Opinion: Road rash hurts

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.

Blogger John, from Texas, had the front tire blow on his Harley at 115 km/h. “The folks at the scene said there was approximately 60 feet of skin and blood smeared down the highway and ended at the shoulder of the road where I went into the ditch. I tell you, it felt like my arm was on fire,” he wrote. “After the adrenalin subsided, I hurt in places I didn’t even know I had.”

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.

Good thing she’s wearing a full-face helmet and protective leather vest, but those tattoos won’t last long if she falls off.

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.

Mark Richardson

Editor, Canada Moto Guide



  1. The only thing missing is a picture of someone having his/her chin or cheek ground away while wearing a half helmet in an accident. I’ve seen it and it isn’t pretty. You can always cover an arm or a leg with clothing but not your face. Hopefully your article will convince some people that it is better to wear “ATGATT”.

  2. Everyone of you all can shut the fuck up!!! I ride in shorts and a tank top. Who the fuck are you to call anyone an idiot in this article? Worry about yourself and keep your judgements to yourselves. No one is breaking the law by riding this way. How about harser penalties for those idiot drivers who cause the hassards and make our streets dangerous to ride freely. Instead your attacking people who aren’t breaking the law.

    • lol people like you should get cut by a distracted driver and have a road rash. Who’s gonna be the idiot now?
      There are PLENTY of distracted driver and assholes with cellphones. Never trust anybody’s skill and wear your gear. Fool.

    • It’s an opinion piece, and in the writer’s opinion, riding in shorts and a tank top is an idiot move (and I happen to agree). You’re free to disagree and do what you want, and he said as much.

    • Appropriate attire is recommended in the handbook .if youve ever had road rash youd wear it. Stupid people do stupid things.lol

    • Dude no need for the hard language you would be surprised to find out how many people agree with him. But judging by your reaction your car must have all it’s safety equipment either removed or modded because it makes your car cooler?
      Sorry but responsible Bike riders wear proper gear in all weather. Rather hot and alive then cool and dead mate.

  3. Full gear saved me from a lot of additional pain a couple of years ago. I was hit by a distracted driver while going 80km/h. Despite many broken bones, soft tissue injuries and a couple months in the hospital, I had no road rash at all. Icon boots and gloves, Joe Rocket pants and jacket, and an HJC full face helmet saved me. Yes it’s hot in the summer, but I like keeping all of my skin.

  4. I guess 40+ years ago we didn’t know better. My dad would take me to my swimming lessons on Saturday morning on his CB125, with me on the back wearing shorts and a t-shirt. My mom put a stop to the riding in shorts after I burned my lower leg quite nicely on the exhaust. Still, neither of us wore any protective gear to speak of beyond the mandatory helmet (my dad’s had a snap-on face shield).

    That was then, though, and there’s a lot more information and good riding gear available than 40+ years ago.
    Personally, when it’s too hot to ride comfortably with what I consider minimum gear – jeans, boots, mesh jacket, gloves,FF helmet – I just don’t ride.

Join the conversation!