It’s been a stinking hot week across most of southern Canada, in which literally dozens of people have died from the heat. In Toronto, it seemed everyone was dressed for the beach – including all the motorcyclists and scooterists out on the road, their riders sweltering in the sun.
Too many people ditched their jackets to ride in short sleeves – including the police, who should know better. I can understand this, because a protective jacket can be so uncomfortable as to be a distraction and more harm than good, but the real idiots were the riders in shorts and flip-flops. Shorts will burn your bare skin against the exhaust or engine; flip-flops give you no purchase when you need to put your feet down to stabilize your bike at standstill.
But whatever. I don’t get hung up anymore about people’s poor decisions, because I assume they’re grown-ups who have the right to make an uninformed choice. If they want to risk shredding and burning their skin, let them do so.
What upsets me is the riders who carry children on the pillion seat who are poorly dressed. Kids don’t have the information available to them to know what is correct to wear on a motorcycle, and if they see their parent or peer dressed for the beach, they’ll follow that example. So if the child falls off at any kind of speed, for whatever reason, and permanently scars their young skin before it’s even had a chance to grow properly, that’s the fault of the adult, not the kid. And it’s totally inexcusable.
There’s a saying in the motorcycle world: ATGATT, or All The Gear, All The Time. It means that a rider and pillion passenger will always wear a protective helmet, jacket, gloves, long pants and boots that cover at least the ankle. It sounds hot on a summer day, but modern technology allows helmets and jackets to be vented, and gloves and jackets to be made from resilient mesh that not only allows the wind to pass through as if you’re wearing no jacket at all, but also protects your skin from sunburn. When you’re dressed properly, whatever the weather, it’s far less tiring than being burned on the road by the wind and the sun.
There are other tricks, too. Riders in the desert will soak their heads and T-shirts in cool water before putting on their jackets, keeping down the temperature of their torsos. Others will wear small bandanas with chemical beads inside them that can be chilled in a freezer, which cool their heads beneath their helmets. The high-tech riders wear special vests that maintain temperature, so the body stays warm when rising into the mountains, and cool when dropping down into the heat. Cruiser guys often like to make a fashion statement by wearing T-shirts and leather vests, and that’s their choice as adults, but nobody who actually knows what they’re doing will wear shorts and flip-flops.
Road rash is a horrible thing. A doctor once told me that he would begin to treat a motorcycle road-rash victim by cleaning the gravel and sand and dust from the open wounds with a wire brush. Even then, once the pain and trauma is mostly passed, the scarring will be severe and permanent. It’s easy to prevent – don’t let it happen to you.
Or has it already? Have you fallen off a bike at speed while improperly dressed, and have the scars to prove it? If so, drop me a note at the email below. We’d like to talk to you for an article here at Canada Moto Guide that explains exactly what happens when somebody hits the ground wearing only a T-shirt. If you’re a doctor with experience of road rash, we’d like to hear from you, too. I’m sure it will be gruesome, but too many people still need to know.
Editor, Canada Moto Guide