True Confessions of a Motorcycle Crash Test Dummy


All The Gear, All The Time
All The Gear, All The Time

To ATGATT or Not to ATGATT?

Do you wear All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT)?

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.

Rash and associated injuries from the crash
Rash and associated injuries from the crash

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.

Physical therapy is grueling
Physical therapy is grueling
Learning to sit up and walk again
Learning to sit up 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.

There’s a lot more to the story. You can read my account of the entire first year after the crash, or learn more about the consequences 10 years down the road.

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.

All The Gear, All The Time
All The Gear, All The Time

Of course, I was ATGATT (it’s a requirement), and in fact, I was wearing full race-level apparel. What does that mean?

  1. ECE-R 22-05 certified full-face helmet.
  2. One-piece custom cowhide racing leathers.
  3. CE Level 1 D3O impact protectors in the shoulders, elbows, back, hips and knees.
  4. Armored road racing boots.
  5. 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.

Bike with road rash post-crash
Bike with road rash post-crash

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 Brittany with parents at track

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.

All The Gear Makes All The Difference
All The Gear Makes All The Difference

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 in hospital Brittany with dad in hospital

Brittany with family (left) and dad (right) at the hospital

Brittany with friends at the hospital
Brittany with friends 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.

Choose wisely, my friends.

9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Andrew Douglas
    January 24, 2019
    Reply

    Brittany, I reference your story often when talking about riding. Very glad to hear that you’re still at it, riding the track and doing what you love.

    I’m an ATGATT guy, far moreso than most. I’m the safety geek who insists on wearing full leathers on the street. Even when commuting. Nobody I know does that.

    Here’s a little visualization exercise I use when talking to people about gear. It’s quite effective:

    Imagine you’re in a van, rolling down the street at a modest pace… say, 40 mph. You’re wearing whatever you wear when you ride.

    Go to the side door and slide it open. Crouch in the opening. This puts you at about the same height off the pavement as if you were riding, at a speed typical of a crash. Look at the road going by. Get a feel for the speed.

    Now roll out of the van.

    This is a reasonable simulation of a motorcycle crash. If you’re not confident that your gear will protect you from injury, maybe it’s time to rethink your choices.

    • Avatar
      January 24, 2019
      Reply

      Andrew, this simulation is perfect! We all know that nobody in their right mind would attempt to roll or jump out of a moving vehicle. So how can we justify not wearing ATGATT? I too am a motorcycle crash survivor. I was the idiot who had their leathers in their saddlebags for the cool ride home. I never once considered the scalding hot Arizona pavement and what it would do to my skin at highway speeds. Every ride since that day has been ATGATT for me too. I wish it was a lesson I didn’t have to learn the hard way.

  2. Avatar
    January 24, 2019
    Reply

    Brittany,

    You are an inspiration to all women riders, please keep telling your story for all the young women out there to understand that being cute is cool, but being naked on a motorcycle is NOT!!!! It is truly refreshing to hear you tell your story to make others remember that riding is fun, but as riders we are responsible for making it safe. We all need to be reminded to take responsibility for our actions and the actions of our riders. Don’t ride your motorcycle NAKED… I am a true testimony to that Statement. You are my Hero!!

  3. Avatar
    Glenn Stephens
    January 25, 2019
    Reply

    Just reinforces why I ride ATTGATT. I’ve been through my share of crashes when I was young an dumb, and yes, one put me in the hospital emergency room for a short time. That never dampened my enthusiasm for riding, and every chance I’ve had as an adult to own and/or ride I’ve done so. I started riding again 8-1/2 years ago after a 20 absence and I have only ridden fully protected since that day.
    Thanks for your story,
    Glenn Stephens

  4. Avatar
    Sherry Minarchick
    January 26, 2019
    Reply

    Wow David,
    I don’t understand why you label people. I have been riding for a few decades. And unfortunately have witnessed numerous accidents. Between friends wrecking going 70mph. No ATGATT, landed on forehead, another hit a deer doing around 65mph. And they walked away with minor injuries. I’ve totalled a street glide and able to walk away. Other riders fully ATGATT and didn’t survive.
    I feel that everyone has the right to choose. And to stoop to name calling is ridiculous.

    • Avatar
      Carlos T. Jackal
      February 4, 2019
      Reply

      I’ll throw a label at you: “Lucky.”

      And luck runs out.

    • Avatar
      David
      February 4, 2019
      Reply

      What’s this? Someone crashed at 70 mph with no gear and “walked away with minor injuries”? Wow, talk about stooping. You’ve stooped to outrageous lies. OUTRAGEOUS. Oh, unless you’re claiming this person rode their sliding bike like a skateboard until it stopped? If not, they what, slid from 70 to 0 and only got minor injuries? Or, if they didn’t slide they tumbled? Do you have any idea how absurd that claim is? You might as well claim you can fly like a bird or something.

    • Avatar
      Coz
      March 20, 2019
      Reply

      Ms Minarchick,

      Could you please define “minor injuries”?
      The simplest mistake hurts! Ask anyone who dropped their bike during a low speed maneuver how much the hips and elbows hurt even while wearing gear.

      I came off my SV650 on track by locking up the front at the end of the back straight.
      I hit the brakes at 100MPH and it catapulted me onto my back and I slid 70M with the bike stopping another 30M after me. The full length CE LVL2 back protector took the brunt of the impact. Looking at the GoPro footage from the bike behind me, we estimate that I must have come off at about 60-70MPH.

      I made the mistake of trying to get up while still sliding unaware of my momentum and I tumbled the last 20M. The slide ate right through both my gloves on the palms (Kevlar reinforced), right through the tip of my right boot, ripped my leathers at the knees, elbows and forearms and almost rubbed through the titanium plates on the shoulders. the back of the leathers look like they have been sanded with a belt sander. – just FYI – my track gear is all premium stuff.
      I got up and besides from bruising all over, a scraped knee and major muscle pain – I was fine.

      I will not describe the injuries and 6 months hospitalization of a mate who hit a u-turning pickup while enthusiastically riding a twisty county road on his CBR600RR, the injuries of another mate who high-sided his ZX-10 doing less than 60MPH on a turn we do at least twice EVERY weekend. Or the mate who low-sided his FZ6 doing 30MPH – here is a sample of his injuries – 8 broken ribs, broken collar bone and punctured lungs in 6 places.

      My point is this all of the above examples were riders who are ATGATT – Just think of the forces acting on my 90KG body during my fall and slide. If the fall was able to eat through 2MM cowhide, titanium plates and reinforced Kevlar whatnot -what would my injuries have been if, like you, I had been a squid in jeans, T-shirt and flip-flops?

      Having experienced the above first hand, I can tell you that a squid does not walk away from a 60MPH off with “minor injuries”.

      It upsets me to see bad advice been banded around and especially when novice bikers listen to it! Unfortunately your awful advice suites their narrative.
      Young riders spend all their money on unsuitable bikes. e.g. a 10 year old R1/CBR1000RR or the “I have no idea how to counter-steer but I bought one” favorite – the K3-K4 GSXR1000. Most will leave just enough money to buy an entry level helmet because in most places its illegal to ride without one. (on your head and not strapped to your elbow).
      If you don’t know what happens to a large number of these kids take a wonder down to your local ER or read the obituaries.

      You don’t have a right to choose when I pay your permanent disability benefits from my taxes and your crash increases my insurance payments

  5. Avatar
    Piglet
    January 28, 2019
    Reply

    With all the downsides to commuting in track leathers, I will take my chances wearing a Roadcrafter over street clothes, or even Cordura/Kevlar lined jacket and jeans with internal knee, hip, back, shoulder, and elbow armor.

    People that crash on the street often enough that the benefits of track leathers are needed really should rethink what they are doing, since even dressing like a MotoGP rider will not help if you lowside at speed into a mature tree or the front end of an oncoming car.

    As to the van, big difference if one is jumping out of it every two to three weeks (hello Marc Márquez) and maybe falling out the open door once every 10 to 15 years.

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