As I tumbled down the freeway behind my sliding motorcycle, my helmet banged against the cement. My jacket skidded, my gloves slid. My pants and my boots skimmed the surface. When I was able to glimpse the bike ahead of me, I saw showers of sparks and tufts of flame. I was in serious trouble, but I was surprisingly calm.
Finally, I came to a rest in the number two lane. I jumped to my feet, adrenaline pumping through my system. “Get out of traffic,” my brain said to my body. I looked to my left, made sure I was clear, and ran to the median to assess the damage. Nothing seemed seriously hurt — yet. My left ankle was a little wonky, and my left thigh was going to be sore. But as I looked up and down my body, I was relieved to discover that there was no blood, and as far as I could tell, no broken bones. I had just survived a motorcycle accident on a Los Angeles freeway at over 50 miles per hour.
Let me back up a few steps.
I always wear full motorcycle gear when I ride, no matter what the weather, no matter how short or familiar the ride. Always. I’m tempted, like everyone else, to cut corners and ride in blue jeans, or a t-shirt, or a half-helmet just for comfort and convenience. But I’ve taken a vow with myself: All The Gear, All The Time. ATGATT. Every time I ride, I wear a full-face helmet. I wear a protective jacket with padding. I wear pants designed for motorcycling — either leather pants or Kevlar-lined jeans. I wear motorcycle boots and a good pair of motorcycling gloves. Every time.
On this particular night, I was wearing my Arai Signet-Q full-face helmet; a Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket; a pair of Harley-Davidson FXRG-3 Performance Boots; a pair of Harley-Davidson Guardian Kevlar-lined Jeans (no longer made); and a pair of Road Gear Carbon Maxx Gloves.
I was riding a Ural Patrol motorcycle with a sidecar, and it was just after 10:00 pm on a Thursday night. Traffic was heavy but moving on the Hollywood Freeway, and I was heading north from the Los Angeles Convention Center toward my home in the San Fernando Valley. I would have preferred to ride the Ural on surface streets rather than on the freeway, but I couldn’t figure out a good alternative that night.
I was riding along, moving with traffic at about 50 miles per hour when a pickup truck pulled around me from behind, trying to pass me on the left. His rear bumper clipped my wheel, and suddenly I was on the pavement with the bike sliding in front of me.
My biggest concern was the traffic around me. Luckily, the alert driver behind me stopped with his hazard lights on, and immediately called 911. A young couple pulled over and checked to make sure that I was okay, that 911 had been notified, and they helped me take off my helmet. They were very kind, and expressed great surprise that I wasn’t seriously injured. “You were rolling along the road, bouncing and turning. We were sure you were dead,” they told me.
Another pair of witnesses stopped ahead of the sidecar rig, which was sitting on its left side in the number two lane. The guys who jumped out were obviously motorcyclists themselves. They helped me get the Ural back up on its wheels, and stopped traffic while we pushed it to the right shoulder.
Traffic resumed its flow, and a few minutes later, an officer from the California Highway Patrol arrived to write up an accident report. I called roadside assistance from the American Motorcyclist Association, one of the benefits of my longtime membership.
Forty-five minutes after my accident, I was at home, licking my wounds and reliving the experience in my mind. My wife, my dogs and my cats were very happy to have me home.
I inspected my gear. My helmet had gouges and scratches on three sides, and across the face shield — validating my choice of a full-face helmet rather than a half- or three-quarters model. My jacket bore the grooves of a slide down the highway, looking as if it lost a few millimeters of thickness across the back and along the arms, but still intact. The protective knuckles on my gloves were ground down, but had held. My pants had massive abrasions that wore through the denim — but the Kevlar “Guardian” lining had held firm, with no wear through or tears. My boots were scuffed, but not ruined.
I’ll have to replace my helmet. It has done its job, protected me through a crash, and now its lifetime is finished. The jacket may be able to be repaired. The pants are ruined, as are the gloves.
But the big news is — I’m fine. I’m very sore, and I will be for a few weeks. But I’m walking, I’m standing, I’m sitting, and I’m fine.
I have to thank all of the manufacturers who made such excellent protective gear. I also have to thank the kind and considerate motorists who helped protect me from further harm after my accident.
And I have to thank that insistent voice in my head, the one that speaks to me before each ride: “ATGATT, Jason. All The Gear, All The Time.”