairly quickly leaving your spine to do the rest. Earplugs. Yeah they can protect your hearing, sometimes. I have tinnitus from a combination of working in noisy environments, a predilection for heavy metal/hard rock and traveling at speeds above a dollar. They've all taken their toll, and it's not unusual to find older riders with hearing loss. I've found though that using foam plugs that don't seal properly can still let air and noise in, creating a higher pitched sound than without them. The ringing in my ears can last for days. Kevlared clothing. Probably the biggest load of rubbish to hit the market in the last few years, but there's the good and the bad. My biggest criticism of kevlar is through good marketing it's left people with the expectation that it will prevent injury. But there's now enough evidence around that it doesn't and can't always do that, it can and does actually cause injury. The first company to put kevlar pants on the market were Draggin. They had a impressive film clip showing a person being dragged on their arse down the quarter mile behind a bike. We ooh'd we aah'd, but i don't recall ever being involved in an accident like that. A much more accurate demonstration of the magical properties of kevlar would of been to have the test subject riding down the quarter mile and we pushed him off. Then we could see if he's still injury free. Heat/Cold. A far more insidious problem that complicates the whole gear/no gear debate. Both of them will fatigue you without you knowing. Fatigue is by far a lot more dangerous than not wearing protective gear. But if you're fatigued you will probably need to use your protective gear. But if you're wearing the wrong protective gear you'll most likely become fatigued. Simply put, protective gear is a problem. So what's the solution? A) Experience. If you're of the mindset that simply wearing protective gear makes you safer or more protected than the person who isn't, then please tick the fail box and move to the back of the room. If you're of the mindset that wearing protective gear makes you safer than if you're not wearing protective gear, please tick the fail box and move to the back of the room. I have some home work for you. Tonight I want you to set your alarm for 3 o'clock in the morning. Hop out of bed and strip off naked, then get your bike out and go around the block a couple of times. If you don't think you can do it without the fear of crashing then protective gear is not for you. If you do it and you feel vulnerable and unprotected, then protective gear is not for you. What you need is more training and experience on your bike. Because if you don't think you can make it around the block without hurting yourself, then you haven't developed the ability to protect yourself, and no amount of gear in the world can protect you. In fact, believing in the magical properties of protective gear is probably making you more dangerous to yourself for the simple reason that you think it can save you. IT CANNOT. You can only save yourself, and you really need to learn how to ride so you can do that. Once you understand that, then by all means put your gear on and go for a ride. But keep in your mind at all times, it's not the helmet that will save your life, it's what's inside it that will. It's not your gloves that will save your life, it's what's inside them that will. Use what's inside your armor and you wont need your armor. Simply spouting that wearing protective gear makes someone safer is and always will be bullshit. But yes, in the event of an off I want to be wearing the best protection that my money can buy no doubt about it. But then that can run into the thousands of dollars which i don't have, and if I'm unlucky and have to pay the ultimate price, then all I've really bought is an expensive take home bag. So I'd much rather focus my attention and money on riding so I don't have to use it. Ride like your naked. Because underneath it all, that's exactly what we are.