As motorcyclists, we are all too familiar with the age-old battle between freedom of choice and personal responsibility. We’ve heard the arguments from both sides for decades. Choosing protection, whether it’s full head-to-toe or nothing at all, is 100% in the hands of each individual.
Focusing on the motivation behind the choice – the “why” rather than the “what” – might help clear things up for riders who are still on the fence. I’d like to share my personal experiences and allow you to decide which of the two scenarios you, and your family, would prefer if given the chance to decide before a crash happens.
Surviving a Horrific Get-Off Without Proper Protection
Thirteen years ago, half of my skin was ripped off in a motorcycle accident. I was a 20-year-old passenger, and the only piece of gear I was wearing (a full face helmet) happened to save my life.
After tumbling 522 feet down the road in nothing more than jeans and a sweatshirt, I laid on the road with third-degree road rash on 50% of my body (warning: image below is graphic) for 45 minutes waiting for emergency crews. While slowly bleeding out, I imagined what people would be saying about me at my funeral. I talked to whoever is “in charge” and accepted my fate. I wasn’t scared, I just wanted to die.
I spent two months in the hospital and had nine surgeries. I developed a life-threatening blood clot and eleven different types of infection as a direct result of my injuries. My parents visited me every day for over 60 days straight. I begged them on a daily basis to “make it stop” and screamed in pain during dressing changes, which drive my father from the room.
I became dependant on my pain medication (there were at least 14 in my system throughout my stay) and had violent mood swings with my doctors and family as a result. A complete stranger had to help me shower while I sat in a chair made of PVC pipe. After all the surgeries, I had to learn to brush my hair, sit up in bed, and walk again.
There were more consequences that would take longer for me to realize. Because of my injuries, I lost my military career path. I lost my favorite sport. I lost my youthful body and all of my hair. I lost my self-confidence. I lost my ability to have children. I lost my clear and focused mind in exchange for PTSD and anxiety.
For a long time, it felt like I lost everything. People ask me how long it took to recover. Sadly, I fear the true answer is “forever” because I haven’t fully recovered, and it’s been 13 years. I am still suffering from the injuries and ongoing side effects of skinning myself alive. Every single day my life is affected by the outcome of that ride without gear.
You might think you understand. Very few actually do, and they are the ones who have lived through similar. Ask them to tell their story, and if you have the chance… listen.
Another Crash… In Full Gear
This September, just nine days before the 13th anniversary of my accident, I crashed my own motorcycle at 40mph on the racetrack.
Of course, I was ATGATT (it’s a requirement), and in fact, I was wearing full race-level apparel. What does that mean?
ECE-R 22-05 certified full-face helmet.
One-piece custom cowhide racing leathers.
CE Level 1 D3O impact protectors in the shoulders, elbows, back, hips and knees.
Armored road racing boots.
Cowhide and kangaroo gauntlet-length gloves with floating knuckle armor.
After a short slide and a few tumbles, I got up and walked to the edge of the track without assistance. Once the track was clear, I helped a corner worker pick up my bike. I smiled when it started right up. I would have ridden my banged-up R6 off the track if it wasn’t against the rules.
I jumped in the crash truck, which brought me and my bike back to my pit. My boyfriend and parents were waiting and worried; I hugged them and told them I was just fine. I drank some water and then helped fix my bike enough to pass tech inspection. I rode an hour later. I raced twice more that day while the people who love me the most in this world watched and cheered from the stands.
Brittany with boyfriend (left) and parents (right) at the track
A day later, I was packing a suitcase and boarding an airplane. Two days later, I test-rode a new bike at a press launch in California for nearly seven hours. I never once questioned my ability to return to normal life after my crash at the track. Once the small bruises faded, it was like it never even happened.
The Real Difference Protection Makes
Because I was ATGATT, I was protected from many types of injuries, from catastrophic to minuscule and everything in-between. I wasn’t just uninjured; I was able to continue riding, spend time with the people I love and return to work immediately after my crash because of the gear I was wearing.
Each piece of gear I was wearing played a part, and together it made a difference in every aspect, from immediate repercussions to long-term effects. That’s the true impact of choosing ALL the gear, ALL the time.
It Won’t Happen To Me!
Why do I still tell a 13-year-old story? Because I think it matters to every rider on the face of the planet. I will never forgive myself for what I put my family through in 2005. I will never forget how wonderful it felt like to hug my parents and tell them I was okay after the crash in full gear. Those two outcomes speak for themselves. You might think it will never happen to you, but there’s a huge group of riders who will admit that even the smallest injury isn’t worth the hassle.
Brittany with family (left) and dad (right) at the hospital
The right protection can dramatically change your life and the lives of those you love and those who depend on you. When it comes to choosing what to wear when you ride – whether ATGATT is right for you – simply remember both of my stories and imagine yourself in my shoes.