Crash Tested: Stylish Safety Gear

Gear, Hell For Leather, HFL -

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Our friend Scott is what most people would consider a stylish young man. The other day, he had a 70mph get off in the kind of gear that works almost as well on a bike as it does in a bar. Did the skinny jeans and the armor he stitched into a jacket himself actually hold up? — Ed.

So What Happened?
Well, I’ll start this off by saying I’ve been riding for a good number of years now. Anytime I’ve gone down I can’t say I wasn’t asking for it in some regard, whether that’s on a track, in a canyon, or hitting jumps in the dirt. I’d have to say this is one that could happen to anyone and it’s not one you can plan for. That being said, this is the exact kind of situation in which you need to rely on quality safety gear.

I was riding down Los Angeles’ 110 freeway on a Saturday. Very little traffic, beautiful weather, everything flowing nicely. One of those days that’s great on two wheels. My exit is coming up, so I make my way over to the slow lane with about a mile to go. Next vehicle in front of me is quite a ways ahead. As I check my rear view mirror there is a sudden pile up in front of me. The moment I look back up, all I see is the back of an SUV. I don’t know if I even had time to use my brakes before the impact. It was simply that fast.

When I hit the back of the SUV, I was traveling approximately 70mph. After the first impact, I flew over the top and to the side, doing a big front flip. I landed square on my back slid to a stop, traffic screeching to a halt and swerving in every direction. As I lay in the road, I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t move. Within a few moments shallow breaths come back and I’m able to pick myself up off the road. To my complete surprise (and that of the responding firefighters) I am relatively unharmed. Now lets talk about the gear and how that might have happened.

Helmet: AFX-39
This thing lists for $129.95 MSRP. I picked this up recently for dual sporting trips, but it’s a surprisingly nice helmet and fun to wear, especially in pleasant weather. It carries a DOT safety rating and more importantly ECE 22.05, which is good enough for MotoGP. It most certainly did its job, taking a good amount of abrasion on the and sides. A long portion in the rear of the helmet also kept my head up as I slid on my back. In the end, no headache or concussions in a 70mph impact.

Will I buy again? Definitely.

Jacket: All Saints Leather Jacket
This is what I would refer to as “fashion leather”, not the thickest or tuffest stuff you’ll find. The strength of the stitching, while high quality is questionable when considering the kind of forces you’ll experience in a motorcycle crash. Hell For Leather did a great piece on adding proper armor to jackets. I took that idea added D3O armor which is light and flexible but stiffens on impact. Not the armor you’ll find in a race suit, but a nice compromise. The D3O was stitched into the shoulders and elbows. Two points that are almost guaranteed to take some heavy hits when you go down. I kept meaning to put a back protector in but never got around to it. Take it from me, do it. My back is what I landed on after hitting the car and let me tell you, I hit it hard and fast. I really wish I had some protection there. I had some bruising that was about as deep as you can go before it becomes a hematoma (large pocket of blood under the skin). While the leather saved me terrible and certain road rash from the rough asphalt, I still sustained some rash which wasn’t pleasant as it healed. If the leather was thicker or there was a back protector there I doubt I would have any at all. As the photo shows, the leather actually tore on the right side. I’m assuming the stress of sliding so hard on the left slide was too much, causing it to tear on the right. If this were a proper motorcycle jacket that wouldn’t have happened. Luckily no injuries were sustained from this, but luck is a big theme in this story.

Will I buy again? No. It did it’s job for the most part and I am thankful for that, but it also failed in some big ways. I’m opting for something with proper, thick motorcycle leather. You can get this in a classic look from brands like Schott, Vanson, and Lewis to name a few. Having good armor in the right spots made a big difference but that’s only half of it.

Pants: Deth Killers Asphalt Resistant Jeans
These jeans are a great fit, thick denim with kevlar woven in. I’ve really loved these jeans and run through just about everything you could imagine in the past year, now including a crash. I’ve waxed them for added weather protection. As you can see they did a really phenomenal job. Zero rash. That’s the exact effect we’re looking for. I had some seam splitting on the opposite leg same as the leather in the jacket. No injuries were suffered from this so while it’s not the best thing, they still did their job and I plan on repairing and continuing to wear these.

Will I buy again? Yes, love these jeans. Worked great.

Boots: All Saints Leather Boots
These aren’t quite a motorcycle boot per say, but a compromise. They’re 1) sturdy, 2) made of quality thick leather, and 3) cover the ankle. But that’s about where the protection ends. While they offer resistance from abrasion they don’t offer anything for impact or keeping your foot from twisting in a tumble. A very common injury that can cause quite a bit of damage, fast. In the photos you can see that the left boot has some heavy scratches. I did hit my ankle coming down and that caused a good amount of bruising and left me with a slight limp that’s still with me a week later. If I were wearing proper motorcycle boots that would have not be the case.

Will I buy again: While there was definitely some luck involved here, they still did a good job of keeping my feet pretty protected. A proper motorcycle boot would have prevent any injury whatsoever.

Summary
There’s certainly a lot to consider when choosing what to wear before you throw a leg over a bike. Whether that’s at a race track, a fast canyon, daily commute to work, or a run to the grocery store. Each rider must educate themselves across the spectrum of safety gear and understand what’s best for them, weighing the pros and cons of each choice. That being said, I feel incredibly lucky to have sustained the minimal amount of injury that I did in what’s considered a potentially deadly accident. I’m lucky, but also grateful for the protection I had. No two crashes are ever the same, but hopefully this gave some perspective on the different kinds of protection available and how they perform in a real world accident.

  • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

    Hey, thanks for crashing the DKs so I don’t have to. Glad you aren’t more beat up.

  • 655321

    I really really wanted to like those Deth Killers jeans when I tried them on but despite being a thin guy I couldn’t even get them on. They are so tight. I’d love if they’d make a more straight cut version of these jeans. Great report. Glad to see you weren’t more injured.

    • PERCOCET PAPI

      You might want to check out the Maple moto jeans. Definitely more pricey than the DKs but in a fuller yet slim fit and includes Forcefield armor in the hips and knees.

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      A real straight cut would be a godsend.

    • Emmet

      I have them, and they are noticeably stiff and tight. I can ride with Icon D30 shorts underneath, but lose all mobility (I need that range of motion for kickstarting). They’re great around town, but I’m looking for overpants for longer rides.

    • Piglet2010

      I have been wearing Shift Racing Kevlar reinforced jeans by themselves around town on the scooter, and under a Roadcrafter Light for faster stuff. Have not crashed in them, but one of the nice things is that they look very much like normal jeans.

    • dmnyc

      New fit available now!!

  • ADVgoddess

    In terms of perfect landings, it sounds like you win a “10″. Very, very lucky to have landed flat…

    • http://motocynic.wordpress.com/ Scott Otte

      +1 to this. When I crashed at 70ish I landed on my leg and have a plate and 10 screws in it now.

  • http://madebyfred.com fred vg

    These ‘crash tested’ reports are some of the best, most valuable, articles on RideApart. A real world experience is worth a thousand Revzilla review videos (however great those are). I guess it would be best if the RideApart editors crashed less, but as long as the inevitable keeps happening, please keep sharing these stories.

  • ClassB4Ass

    No gloves? … maybe we need RideApart review mirrors & placement

    • Scott Pargett

      Gloves didn’t really get any use in the crash. I was wearing the Rev’it Summit gloves, which I like very much. On my second pair. A great all arounder with lots of protection and flexibility.

  • JP

    Really glad to hear that you are ok, and it seems like you are going to make a full recovery. The moto gods shine down upon you.

  • stever

    Is Dethkillers still in business? Their store seems to have gone offline.

    I wore mine out using them on my bicycle like an idiot.

    • Martin Briere

      +1 on that one. I’m trying to get a pair and their store is closed. Anybody know anything about where we can buy them now ?

      • dmnyc

        Store is back up

  • Angela B

    Perhaps you and Wes should post “before” pictures of you bums, you know, in order to get a proper comparison. ;-)

  • next time double check it..

    Hey Wes, Did you ever get your jacket back from Vanson? How did the repair go?

  • http://motocynic.wordpress.com/ Scott Otte

    Glad you’re ok, these write ups are quite useful for gear evaluation.

  • evild70

    Nice article. Glad you’re ok. Editors need to mark that Deth Killers site NSFW just for the homepage. Hehe.

  • Kyle Kurz

    How about a NSFW warning on that deth killers link, lol.

  • Kr Tong

    I had similar damage from a near identical get-off and wasn’t geared up at all. Levis, adidas cordura anorak, supra shoes… same road rash on my back where the jacket lifted up.

    Point being I dont know how much any of this gear helped.

    • Scott Pargett

      I can say without a doubt, the gear I was wearing *was* significantly different and directly contributed to the outcome.

      • Kr Tong

        I thought the same thing when i crashed too. My 501′s and jacket were cut off by emts so I have no photos of how they held up, but apart from where the jacket lifted up i had no road rash. No bones broke, nothing except some missing skin and a concussion.

        Sorry, I feel that you and I, having had similar experiences, both just got lucky. Next time round’s probably going to be a lot worse.

  • Dustin Coury

    We’re all glad you are safe. Like you said – you can’t plan for this and it can happen to anyone that throws a leg over two wheels.

    I loved what the cop said “don’t let this keep you from riding again” Good words to anyone that has gone down. GEAR UP

  • James P

    I’m not sure I’d call those Deth Killers kevlar jeans a success. The seam split wide open exposing your now unprotected body parts. You’re just lucky that you didn’t roll and start sliding on the other side. It looks like there isn’t separate kevlar body panels, but instead they’re supposed to be woven into the fabric itself?

  • Josh M.

    Just waking up in Asia and reading this. SCOTT! YOU ARE A HERO! So glad you made it through this. Get well soon my friend.

  • Vitor Santos

    This reports are indeed great. As a motorcycle newbie iam slowly buying my first gear and these are a great help to see what works and what doesnt. For example i was having doubts about riding jeans but now iam feeling more confident about buying them after reading this. Glad you are all right!

  • mid40s

    Great write up…I counted 5 guys riding today in LA in shorts and t-shirts– one guy was actually wearing Crocs. Yikes!

    • Piglet2010

      See one of this scooter rider’s Crocs go flying over the guardrail when he crashes.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgKoXzbw13E

      Saw at least 10 pillions (mostly on the back of H-D cruisers, but one on the back of a Ninja) with bare arms and legs today (and no lid, of course). :(

    • Mark D

      No joke, I had a nightmare the other night where I was riding, looked down, and saw I was wearing flip flops. Terrifying thought.

  • Kevin

    Dress for the Crash, Not for the Ride. A principle to follow before you get on the bike, Every. Single. Time.

  • grb

    I think there is no cooler jacket then a motorcycle jacket, tons more character and depth. if your worried about looks (almost all of us that like ladies liking us, care about looking good to certain degree) today you can surely find a good motorcycle jacket to fit your style

  • NY

    What happened to the visor on your helmet? Did it snap off in the crash? The pictures in the Revzilla link show a visor and there isn’t one in these pictures.

    Also, agreed with fred vg that these are among the best pieces on the site.

  • Mark D

    That rash on your back really makes me want to get a jacket that zips to a pair of pants…

    • Scott Pargett

      Jacket never slid up, abrasion is still transferred through leather, just greatly reduced.

  • Nemo Danneskjold

    “stylish young man”, but safe..is the theme i try to adhere to. My belstaff wasn’t really the “motorcycle” belstaff jacket you might think it out to be and my levi’s definitely took a beating. My Red Wings lost a bit of leather and were slightly scuffed. BUT…it is nice to know one can be mindful of safety and style simultaneously. I hate to admit it…but it’s kind of important. Definitely going to check out those Deth Killers jeans, though…thanks for the write up. +1 on ye, fred..

  • Mike

    Would really appreciate a (NSFW) next to the Deth Killers link next time… lol

  • Michael Howard

    If that SUV was “…quite a ways ahead…” when you did a mirror check but, “…The moment I look back up, all I see is the back of an SUV…”, you were following too close and/or your mirror check took too long.

    It happens to us all. Just something we need to be aware of and try to avoid doing.

    Glad you weren’t hurt worse.

    • yoooks

      The right lane of the 110 freeway (downtown-pasadena section) is probably one of the worst places to be on any road I know. The on/off merging zones are often less than 100ft and cause a lot of swerving and emergency braking. If the accident happened in one of these areas, I completely understand.

  • Mugget

    I’d have to say this is one that could happen to anyone and it’s not one you can plan for.

    That is incorrect. Running into the rear of another vehicle is exactly the type of thing that you can, and should plan to avoid! Not impacting other vehicles is a basic level of road safety, thinking of that kind of accident in the typical “oh well, s#!t happens” mentality is not doing you any favors. Yeah, it does happen – but only if you let it. If you work harder and remain vigilant you can stop it from happening again. If you have a blasé approach to road safety, then it probably will happen again.

    Also a note on leather: thicker leather does not mean better or higher quality (at least when it comes to riding gear). Thick leather is actually the opposite – it’s low quality, cheap stuff. The reason it’s thick is because it needs to be in order to provide the same level of protection as high quality, comparatively thinner leather. Quality leather is lighter, more comfortable and is just better to wear (you can move more, with less effort). I think that any leather 1.3mm and over is considered thicker. A quality item should use something like 1.1 – 1.2mm leather.

    But you’re right about riders educating themselves on what gear is available and the pros and cons. It’s all a compromise – if you want the best protection while going to the corner store, yeah it’s going to take time to gear up and be uncomfortable while you’re in the shops. If you want to be comfortable in the shops and make it a quick trip, you’re not gonna be well protected on the ride. As long as people are educated about it, it’s their risk so they can do as they please.

    I’m very glad to know that you came out of it without any worse injuries. Hopefully this allows you to make better choices about gear as well as the way you ride.

    • mulderdog

      +1 on the “That is correct” paragraph
      Don’t you get a ticket for that ?

      • Mugget

        Yeah, if the scene is attended by police there should have been a negligent riding/driving (or similar) ticket issued.

        For people who are wondering about situations like that and think “WTF? Talk about kicking a guy when he is down!” But it makes perfect sense when you consider it from an OH&S point of view. At the most basic level, if you crash a vehicle you have completely and utterly failed to operate it safely. Simple as that. That is why a neg. driving ticket would be issued, not to further penalise someone who has just crashed, but because they have failed to operate their vehicle safely.

  • kevin

    Can anybody confirm whether the deth killers jeans are still available? Using the link provided in the article the “store” link is slashed out and unclickable, but doing some googleing I can still get to the jeans and add them to a shopping cart. I want to know for sure that I’m not wasting $185 bucks before I finalize the order…

    • dmnyc

      Site is back up

  • beefstuinit

    One advantage to riding a sport bike – track gear looks appropriate. If you buy a Dainese jacket you know guys go down in them all the time and they stay together. This is a massive improvement over “I hope this leather jacket I’m using will hold up.”

  • Hoang Do

    Great report – and to the point. Glad the pants held up – will consider properly tested Kevlar jeans now. Boot wise, I will definately get some gasolina custom boots, since they are pretty enough to wear anywhere, and provide sufficient protection. Jacket – you’ve confirmed to me that back protector along with shoulder and elbow is a critical component, and can help with what you experienced. Crash test are far and few, as its not something we want to volunteer to perform. But when it happens, it takes a hero to report back from the asphalt.