This is the dirt gear that saved my life

Dailies, Galleries -


Making bad decisions on motorcycles (or Russian sidecars) has consequences. I’m able to ameliorate the consequences of frequently awful decisions by wearing the best safety gear available. This is what I was wearing when I crashed last weekend, it, in addition to Sean, is the reason I’m able to type this (slowly) today.

Alpinestars Tech 10 Boots

These are bulky, heavy, look ridiculous and, at nearly $600, extremely expensive. But, I can crash bikes safe in the knowledge that it’d take a collision with a freight train to damage my feet, ankles or shins. That’s an empowering feeling. Like other Astars boots, an inner bootie prevents extreme movement of the ankle while allowing freedom of movement within a preset degree. That’s then backed up by ridiculously heavy duty impact protection absolutely everywhere. These took over a year to break in, but now I can’t imagine riding off-road in anything else. An added bonus now that I live in California is that they vent extremely well. No sweaty feet for me.

Camelbak Hydropak

This is literally the cheapest Camelbak available, but it’s all you really need. Its 1.5-liter capacity is enough to see me through an entire morning or afternoon of hot dirt riding, provided I take care to hydrate before setting off. I bought this for Moab years ago, figuring it’d last one trip, but its since been across Labrador and to countless other places too and its as good as new. Just make sure it dries out completely inside before you store it or it’ll get mouldy. Simple, cheap, effective.

For those of you that don’t use one of these yet, you’re being a bit silly. Hydration affects brain function, you might find yourself saddled with Wes-like judgment if you aren’t topping up as you ride.

Dainese MX Gloves

These are the gloves I wrote a love story to, then threatened to retire, then wore across Labrador. Now I really need to stop wearing them, this crash holed the left palm. Quality construction, street bike safety (leather palm), dirt bike ventilation (textile back). Perfect.

AGV AX-8 Dual

Guess it’s time for a new one of these. You’ve already read my thoughts on its effectiveness on the street, but it turns out it really does work off road too. Ventilation remains excellent, even without a dirt-style open chin vent. You can swap that out for one from the dedicated AX-8 dirt helmet, something I plan to do with my next AX-8 Dual, should be hot here when I start riding again in about 5 weeks. Light, comfy, cool.

Alpinestars Bionic Protection Jacket for BNS

You need one of these if you’re going to wear an Astars neck brace, its chest armor is cut a little low to accomodate the collar and a panel in the back protector velcros off to make room for that back plate. Otherwise, its essentially the Alpinestars Bionic Protection Jacket, which is a good thing. Its comfy and safe.

The left arm is zipped off in these photos, my life is a wreck right now and I can’t find where that sleeve is buried.

Thor Jersey and Pants

These are just some unwanted things that a friend bought home from work one day. They work awesome though. The jersey is mesh, meaning it ventilates extremely well, and the pants are tough and fit well. A heavy duty zipper and velcro closure keeps them on. Both of these survived a collision with a log and some barbed wire unscathed.

Alpinestars Reflex Knee Guard

Probably the least sexy item in my arsenal of riding gear, these $25 protectors nevertheless do their job extremely well. They’re bulky, sure, but provide excellent coverage and cushion impacts unbelievably well. No need for tall socks or armor liners either, they don’t pinch or chafe. I’ve been meaning to replace them with some whizz-bang braces for a while, but never got around to it because these work so well.

2012 Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support Carbon

The doctors say this saved my life. I think they might just be exaggerating because they see so many unprotected riders coming in with horrendous injuries. Whatever, I was wearing it and my neck’s not broken, who knows.

Neck braces are a relatively new entry to the motorcycle protection game and something of an odd one. They’re expensive and require add-on, specific gear like that jacket to work. But, MX racers swear by them. I’m always on the lookout for better gear, so figured why not. Once you get the right fit (kinda like a helmet, fit is personal and necessary) and get used to putting it on, it’s virtually unnoticeable and is just there to prevent the helmet from tilting too far in any direction or squishing your neck.

This is the new 2012 model that won’t be out till next month. It brings the price of the lighter carbon version down from $530 to $400, which will be a much easier pill to swallow and makes the brace more competitive with rival products from Leatt. New graphics too.

Alpinestars Bionic Freeride Shorts

These look a bit unwieldy, but it turns out they’re just as comfy as my old compression shorts. That two-part hip armor is the key, allowing for natural movement. The hard coccyx protector is unnoticeable too. These are just one of those high quality, well thought out products that feel good when you put them on. They fit well, ventilate effectively and a silicon strip in the leg prevents them from riding up, without tearing off your leg hair. That armor is seriously confidence inspiring too, a trait shred by all this gear and probably a big part of the reason I’m free to make the bad decisions I make.

Don’t be like me and crash all the time, but please be like me and protect yourself from the consequences if you do.

  • kidchampion

    Even without a helmet, your head is the heaviest part of the human. The neck brace is a great idea. I can’t see wearing one on a street bike but maybe somebody will design something that performs a similar function without the bulky apparatus. I like this article.

    • JonB

      +1 good article.

      • Todd

        Leatt’s road neck brace per Hell for Leather’s review.

        I ponied up the money for it. At first, the feeling of the brace sitting on my shoulders felt weird. Once the fit of brace was adjusted to my shoulders and jacket, I barely notice I’m wearing it. I can turn my head left, right, up, and down in a pretty good amount. It’s nothing like sans brace but my motion is not hindered in anyway. The only down side is using backpacks. It gets a little tricky with them. It’s all about making sure the brace settles correctly on your back. I can see certain backpack straps making that difficult. I’ve wore it when riding my sportbike, sport tour, dual sport, and streetfighter with no issues in regards to different lean angles. It all comes down to making adjustments to the neck brace for the perfect fit. Leatt gives you 2 or 3 different adapters to achieve the perfect fit. Leatt says it will work with track suit humps. I’ll find out next spring. I’d have to say that it’s become like my helmet. I don’t ride without it.

  • John

    Great summary!…Aside from all the discomfort from the laundry list of equipment, it’s definitely worth it when you consider what else ISN’T broken…Given what the doctor said regarding the neck brace I’d love to know some details on the landing (if possible). Sounds like there was some direct head impact there,,.

    • Wes Siler

      Flipped over the bars and into some barbed wire and a log, landed upside down.

      • John

        Wow,,he may have been right about the brace..that’s some major axial loading,,could’ve been slight disc fractures at the very least. that kind of compression unfortunately can’t be redirected much when it comes to the arms/legs which I guess explains the wrist if you landed directly on the palm. $400 is super steep for something that can definitely be designed better by both leatt and A*’s…but still well worth it for any rider to consider…thanks Wes!

  • John
  • Austin Milbarge

    Is it safer to wear this gear on road as well? Is this better than wearing an A-Stars Uni? Gotta think the boots are much better than a comparably priced road biased boot at least. I could see issues with the neck brace at extreme lean angles or with the seating position on a forward leaning street bike.

    • Wes Siler

      Dirt gear is more impact than abrasion focussed, street gear handles both. It’s also focussed on a different kind of impact and would be bulky and awkward on the road day to day.

  • Devin

    HFL has convinced me to start putting together a full kit of gear rather than a new bike (only two pieces away now). I know it’s the smart thing to do and not be a squid, but I still hate / love you jokers for it.

    • Wes Siler

      You’ll be happier, safer and faster in the long run.

      • nick2ny

        Give us some tips on road gear!! I know I’m woefully underprotected even though I feel like a stormtrooper

        • Devin

          The “safety” tab to the left was a good place to start for me. Never even heard of back protectors before this place.

  • dnos

    “For just $2 a month you too can keep journalists from killing themselves.”

    Your taste in gear and bikes might be incredibly expensive, but I’m glad you’re not dead.

    I dunno if this is the proper forum for this but I’m more and more interested in dirt and thinking about buying a dualsport. I saw a video of a couple brits crossing their entire country on mostly dirt, which if you think about it is just a denser populated california, so my question to anyone is, once you hit dirt around LA, how far can you go? Can you make it to SF? Would you want to?

    • nick2ny

      You can ride nearly coast to coast and from mex to canada on the Transamerica Trail.

      • dnos

        I found that the other day. Looked interesting. There’s an odd caveat on the website saying not to ride it from West to East, so it’s only one way?

        California has a ton of trails. I’m positive I can ride between LA and SF offroad by bicycle, but im not too familiar with rules of dirtbikes.

        • Kirill

          You can go up basically the entirety of the Pacific Coast off-road via the Pacific Crest Trail. Not sure how motorcycle-accessible it is though, haven’t looked into it much. Its a favorite with lunatic long-distance hikers.

          • dnos

            Awesome. I’ll look into it.

          • dnos

            Definitely more of a hiking equestrian trail copS are trying hard to keep bikes off of, but still interesting

  • dirtridingBil

    I ride offroad in less gears than these and damn i was lucky all the time, no broken bones yet. Helmet, MX boots, knee and elbow guards are the only gear I usually wear. My chest protector is a bit uncomfortable to put on, but there was one time where i wish i had it on – i was riding in the woods, fell down on a rock section, hurt my ribs badly, almost couldn’t breath. Luckily i was with my buddies.

  • Scott-jay

    Wrist protection?
    GF’s two-mph tip-over on grass broke her wrist.

    • Robert

      Excellent question. Wes, appreciate your honesty and dedicated work ethic through this painful recovery. Best wishes for full healing and strong mending of your broken bones.

    • Jeff

      Yeah I was wondering if the new gloves that he uses for replacement will be a full guantlet or the kushanti’s recently reviewed. I guess we need to wait 5 weeks to see what’s on his mind or in his mailbox for review.

      • Scott-jay

        Do gloves/qauntlets affect wrist/forearm breakage?
        Other sports prone to wrist/forearm breaks?
        Imagining an exoskeleton-suit, red steel frames connecting gold anodized joinery & white nylon fittings…

        • Case

          @ OP: You can wear a wrist brace (like for snowboarding or skating) but it moves the stress out to your elbow. Hit it hard enough and your elbow blows up. Not ideal.

          It depends how your girl landed on her wrist. Was it deflected backwards, or did it it break when she used it to cushion her fall? If it was the former then very little would have helped her except to not fold her arm underneath her. Easier said than done.

      • Wes Siler

        Yeah, those won’t be a huge help. Need something that restricts movement. There’ products out there.

  • the_doctor

    I love my AX-8. It is functional, and vents great in the blistering heat of Austin. I ordered the tinted screen from Urban Outfitters, which I think will be tremendously helpful during my AM commute directly into the sun.

    I plan on getting a pair of Alpinestars S-MX-2 Vented boots next.

    • damien

      Urban Outfitters sells moto stuff?

      • the_doctor

        HA! Rider. I done been subliminally advertised to.

  • Spencer

    You can afford all that gear but not health insurance…..????

    • HammSammich

      Oh no…the insurance thing again.

      Look, I’d say in a very real sense that the gear is a sort of a Health Insurance policy, and arguably a better one insofar as it is preventative, rather than reactive, and is specifically targeted to Wes’s greatest risk factor.

      Even if he chose to buy health insurance instead of this gear, I suspect he’d have enough money to buy coverage for 12 months or less. And of course, that neglects the facts that: A) His profession requires he ride motorcycles, B) Motorcycle accidents can cause injury or death especially when not properly outfitted with gear, and C) All the health insurance in the world can’t fix you if you’re dead or permanently disabled.

      Obviously, the best option would be for Wes to be able to afford both superior gear and good health insurance, but since that’s apparently not realistic given his income and the current insurance market, I’d say he probably made the appropriate choice from a risk analysis perspective.

      • nick2ny

        Let’s get him on either Redbull’s insurance or have someone sponsor him with it. This video was commissioned by Aprilia, covered by Coonass Sporting Insurance and shot by Tangent Vector

      • the_doctor

        Preventative medicine is the best medicine.

    • Wes Siler

      You’re looking at less than two months’ worth of a policy that wouldn’t cover my motorcycle riding.

      • Spencer

        I purchased a deductible plan for $170 a month here in MI. Seems that either insurance plans are ridiculous or you’re stealing that gear!

  • Andrew

    I ride mountain bike DH and LEATT / Omega neck braces are starting to become standard equipment. I would consider wearing it for street moto riding since there are many ways you can end up landing on your head on asphalt.

  • zato1414

    Wes, didn’t you just fall out of the sidecar doing 5 mph? It is a good thing Sean was there or the buzzards would have got ya! All the best and heal-up quick. How come we always break our wrists?

    • Wes Siler

      Ha, it was a little faster than that. I always break my left wrist, it’s obviously just very weak now. Need to get a brace I guess.

      • zato1414

        I like the HFL riding gear reviews. I have changed gloves and jackets just because of your testing procedures.

  • Tim

    In 1994 I was hucking a 30 foot mining wall when I went over sideways, had done this jump 10′s of times before. I went down head first.

    I landed chin bar first on a new Bell Moto 5. I was fully geared, the chin bar fractured in 2 places and the right side of the helmet delaminated. I suffered completed blow out fracture of my right chin, eye socket, zygomatic bones and upper forehead. The bike landed on my back, tore my kidneys and intestines and gave me multiple abdominal wall tears.

    My heart stopped twice, once in the helicopter and I was legally blind for 3 months. It took two years to recover. After that I went on to race bicycles and still ride motorcycles to this day. Every piece of gear I was wearing was broken or tore but it did its job and kept me breathing. Wear your gear.

    • Grant Ray

      You, sir, are a fucking winner.