• Road Rash Decision

    copied the following article from Motorcycle News, July 2005 issue. I live in Texas and ride in 90-100+ degree Fahrenheit weather in the summer. I have ridden with just a helmet, boots, gloves and regular pants and shirt/blouse. I’ve thought, “If I go down and get road rash, it’ll heal.” This article made me think again about my “Road Rash Decision.”

    ROAD RASH DECISION
    by Flash Gordon, M.D.

    Here’s a letter from Patricia Wilson, a motorcyclist who wants us to benefit from her experience:

    I have a suggestion for a future article that addresses bike safety. The subject is what bikers casually call “road rash,” but which, in fact, is no different from second or third degree burns.

    I went down on July 4th, 1999 wearing nearly nothing (very hot day that day and I wasn’t going that far, uh-huh). I thanked God (and still do) that I have no memory of what happened between the time the front wheel started to go mushy and when I woke up on the pavement. I remember thinking how lucky I was to have this happen this close to University of Michigan’s trauma-burn unit. I also remember thinking how lucky I was that I didn’t lose any skin on my back or butt: It gave me a way to lay without lying on wounds. I had visions of one of those wheel beds.

    I don’t remember them doing it, but I had a tube inserted in my chest wall to re-inflate the lung that was punctured by a broken rib. It seems strange, but I never had the feeling that I was mortally injured – just injured very badly. When they moved me out of emergency, it was into a trauma-burns unit at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. Lucky me; they know how to treat burns. Now I do, too, and I think that knowledge should be shared so people have a better understanding of what they are risking when they ride unprotected.

    The broken shoulder took about a month to heal. The burns took nearly two years. You get to expand your vocabulary in interesting ways: Eschar, Silvidine, Kerlix, debride, and finally, Jobst. You learn that morphine is great, except for when they come in to ‘dress’ your burns. You learn that the turnover is fairly high among nurses in trauma-burns because they can’t handle the screams. You discover that the friendly cotton washcloth is really woven out of barb-wire. You learn that this daily process is going to go on not for days or weeks but for months.

    I think the worst thing about the daily dressings (gives a whole new meaning to the daily grind) was the anticipation – knowing that the agony you were going through was going to happen again tomorrow and the next day and the next… Indeed, it goes on until all of the wounds have completely closed.

    Closed, but not healed; for now, you graduate to the Jobst garments, which you learn are worn to help minimize (not eliminate) scarring. Depending on where the wounds are, this can be at least uncomfortable. Remember how hot it was the day I went down? Imagine being wrapped in latex fabric in that kind of weather, twenty-four/seven.

    Well, in the end, it works. My scars are visible, but not horrific like burn scars used to be, and I did not require skin grafts. It wasn’t until five years later that I rode again, but that was mental, not physical. I purchased the bike, the helmet, and the summer-weight armored jacket in that order. Speaking of helmets, I examined mine when I got home from the hospital. Had I not been wearing it when I went down, I would have lost a good part of my face to the road.


    Patricia makes a good point: Abrasions and burns are similar in the way they damage the skin. A fall at 25 mph results in damage to unprotected skin like that produced by a frying pan containing very hot oil. A faster fall, naturally, produces more damage.

    Protective gear makes all the difference. A good set of leathers is probably the best protection available, especially when racing. The problem with them is that riding to work wearing leathers and then changing is time consuming, and more that a little inconvenient. Leathers aren’t the best things in an all-day rainstorm, either. That’s why many motorcyclists who spend lots of time in the saddle – touring and commuting riders, for example – often wear fabric suits like those from Aerostitch and Motoport. They’ve got the advantage of either being inherently waterproof (Aerostitch) or have available zip-in liners (Motoport). And the big advantage of these types of suits is that they fit over your everyday clothing.

    For folks who want to ride in jeans and a denim jacket, Bohn Body Armor has armored underclothing that fits beneath your outerwear or long-sleeved t-shirt. Though it’s less protection than full leathers, it’s enough to save your skin.
    In hot weather, perforated and mesh jackets, like those from Vanson and Joe Rocket among others provide substantially more protection than a t-shirt, and are almost as cool.

    In the event you do get “road rash,” there are some circumstances where going to the ER is especially important. Abrasions over joints, for example, can easily spread infection into the joint itself. And an infected joint may stop working permanently after only a day or so of an infection. Abrasions over bony points (knuckles, ankles, etc.) carry the danger of a bone infection (osteomyelitis). Road rash on the face may lead to permanent scarring, or if there’s any dirt in the wound, to permanent tattooing.

    Abrasions on the hands (especially the thick, specialized skin on the palm side) should be treated at an ER. Improper care can lead to contractures and loss of use. That’s why I always wear good gloves. I find that deerskin, like that from Thurlow and Lee Parks Design is tougher than leather and more comfortable.

    I hope this information helps. I’m going to close with some more words from Patricia Wilson:

    I hope you consider writing about this. I think it was David Hough who said, “When you go down, you will be wearing what you decided to wear when you got on.” Please help people make the right decision.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Road Rash Decision started by MaxiScoot View original post
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. ChrissyBiker's Avatar
      ChrissyBiker -
      I know all this...and yet when it's 90 degrees out, putting on a leather jacket is torture. I can't enjoy the ride....so I don't ride in super hot weather. I ride only on cool days when my leather jacket feels comfortable. This limits the days I get to ride, but so be it.
    1. WoodstockJeff's Avatar
      WoodstockJeff -
      But there is more to gear than JUST leather. For days in the 90-105F range, mesh works well.

      If it's about "the look", well, that's one of the choices people make.
    1. Sorg67's Avatar
      Sorg67 -
      I have only mesh gear. In Florida it rarely gets cool enough for leather. I always wear coat gloves and helmet, almost always wear boots. I have been getting lazy about pants though. This is a good reminder. Mesh pants over shorts work really well when it is hot. Cooler than jeans. Putting a rain suit on over mesh gear makes it pretty warm in cool weather.
    1. Sorg67's Avatar
      Sorg67 -
      What do people do with their gear when they get where they are going? My boots, jacket, pants and gloves pretty much fill up my 47 liter top box on the Versys.

      My other bikes do not have enough storage. I have a bicycle lock I run through a sleeve and pant leg of my gear and my bikes all have helmet locks. Sometimes tempted to just leave it on the bike and live with the risk that someone swipes it.

      Of course then I would not have protection to get home.
    1. ChrissyBiker's Avatar
      ChrissyBiker -
      Quote Originally Posted by ChrissyBiker View Post
      I know all this...and yet when it's 90 degrees out, putting on a leather jacket is torture. I can't enjoy the ride....so I don't ride in super hot weather. I ride only on cool days when my leather jacket feels comfortable. This limits the days I get to ride, but so be it.
    1. ChrissyBiker's Avatar
      ChrissyBiker -
      Not sure what 'mesh' is...I THINK I have a mesh jacket. That works as well as leather? It doesn't have the thickness or padding of a leather jacket. And I wonder about faux leather jackets. I have some of them too. I only have one real leather jacket. That's the one I sweat in on hot days! I don't know how riders in Arizona do it
    1. Sorg67's Avatar
      Sorg67 -
      Mesh jackets provide protection by having armor in pockets at key locations like knees, shoulders, elbows and back. My Dianese jacket and pants also have armor protecting shins hips and forearms.

      My Rev'it Jacket and pants has less armor but the fabric is a little heavier.

      It is my understanding that they afford less protection than leather but are less expensive and not as hot. I do not know how much less protection they provide.
    1. Sorg67's Avatar
      Sorg67 -
      I have gotten to the point that I feel a little exposed when I get on my bicycle without protective gear. I dumped my 1974 Honda 550 Four when I was 18 or 19. I was wearing jeans and a jean jacket and still have some scars from that. But I was lucky and my road rash was minor. The worst road rash i have ever gotten is from my bicycle. Still have a scar from wiping out on my bicycle when I was 9.
    1. WoodstockJeff's Avatar
      WoodstockJeff -
      Mesh riding gear is essentially an open-weave synthetic material that lets air flow through, while providing a measure of abrasion resistance AND holding the protective pads that many leather jackets/pants do not even bother will.

      I have mesh gear that flows so much air that it is "too cold" to wear below 80F, unless you put rain gear over it, as Sorg67 mentions.

      Is it less effective than leather? In some ways (abrasion), yes. In others (supplied armor padding), it can be more effective.

      But, here's the thing - if you don't LIKE riding in "too hot" weather, you don't have to. Very few people HAVE to ride. Limited gear choices is certainly a valid reason to tell your riding buddies, "It would not be enjoyable, I'll pass today."

      Sorg - depending on where I go, the gear is often just hung over the motorcycle. My XT certainly doesn't have sufficient room to store an Aerostich R3. I have a "cable padlock" that I can use to tie stuff down, too.
    1. ChrissyBiker's Avatar
      ChrissyBiker -
      I STILL cannot figure out how this site works! I wanted to reply to a specific reply to ME, so I clicked on 'reply' but in the box that came up, it had HIS reply and where was I supposed to put MINE? LOL!! And how do you put your picture next to your name? I spent 15 minutes last night looking for an 'upload picture' icon and couldn't find anything. I may just end up giving up and not coming back here. I can't take the stress....
    1. WoodstockJeff's Avatar
      WoodstockJeff -
      There is "Reply" and "reply with quote".

      And picture uploads come under the "attachments" (if you want to have BBO host them, and there are limits), which can't be done from the "Quick Reply" box.

      It's definitely NOT like Facebook. Which makes me happy.
    1. ChrissyBiker's Avatar
      ChrissyBiker -
      Quote Originally Posted by WoodstockJeff View Post
      There is "Reply" and "reply with quote".

      And picture uploads come under the "attachments" (if you want to have BBO host them, and there are limits), which can't be done from the "Quick Reply" box.

      It's definitely NOT like Facebook. Which makes me happy.
      Thanks Jeff. I don't know why your message is in this box. I want my OWN box! I only see 'reply with quote'. I don't see any 'reply'. Maybe I'm blind. I give up...see you on Biker or Not (maybe). I'm AletaZ on there!
    1. WoodstockJeff's Avatar
      WoodstockJeff -
      Very strange. It may be a difference in the fact that this is "commenting on an article" rather than a regular forum reply. Although I see both "reply" and "reply with quote".

      You should be able to delete the stuff between the "quote" tags when you're typing in your message. But I'm not used to this particular vBulletin add-on feature.
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