Discuss: protection is all in the mind

MAG's Ian Mutch questions the absolute necessity off head-to-toe riding gear

Discuss: protection is all in the mind

THE sun's out and so are squids (stupidly quick, under-dressed and imminently dead) riding in T-shirts. 

But surely the most important piece of safety equipment is the mind?

Ian Mutch, Editor of the Motorcycle Action Group's magazine The Road, explains why he's more concerned with what's going on inside the helmet than the shell on the outside. 

'It was a hot day in London, the temperature in the low 80s. I was sitting at the lights on Kings Road, Chelsea, when a guy pulled up next to me dressed in the full power ranger kit. I was wearing thin cargo pants, a light cotton jacket, an open face helmet and no gloves. He turned toward me, his red face pinched tight like a tormented monkey in a research laboratory. Sweat trickled down his nose. He looked me up and down critically and shook his head slowly while looking at his tank. The lights went green and he took off like a ground-to-air missile, disappearing around the bend at what must have been 40mph. I heard the crash seconds later. As I rounded the bend he was on his feet, picking a path back through a carpet of broken plastic, his red crotch rocket on its side. A woman in a four-by-four was hanging out of the driver’s window looking concerned as he strode toward her, the index finger of his right hand pointing in her direction. I wish he had glanced my way. I was ready with a sad headshake for his benefit. But I had faded from the orbit of his interest.

'He didn’t seem to be hurt but he did look angry and my guess is he was still angry when he told the story of the "stupid bint" down the pub. I mean, it was his road and she was reversing out of parking space into the main road, his main road; just what the hell did she think she was doing?

'He was fortunate to have had all that gear on, and while he may have had a scuffed elbow here and a grazed knee slider there, he was okay. His £500 helmet had helped too. Of course it would all need to be replaced now, as it was scuffed and scratched and that’s the insurance company’s problem, not ours. I mean they print money don’t they and they just rip us off, don’t they? So if we crash through no fault of our own whatsoever then hey, it’s only right that they should cough up, isn’t it?

'Yes it was a good job our head-wagging chum had all that kit on, unlike the half-wit in the cargo pants – what an amateur! If only he’d seen a few A&E cases of people who’d come off in the wrong gear and scraped themselves down the tarmac.

'Of course there is a balance to be struck. If I was going to take a bike round the Nurburgring, I’d wear all that protective kit. But if I am bimbling about in London, I wouldn’t, and I don’t and I didn’t even as a courier for five years in the 1980s. I dressed to be comfortable and I put my faith in what was inside my head, not what I wrapped it in. In the summer, I wore no gloves because the greater sensitivity gave me more control. The hotter it was, the more I loved it and the less I wore. I wore an old climbing helmet that weighed about as much as an apple, and trainers. Some of the other riders gave me the look that the power ranger did that day. Sometimes I’d explain my attitude. Sometimes I’d argue with them. Sometimes I’d go and visit them in hospital.

'Okay, if you are going to war you probably need armour, but on a motorcycle I am a pacifist.'

IAN Mutch is Editor of the Motorcycle Action Group's monthly magazine The Road and author of six books on motorcycle travel and biker lifestyle. 

What's your view? Tell us if you think Mutch has got it wrong.

  • A version of this article was first published in September 2013.


Make up your mind for you, and let others do the same for themselves.

MAG no need to say more I belief our x Mp Lemsip Opkic works for them nuf said

I'm with Ian. Ride to the conditions. Distance, speed, traffic, temperature, weather and mood. You can be in all the gear but if you hit something solid you'll still be in pain. Better to not have a prang.

Just can not belive the selfishness of these muppets, there are people through no fault of there own are waiting for skin grafts from various things happening to them . I think these selfish people should have to pay for their treatment. I like freedom for bikers bring one myself but there are limits and laws these guys just give the rest of us bikers a bad name.

I've been riding when the summer sun is beating down and the air temperature is in excess of 95F (35C). On more than one such occasion, I've stowed the leather jacket in the saddlebags or left it at home. There comes a point when the risk of a crash induced by hyperthermia or heat stroke is worse than the risk of riding in a T-shirt.

Macho nonsence from the 1980's, where it should stay. Like too much MAG policy.
Yes, get your mind switched on, that's a first step. Also get the right gear on. You can't think yourself out of every accident. There's plenty of accidents people have experienced whist being stationary (I've had one!) Think your way out of that if you can. You can believe in your own ability all you like, but reality may just come and bite you all the same.

I've been riding in stop and go weather hot enough to make someone in full leathers go into heatstroke and puke (over 100F). I wear a light-colored helmet (white or silver) to keep my head cool but protected, riding gloves, and boots on those days. Getting yourself so overheated that you get physically ill with muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and weakness just so you can proclaim ATGATT is just as stupid as riding drunk.

Rogerborg's picture

And its members should all be interned. Wearing hi-vis vests.

Make leg protectors mandatory!

AFKAN's picture

I've seen plenty of the Squids out and about in the sunshine. However, I've seen just as many of the know it all numpties. There's so much kit available these days to keep you cool even on the very hottest days, there simply isn't a valid excuse for shorts, t-shirts and trainers any more. You can kid yourself you're on the ball and have years of experience of these, muppets but there's always a bigger muppet out there just waiting to catch you out.

dudeofrude's picture

What an absolute load of bollocks. Those this moron not know there are steps between full race gear a riding in fucking cargo pants?
Obviously full leather aren't ideal for hot weather, but that's why they created vented textile jacket, short boots, kevlar jeans, mesh gloves?
I can ride round in even the most extreme heats fully protected and still relatively cool without having to risk losing my skin in an unavoidable accident.
I think people that ride without gloves are the biggest idiots of all. What do they think their first reaction is going to be when they see the floor coming towards them? And can they even contemplated what it must be like trying to do anything while the skin on your hands is growing back?

A little education wouldn't go a miss with this guy, or maybe just a bit of shopping for summer kit

ZCrow's picture

Completely. Both the author and the other rider were being foolish in this situation. Both are guilty of hubris. It is just the rider on the sportbike cashed in that day. I have been riding since 1990 and have been down a few times and the only reason I have all of my skin and body parts is full gear and some luck.

I have to laugh at the idea that an 80 degree day in London is too hot for full leathers. Above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, sure but anything below that man up.

As mentioned, above modern gear has many degrees of protection between cargo shorts and full leathers. So I really can't relate to someone that thinks cargo shorts and a t-shirt and no glove is comfortable. On the other hand, squids come in many flavors and some have big bank accounts so they walk off the showroom with a new shiny Ducati and full gear. Still, the learning curve is likely to be softer on a squid in full gear vs. sandals and Speedos.

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