[box]By Andy Ng[/box]
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Staying Alive! Staying Alive!
Remember that Bee Gees anthem from Saturday Night Fever? Or maybe I’m too old and you’re too young. Saturday nights out dancing and drinking at the clubs and discos. Fun!!! Yeah, I’m too old…now shut up!
Fun! That’s what we bikers are always after…FUN! But you need to stay alive to enjoy the fun. Staying alive on your bike is a VERY serious matter…a matter of life and death. Yeah, this is kind of a subject that many bikers don’t really like to talk about openly, but knowing that the biking scene in Malaysia has a serious lack of safety awareness, this is something we should talk about, and share, and insist on practicing. So begins a regular article on staying alive on your bike on a daily basis and weekend basis. The racy stuff, I leave it the experts. This section tackles the small bits you can do to stand a better chance of getting home alive. Things you and I see every day, the reasons for it, and what we can do about it.
I started riding a “kapcai” when I was in Form 4, and had my first low speed crash in Form 5 (1988), maybe 50kmh. Nothing serious, just lost some skin and blood from my right hip, knee, ankle, elbows and hand. In Form 6 (1990), I had my second low speed crash at a roundabout. I hit a patch of diesel at a roundabout and low-sided. And again I lost more skin and blood at the usual places. Got up and rode home. And in 1994, in my first year of work life, I high-sided quite dramatically. My third crash, although also a low speed one, thanks to a big hole at a corner! Witnesses said I gracefully flew over the bike and landed (not so gracefully) on my right shoulder. Again, I lost even more skin and blood at the usual places, and also shattered my collarbone and had a concussion. I was unconscious for a while. Stayed at home for a bloody painful and boring 6 weeks! That was my last ride on a regular basis and I came back to work in a car. Enough pain. Enough risk. I can’t be shedding skin and blood forever. Let’s drive a cage.
19 years later, in May 2013, in the face of an oncoming mid-life crisis, the boy in me decided to buy a 250cc bike (we men never do learn, never do grow up, do we?) in an attempt to turn back the clock and feel young again, and in October, I continued my saga with my fourth crash – low-sided at a right-hand corner in Genting Highlands, this time “a bit” (sshhhh!!!) faster than previous occasions. Slid across the road and rolled over a few times. This time, I got a very, very sore right shoulder, and…miraculously…nothing else. I didn’t lose any skin or blood at all (until I fell into the drain after the crash, much to the amusement and laughter of my sick but wonderful friends).
I wasn’t going slower than previous occasions. In fact, I was having some fun, if you know what I mean. The road wasn’t smoother or softer (they never are, you know), and my body wasn’t tougher (your skin does not ever turn into cow leather, even if you do smell like a cow). I hit the road hard, and slid and rolled quite a distance, not quite MotoGP standards, but you get the idea. My shoulder was sore for about a week or so. It must have been a miracle! NOT! Oh yeah, it was a miracle not to be hit by the 2 passing cars. And it was a divine miracle that my wife did not kill me when I got home (although she did try it with her piercing eyes and deadly silence).
How did I get away without any skin and blood loss? Walking away uninjured from my fastest crash wasn’t any miracle at all, except that of the two cars not hitting me. I had made sure I protected myself as much as possible. A couple of weeks before I collected my bike, I had already gone shopping – for a helmet, a jacket, a pair of boots, gloves and knee pads. By the time of my crash, I had a spine protector, racing boots and half leather pants. The crash scuffed my pants, both boots and both gloves, scratched my helmet, and tore up my mesh jacket quite badly. My right shoulder pad had cracked upon impact, and there were tears on both sleeves and on the back. Every single piece of external wear had damage on it. But I still had all my skin and blood, and I could get up immediately to walk to the road side. I could still ride the bike home, albeit without front brakes.
Full-face Helmet: RM450
Mesh Armoured Riding Jacket: RM500
Spine Protector: RM150 (used)
Half-leather Armoured Pants: RM400 (used)
Armoured Racing Boots: RM250 (used)
Armoured Leather Gloves: RM230
Walking away from a bike crash unscathed: PRICELESS
Today, I almost never ride a bike without any protection. The helmet, jacket, gloves and boots are my daily necessities, and I’m thinking of getting padded pants or knee pads that are practical for daily use. On weekends, I am fully clad in leathers (jacket, pants, gloves, boots) and armour, regardless of how hot the weather is. Friction between skin and tarmac is way hotter than any hot day.
[quote]So, LESSON NO 1 to all bikers:
ALWAYS WEAR PROTECTION…as much as possible and practical.[/quote]
You never know when you will crash. All these protection will save you from lots of skin and blood loss, and pain, not to mention hospital bills. And even if you do get hurt, the protection would have reduced your injuries if compared to wearing none. As long as you don’t hit anything or get hit by anything and as long as you are not going too fast, you should be quite ok.
Now, if you are going too fast, or hit something…that’s another story for another day…
WEAR PROTECTION!!! STAY ALIVE!!!