How I Shredded My Gear, But Saved My Hide



How I Shredded My Gear, But Saved My Hide

I’m the first to admit that I’ve been very lucky. Over thirty years riding on the street, and not a single crash to my name. Oh, sure, I’ve had a couple of parking lot tip-overs — but nothing with an injury, and nothing that would qualify as a crash. Until last month…

I picked up a 2013 Ural Patrol on a Thursday afternoon from the dealership in Harbor City, California. It was my first time at the controls of a hack. I took surface streets most of the way from Harbor City to downtown LA, where I had a meeting at the LA Convention Center. Once I felt like I had the dynamics of sidecar control down pretty well, I ventured on to the freeway for a stretch. I made it to my meeting without incident, and then geared up again for the ride home.

I am an ATGATT guy — All The Gear, All The Time. I made a promise to myself years ago that I would not compromise, no matter what the weather, no matter how short the ride. I’ve always kept that promise. I always wear a full-face helmet, riding jacket, gloves, riding pants and boots. That day was no exception.

I started up the Ural, confident that my gear was in place. It was 10:00 pm. I needed to get from the LA Convention Center to North Hollywood, a distance of about 15 miles. The only route I could think of was via the Harbor Freeway (US-110) and the Hollywood Freeway (US-101). I briefly considered taking surface streets, but decided that the Freeway was the safer route at this time of night.

I entered the freeway and merged with the steady traffic. I took the interchange, switching from the 110 to the 101, riding confidently at about 50 miles per hour. Just a few exits up the road, everything changed in a heartbeat.

Just north of the Alvarado exit, approaching Rampart Boulevard, I was riding in the number two lane. Suddenly, I realized that I was tumbling down the freeway. I caught glimpses of the Ural sliding down the number two lane ahead of me, sending a shower of sparks and tufts of flame into the night air. I ragdolled down the pavement, conscious of the experience, but unable to affect my trajectory. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t hurt — yet, I remember thinking, “This sucks.”

After about a hundred yards of tumbling, I came to a rest on my face. I jumped to my feet, looked around, and quickly made my way to the center median to assess the damage.

The Arai Signet-Q face shield
The Arai Signet-Q face shield

A young couple pulled up behind my bike in their Jeep Commander, and put their hazard lights on to keep anyone from hitting the Ural, which came to rest in the number two lane with its sidecar in the air.

“We thought you were dead for sure,” the young woman said.

“We called 9-1-1 for you, man,” said her boyfriend.

I thanked them for their kindness. The boyfriend wanted to leave right away. The young woman wanted to make sure I was okay. I took off my helmet, and took a closer look at myself. My ankle hurt; my left thigh hurt and my right hip hurt. But I could tell that nothing was broken. There was no blood. I realized that I was going to be okay, and my mind cleared.

The young woman wanted to tell me about her grandfather, who had died the day before. I didn’t really understand — but I listened. The young woman was convinced that her grandfather’s spirit had saved me. I was grateful.

The boyfriend convinced the young woman that it was time to go, and the couple drove away.

Another SUV had stopped in front of the Ural. Two big guys, obviously bikers, called me over. They tipped the bike back up onto its wheels, and waved off traffic as we pushed it across three lanes to the right shoulder. The guys told me that they’d witnessed the accident, and gave me contact information in case I needed it. They said that a pickup truck had come up behind me, and swung around to the left to pass. His back bumper clipped my rear wheel, and that’s what put me on the pavement.

Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket
Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket

I thanked the bikers for stopping. They hopped back in their Tahoe and drove off, just as the California Highway Patrol car arrived. The CHP officer took my report, and took the information about the witnesses. I pulled out my American Motorcyclist Association card, and called the roadside assistance number on the back. By the time I had finished filling out the accident report with the officer, a flatbed truck had arrived, the bike was loaded, and I was ready to head home. By 11:00 pm, I was in my living room, the bike was secured in my back yard.

After hugging my wife and petting my animals, I inspected my gear.

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The Gear I Was Wearing:

Helmet: Arai Signet-Q size XXL – $619.99
Jacket: Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket – $575.00
Armor: Optional CE approved Back Armor – $25.00
Jeans: Harley-Davidson Guardian Kevlar-Lined Jeans (no longer manufactured)
Gloves: Road Gear Carbon Maxx Gloves – $69.00
Boots: Harley-Davidson FXRG-3 Performance Boots – $250.00

  • Justin McClintock

    Been down twice myself. I learned that I won’t ever trust a canvas jacket again. Wore right through at the elbow, just off the armor. Otherwise, I’m pretty confident in the rest of the gear I was wearing.

    • Jason Fogelson

      I have retired my canvas jackets to fashion duty — I ride in leather only. Totally agree.

  • Reid

    I’m glad you came away mostly unscathed. That had to be a terrifying experience. Good thing the ghost of the young lady’s grandpappy was watching out for you, eh?

    • Jason Fogelson

      I was a little loopy from the crash while she was telling me about her grandfather. I’m just thankful that she stopped and kept me from being hit by another motorist. Very nice, and very brave, too.

  • skongara

    Cant even imagine the change in dynamics with a side car. Glad you came out of that fine. Speedy recovery and thanks for the great article.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Thanks for the nice words. Ride safe.

  • Jesse

    Thanks for the crash testing of the gear. Glad you walked (if limped) away from this one.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Anytime. Well, maybe not.

      • Jesse

        There’s really only so many times you want to perform that party trick, I bet.

  • Generic42

    I’m curious if they found the other drive, that’s a pretty serious hit and run, thankful you survived.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Hit and run is the standard out here in Los Angeles. According to an article in the LA Weekly (not a definitive source), “In the United States, 11 percent of vehicle collisions are hit-and-runs. But in Los Angeles, L.A. Weekly has learned, an incredible 48 percent of crashes were hit-and-runs in 2009, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available.” That was from December 6, 2012.

      • Jack Meoph

        Yep. If you don’t have uninsured motorist on your insurance, and live in CA, you’re insane. Especially if you live in LA , the bay area, or the central valley. Illegals do not stop if they can drive off. Doesn’t matter what condition their car is in, or even if they’re injured. And they almost never find them, unless a cop actually witnesses the accident.

        • socalutilityrider

          Having been hit by one and also having a friend who was severely injured by an illegal, this is 100% correct. They drive off. You need to add San Diego to your list, it’s rife with the worst drivers ever from south of the border.

      • Davidabl2

        In Ca the consequences of a hit-and-run are not much more severe than driving w/o a license..and not much more severe than having an accident if uninsured. Guess what happens…

        • Piglet2010

          Need to join other states and make it a felony.

      • Mark37724

        Of those 48%, Lindsay Lohan accounted for 32%.

  • Dan Sciannameo

    A van did the same thing to me on the highway here in NYC. I was riding my 1975 BMW R75/6 in the middle lane, they were in the right and at the last minute came to the left almost taking me out, but I gave it throttle to escape but they bumped my right saddle case and sent me off course right into the grass and rock median ahead that split the highway left and right. Thought for sure I was going down but I managed to ride it through the rocks and over the curbs back onto blacktop before the median just went downhill into guardrail and trees. Luckily the curbs were small and I didnt get hit coming back up onto blacktop. The van never even stopped. Glad you are okay.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Scary, Dan! I don’t know how you prepare for an incident like that, other than keeping your skills sharp, your bike in good shape, and making sure that you strap on all the gear, all the time. Glad you pulled through.

      • Mugget

        You can’t exactly prepare for an accident (otherwise it wouldn’t be an “accident”), the only solution is to be constantly prepared for any outcome. That means being aware of what all traffic nearby is doing at any given time. Which takes a lot of effort and concentration to be constantly checking mirrors, shoulder checks if a vehicle is not visible in your mirrors, etc. If you’re aware of what other drivers are doing, then you’re in a position to take action and remove yourself from potentially dangerous situations. Always have an exit route. Even when sitting in stationery traffic. For example parked in the middle of a lane right behind a car is one of the worst places to be.

        That’s what I’ve always done, and I’m glad to say that I’ve never hit another vehicle, and I’ve kept other vehicles from hitting me as well.

  • phoebegoesvroom

    Glad to hear you’re ok after a rather harrowing experience! ATGATT is a good way to be.

    • Jason Fogelson

      I agree! Thanks for the nice words.

  • HoldenL

    A glance at that chin bar and face shield, and you’re warranted to feel self-congratulatory about your helmet choice. It’s really nice to have a lower jaw and a complete set of teeth.

    • Jason Fogelson

      I shudder to think what would have happened in an open face helmet. I’m even hesitant to try a flip face helmet at this point, even though the manufacturers assure us that the chin bar will remain locked in a crash.

      • djw0510

        I think it was the Hurt Report that found almost 50% of the impacts to motorcycle helmets occurred in the face area. That leaves no room for compromise in my mind so I’d never wear anything other than a dedicated full-face non-modular helmet for that reason.

        Come to think of it I’ve never seen adverts for an off-road oriented helmet that wasn’t full-face, and that’s probably for good reason.. athough I’m sure there’s some out there.

  • Davidabl2

    Both Mr. Fogelson’s accident and Mr. Sciannameo’s close call (see comment below) involved being clipped by somebody passing them..and might have been avoided if the riders had spotted the motorists in time. While it’s very difficult to maintain 360degree awareness at all times these accidents show the consequences od losing that awareness for even a moment-
    Even after 30 safe years on the street in Mr. Fogelson’s case. Mr. Sciannameo’s skillful (and lucky) save also indicates he’s a highly skilled motorcyclist.

  • William Connor

    Glad you came out fairly well. I have had two accidents, both times I was wearing good gear. I was wearing jeans both times but they protected me well enough. I now wear over pants all the time however. I did break my ankle in my second wreck but the guardrail isn’t exactly soft, this was despite wearing proper riding boots with ankle support etc. I like my skin so I will continue to wear ATGATT.

    • runnermatt

      Just think how bad your ankle would have been had you not been wearing proper riding boots.

      • William Connor

        Oh believe me I know. I broke the lateral malleoulus and the bone rotated, this is apparently not easy to do so I feel lucky?!?

        • Jason Fogelson

          Hope you’re recovering to ride again soon, William.

          • William Connor

            Thanks Jason. I should have been more clear, the accident was in 2007 so I am as good as it will get at this point.

  • Randy S

    Wow, this is a great write up. I’m glad you lived to tell about it.

    Stories like yours make me pay a lot more attention to what I wear riding. Thanks.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Thanks, Randy. Hope you’re all geared up!

  • imprezive

    This is not the article I should have read before I ride home in the rain wearing jeans. You should have posted before I left for work

    • runnermatt

      It is a bit cold to wear jeans while riding in the rain regardless of the temperature.

      • imprezive

        I didn’t really think about it when I left or I would have thrown on overpants. It wasn’t raining this morning obviously. It’s only 2 miles on surface streets to my house so I’ll be ok temperature wise regardless. I will be cold though that’s for sure.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Ride safe, imprezive. Don’t want you to have to write about your shredded jeans.

      • imprezive

        Thanks! I have a pair of Kevlar lined jeans now which seemed to have worked well for you so hopefully will be good for me too.

    • appliance5000

      You could wear armor under the jeans and take it off at work. Not ideal but pretty good solution.

      • imprezive

        I have a pair if Icon overpants that I normally wear and store in my desk. A lot of people at my office ride so no one cares if you walk in looking like a spaceman as long as you look normal while you are actually working. I was just feeling lazy last week because we were allowed to wear jeans which for me at least give a false sense of security over dress pants.

  • Piglet2010

    It seems like we all need to have constantly running front and rear cameras that hold the last few minutes of video in the case of an accident.

    • Lourens Smak

      Here’s a clip from Russia with such video-material, crazy stories that no insurance company would believe… normally I wouldn’t post this as it’s mostly cars, but strange enough it has a Ural sidecar in it that gets hit from behind… (around 3:00).

      Thanks for sharing the story Jason.

      • Jason Fogelson

        I am never ever going to Russia.

      • Mugget

        The mind boggles…

        It’s so bad that I can’t look away!

  • Aaron Baumann

    Stories like this make me feel so guilty for only wearing jeans (and nowadays long underwear) while riding. The inability to find moderately cheap pants that don’t make me look like MC Hammer has prevented me from being an ATGATT guy.

  • Glenn Rueger

    Arai does it again.
    God only knows how much force the EPS absorbed for your head in that crash.
    I was just riding those same roads the other night. I’m glad you made it out relatively okay.

    • Jason Fogelson

      The helmet did its job. I spoke with the guys from Arai at the International Motorcycle Show, and they said something interesting. “Don’t throw the helmet away. Put it up as a reminder in your garage. If you throw it away, somebody is going to pick it up out of the landfill and wear it again, and they won’t be safe.”

      • Glenn Rueger

        Those Arai guys at the IMS are fantastic. They know their stuff fit-wise.
        One now has his son with him who told me he is dad has been doing shows for decades.

      • Mugget

        Lots of people cut the chin straps for that exact reason – so no one will wear it again.

  • AzAcer1 .

    Thank you for writing this article. I am glad you are okay. More riders need to read about these experiences and the importance of ATGATT.

    • Jason Fogelson

      I hope my experience inspires a few.

  • eddi

    Everyone has said it but I’ll chime in anyway. Glad you are safe hope you get to 100% quickly.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Thanks, Eddi! I really appreciate it.

  • imprezive

    Well it was wet so I should just slide safely along the ground like a slip-n-slide right?

  • LS650

    I just saw a guy riding a beautiful blue mid-70s Honda GL1000. The bike was in immaculate shape, and I’m sure cost the owner a pretty penny. Yet despite having such a nice-looking classic bike, the rider had a $99 half-helmet, tank top, shorts, and sneakers. Oh, and it’s only about 60F outside – surely it’s not gonna hurt to throw on at least a jacket and a pair of jeans?