Ask A Girl: Bravery Is More Than Skin Deep

Interviews, Real Riders -


Ask A Girl: Bravery Is More Than Skin Deep Brittany Morrow

To some degree, all teenagers are risk-takers. It’s part of the design. It’s how young people learn to recognize and maintain limits, size up a situation, make smart decisions about personal risk, be safe on their own…you know…become adults. Some take bigger risks than others, and some learn tougher lessons because of it. And some, like Brittany Morrow, take a tough lesson learned and make it a purpose. Some, are just incredibly brave.

Brittany is the site manager for motorcycle safety at U.S. Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach in San Diego, California. If you’re a member of the United States armed forces stationed there, you don’t get to ride your motorcycle without her approval. I’m so sure… can you just see the eye-rolling? What could this cheerful, blonde girl on her pink-zebra-sportbike teach you, right, soldier? Plenty.

Brittany Morrow was one of those teenagers. She learned a horrific lesson at the tender age of 19. One that she couldn’t forget if she wanted to. She sees it and feels it every time she gets up in the morning. And she always will.

She has distinct memories of her ride before the accident, as if fate needed to emphasize the contrast of what sun and wind and speed feel like on your skin before it’s shredded along 522 feet of asphalt until it’s just gone. A beautiful sunny day, a good friend, a great bike, and of course, as always, a good helmet. A really good helmet, one that saved her life, but one that was two sizes too big with a visor that wasn’t properly latched. It was the most important piece of safety gear she was wearing. It was the only piece of safety gear she was wearing when, at 120mph, a gust of wind grabbed her visor and ripped her head back, pulling her off the passenger seat, changing her life forever.

Ask A Girl: Bravery Is More Than Skin Deep Brittany Morrow

“When I hit the ground, it was as if every breath I had ever taken rushed out of me in an instant. I could feel every inch of my body hitting the road; tumbling, sliding and grinding into the unforgiving surface. In my helmet, which seemed so small and yet completely empty, I could hear my whimpers as I fought to breath and my prayer to God as I gave into the asphalt. In a matter of seconds, I had come to the conclusion that I was going to die, and I was ok with it. I knew this was far worse than anything I had ever gone through and I was convinced I would not live to see the next day. My eyes were closed as I finished my 522 foot tumble down highway 550. I never lost consciousness, but I remember wishing that I had.”

She spent months in a hospital burn unit, as doctors and nurses tried to encourage her skin to grow back by teasing it with a daily peel of gauze from her open, sticky flesh; there wasn’t enough skin left to harvest and transplant elsewhere, she’d just have to grow more. She eventually did, but it wasn’t the same. Brittany grew thick-skinned in more ways than one.

In three months, she was back on a motorcycle. Just in a parking lot at first, but remember, she was one of those kind of teenagers. She’s one of those kinds of people.

Brittany not only got back on her bike, she became a Motorcycle Safety Instructor. She started, a website designed to provide information about motorcycle safety gear, and she told her story. With video.

Almost ten years later, Brittany’s motorcycle nightmare has become her dream, while fulfilling her lifelong desire to serve alongside US servicemen and women. More recently, her new position with Icon Motosports gives her the opportunity to interact with riders all over the country, find out what they need, find out what they want, and help the designers back at Icon’s Portland h.q. develop products to protect the largest organ on any rider’s body. With her own painful story, she tells riders why it’s important.

Sometimes, she shows.

[Photos by: Christina Shook]

  • William Connor

    I remember seeing her story years ago. It was and continues to be a powerful message! As a mentorship coordinator myself it is so important to get people started early wearing the right gear and making better choices. Thanks for bringing this back to my attention.

    Also massive kudos to someone who chased and caught their dream.

  • Brandon Mussman

    I had an accident early monday morning, and if it hadnt been for my kevlar jeans, leather jacket, helmet and hightops i would be way hurt right now. As it stands my jacket rode up a little and i have some road rash, but i dont even want to think about what it would have been like without gear. That day i went out and bought both my parents full face helmets, they ride on a Goldwing together and never would listen when i would talk about needing full protection. I showed them the attached picture and well, now they listened.

    • Mr.Paynter

      Glad you’re okay, I had the same at 80mph or so a few years back, aside from some rash where my jacket rode up I walked away when all the eye-witnesses were convinced I was dead. It’s a good feeling to know that you’re not made of glass, and that your gear handles its’ business.

    • LikeCoffeeWithChocolates

      You mean to say, “I had an accident this morning, but if I hadn’t, I’d be fine”.

      Try that and see how well it rolls off the tongue.

      • Brandon Mussman

        No, I meant to say “I had an accident early monday morning, and if it hadnt been for my kevlar jeans, leather jacket, helmet and hightops i would be way hurt right now. ”
        Which, it turns out, is exactly what i said.

  • Jack Meoph

    ATGATT, except on scooters. For some reason when I get on the scoot, it’s everything except the pants. I don’t know why, but that could change as my recent kit is a pair of re-inforced cargo pants. I rode with only a helmet when I first started, and that was a half or 3/4, because there wasn’t any gear available, not like today. Today, there are so many choices and levels of protection, there is just no excuse not to wear full kit. On a motorcycle, you are the crumple zone.

    One of my favorite things is to ask someone who doesn’t wear gear if they would run as fast as they can and then throw themselves on the road. Of course they wouldn’t, they would get hurt. So, what do you think happens when you fall off a motorcycle, even at parking lot speeds?

    • Doug Erickson

      i’m the same. i know it’s stupid, but full riding pants on a scooter seems so awkward, even though i regularly hit 70 mph on it. something about our (incorrect) perception of scooters as more trivial, frivolous riding experiences?

      • Davidabl2

        Stealth gear is the answer my friend. Armored chinos, one of those “Oildale’ icon jackets that looks like a letterman’s jacket. Bell Bulitt helmet etc.
        Next time I chose to go out in full leathers I think i’ll wear a pair of those striped railway bib overalls over them in order to mask my intentions ;-)

    • Davidabl2

      re’ ATTGAT, except on scooters” this vid from L.A.’s Mulholland Drive will amuse you, especially when you get to part with the guy racing his scooter..

      • orthorim

        LOL you’d think with so many videos of that exact corner out there people would be more careful. How did you not see one of the 5000 crash videos by now? Something must be wrong with the road surface on that corner…

        • Rob M

          Too much trail brake? Also looks like there’s a change in the road surface right where the back end breaks loose.

        • Davidabl2

          Distracted riding may well be a factor. in at least a few cases I think people see the video crew, get distracted, and “it ends badly”
          Just like in one of their vids a guy is rolling thru a corner knee down, sees a parked sheriff and bins it.

        • WatchingStupidDoubleDown

          Actually rnickeymouse has said that he has filmed about 85 crashes along Mulholland, not to mention at that corner.

          And YT studies of crashes at that corner are the stuff of legend. Just go look at the comments on the video.

    • Mr.Paynter

      I would disagree with this, and I do, on principalo, but I have been to Bali a few times on surf-trips and every time I do, it’s barefoot, shorts and a vest.
      Scooters are so effing deceptive.

  • Richard Gozinya

    Just a minor quibble, but since she works on a Navy base, she’s not dealing with soldiers, she’s dealing with sailors. Army is soldiers, Air force airmen, Marine Corps Marines. It’s important to capitalize Marines, because they’re very insecure about such things.

    • hunkyleepickle

      they’re all just armymen to me…..but i’m Canadian:)

    • MichaelEhrgott

      Dont forget Coasties.

      • JT

        You can always forget the puddle jumpers ;)

    • MightyBobo

      I’m USAF stationed on an Army base, and in this area I’ve taken MSF classes run through the AF, Navy, and Army. So no, she probably isn’t just dealing with sailors.

      • Richard Gozinya

        Well on a Navy base, she’s likely dealing mostly with sailors.

        • Ken Lindsay

          With Miramar a few miles away, I’m certain there are Marines there as well.

          • JT

            Not really to many on the naval base, but the MSF people do move around to other commands so they would head up to Miramar.

            • Ken Lindsay

              I’ve only been on that base once and didn’t really pay that much attention as a civilian. However, there were tons of motorcycles on base. I’m very glad to hear that they are going through training. A lot of guys that have that much testosterone leads to buying bikes a lot faster than some can handle…

              • JT

                I can see that, kinda glad I started riding when I was a little older and got something I can handle, a Bonneville. Lot of sport bikes on base though bought with deployment savings.

    • CaptainPlatypus

      Indeed, it’s very important to be nice to the jarheads in comment sections. I’ve been told at least a couple of them can read.

    • Heather McCoy

      Having lived on base before, I know that there are often mixed branches utilizing services (which is why I used the generic layman’s term). See MightyBobo’s comment below.

      • JT

        True, but being a Sailor and being reffered to as a Soldier is still kind of off putting, but I see where you’re coming from. Any inclusive term for that sentence I think would be clunky though. And from I understand they do move around commands in that area which besides the Naval stations are the Marine base at Miramar and possibly Camp Penelton.

    • FortuneFavorsTheBold

      ” but since she works on a Navy base, she’s not dealing with soldiers, she’s dealing with sailors”

      She works with anyone who wants to ride a motorcycle on the base, legally.
      No guesswork or assumptions are necessary. Or wise.
      Your ignorance is no excuse for it.

    • LikeCoffeeWithChocolates

      …on a Navy base, as a motorcycle riding-safety officer, she’s likely dealing with anyone who wants to ride on the base legally. Since
      that could be military (any branch) or any DOD employee or civilian contractor, including the children of military stationed on the base, or anyone who visits the base somewhat regularly for work or for personal reasons, she’s likely dealing with a wide range of people, far too diverse to “likely be” any one group.

      Your ignorance of the very topic that you felt compelled to chime in on with your “quibble” is pathetic.
      But then I guess you thought that you were so smart…and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to “quibble”…

  • GoodJudgementIsItsOwnReward

    You aren’t riding safe when concerned with wearing “protective gear” instead of not wrecking in the first place.
    The point of the gear is to minimize injury resulting from accidents while riding.
    Inherent in the concept of protective gear is getting into accidents while riding.

    Inherent in the concept of bravery is placing your life at risk for a laudable goal.

    Placing your life at risk by riding a motorcycle is not a laudable goal.
    Nor should it ever be seen as one.

    You not only undermine the concept of bravery here,

    you also undermine the concept of common-sense…an ongoing problem with this site.

    The main concept that you should be worried about

    and this is so obvious as to make it ludicrous to need to mention it yet again

    Is to not get into accidents in the first place.

    No excuses.
    No accidents.

    No injuries.

    No problem.

    Having any other perspective is the problem.
    That is what you really need to concern yourselves with here,

    Instead of being so eager to paint idiocy as wisdom and foolishness as bravery.
    And promotinig protective-gear over riding with good judgement,

    And just not wrecking in the first place.
    And just admitting that if you can’t ride without getting into an accident,

    Then maybe you shouldn’t be riding at all. Kinda. Possibly. Seems that way.

    Especially given the long litany of injuries suffered by the writers on this site,

    despite their love-affair with protective-gear.

    • Michael Howard

      This is some of the dumbest $#!+ I’ve ever read. The only way to have absolute command over every aspect of riding is to make the choice to not ride at all. If you think you have control over every other driver on the road, every wild animal in the ditches along the highway, every pebble and grain of sand that might be present in every blind corner, you are a monumental fool. Or, more likely, you’re just a troll.

      • FortuneFavorsTheBold

        I’m not seeing how not having absolute command over every aspect of riding means that concerning yourself with safety-gear over safe riding is a wise idea

        But I guess if you’re paranoid-delusional with OCD that might make sense…or just a REALLY bad rider…

        Still, what do you do when you’re not riding? You still wear safety-gear for the above reasons?
        And if so, why only leather? Why not half-inch thick steel body-armor, like a battle-mech?
        If this site has made anything abundantly-clear, it’s that leather is only going to keep you from getting road-rash.
        What about all the other possible injuries that you are likely to get if you wreck?

        • Michael Howard

          Actually, I wear an Aerostich Roadcrafter, which is textile (Cordura nylon, not leather). With it’s armored shoulders, elbows and knees, I’ve walked away after hitting a deer at highway speed two different times (the last time, four weeks ago, totaled my bike and broke my collarbone and a rib). But, yeah, wearing gear “just in case” is a waste of time. Kinda like these posts of yours.

          • LikeCoffeeWithChocolates

            Yep. Maybe you shouldn’t waste time wearing protective *gear*.

            What you really need is protective anti-deer spray.

            Maybe the 3rd time you hit a deer at highway speeds it not only will keep you from having a broken collarbone and rib, that broken rib won’t puncture a lung and you’ll lie there on the road trapped under either your bike or the deer or both, and bleed-out, choking to death on your own blood. Which would be bad, I guess.

            Either that or you could learn how to not hit deer while you’re out riding.

    • awwshucks

      for some reason i read this in the voice of Christopher Walken.
      maybe because it’s insane.

      • Gerection Gerection

        Hahaha, I just spilled my coffee reading this!!!

      • Ayabe

        Or Busey…”Hello pants…”

      • orthorim

        ROFL thanks… made my day.

    • Guzzto

      next time take a half to start with.

  • Justin McClintock

    I remember reading about her a few years back. Her story is one that has always resonated with me whenever I think about riding gear. And her story is something I’ve been eager to show to others when they remark about not needing gear because they don’t plan on crashing or because “it’s just a short ride”.

    • Chris La Rose

      Ditto – I was happily surprised when I scrolled down and realized it wast ‘That’ Brittany Morrow. As a public health professional who works in MV occupant protection, I’ve always been impressed with what DOD does for service members in terms of motorcycle safety ) and finding out that Brittany Morrow is contributing to that impresses me even further. Uunfortunately, what they do can’t be replicated outside of the military – but then again, while I support ATGATT, I don’t know that I’d want to be forced to wear hi-viz yellow alllllll the time.

  • gleite311

    I hit a deer on my motorcycle a few years ago and suffered a large wound to my left knee where my textile pants ripped, but otherwise I had no injuries. There were scuffs and scratches on my gloves, helmet, and jacket from tumbling after I went down, but the gear did it’s job. I’m sure I’d have been in much worse shape had I not been wearing everything that day.

    • FortuneFavorsTheBold

      If you had not been wearing everything that day and NOT hit a deer, you’d have been fine.

      To say the gear “helps” you is a relative term, as in “relative to if I had not been wearing it when I wrecked…”
      Not getting into an accident in the first place is far more effective at preventing injuries than any safety gear ever could be.

      • E Brown

        True. But that’s like saying the secret to immortality is not livng.

        • LikeCoffeeWithChocolates

          But thats like saying that the secret to being wise is not living so you can’t be stupid.
          At least, not so often.
          Enjoy your little logical backwater.

      • gleite311

        I’m not sure if you’re just trolling, or if you just like stating the obvious (perhaps both). Obviously, none of the people who ride and frequent this site intend to get into an accident, but I think that we can all agree that riding a motorcycle is inherently more risky/dangerous than driving a car by nature of the human pilot being more exposed. A sane individual is going to take additional steps to help mitigate the damage to them in the event of an accident by way of wearing protective gear. Why are you so intent on arguing that point with your posts and insinuating that people aren’t doing their best to ride safely in the first place?

        • LikeCoffeeWithChocolates

          Becaue they get into accidents. Look, if you’re going to ride and worry about getting into accidents to the point where you layer-on the gear, then just drive a car. You’ll be far safer. A deer leaping out into your path (or even on you, sometimes they do that) is going to cause you far less injury if you’re driving than if riding. Cars are far more stable than bikes so you don’t have to worry about the odd patch of gravel or whatever. If you’re going to be that OCD about gear while riding, then you can’t logically argue FOR riding.

          The point of it is that all this OCD about gear distracts from the fundamental concept of RIDING and not wrecking.
          And plain and simply put when someone gets on here and blathers that “if I hadn’t been wearing blah blah blah I’d be in a lot worse shape” their thought process shouldn’t even get to that point because they IMMEDIATELY should realize that if they had just NOT wrecked they would have been fine. But they did wreck. They need to worry about why they wrecked and how to avoid wrecking again, first last and foremost. Gear is an afterthought.

          • Ethan Begley

            If you’re not a troll, then you have a serious mental deficiency. You can’t just expect you won’t ever wreck because you spend “more thought process” on not crashing, squidbeans. Wearing gear is preparing for the inevitable risks of riding, just like wearing a seatbelt is preparing for the risks of a car accident. You can talk crap all day about accident prevention but when some jerk in a prius runs you down, you’re gonna want gear. It’s the same reason I always wear a seatbelt in a car, I would much rather have the inconvenience of a belt on, as compared to flying through my windshield.

            Honestly your thought process is so flawed, I guess you’re just trying to justify your poor habits so that you aren’t afraid of the consequences. To postulate with your level of certainty that those who wear gear are somehow lower in intelligence and accident avoidance, is a pathetic joke. Obviously you haven’t ever been to a level 1 trauma center on a nice summer day, the amount of road rash allotted by t-shirts and shorts is awful.

            • DeathShadowsYourEveryRide

              “You can’t just expect you won’t ever wreck because you spend “more thought process” on not crashing, squidbeans”

              If true then there’s no point in thinking about not crashing while riding, which I guess is why you think that it’s such a good idea, necessary even, to wear gear while riding. But why don’t you extend that logical train of thought to the idea of riding a motorcycle in the first place? If you think that it’s inevitable that you will crash on the road, if you seriously worry about getting run down by a Prius while riding a bike, then why would you put on leathers and then ride a motorcycle but not stay off bikes on the street altogether? Why would you not put on a car and drive “all the time”? You are calling the poster “mentally deficient” while displaying severe retardation yourself.

              You’re relying on half-truths, fear and wishful-thinking to justify your approach, not the facts, good logic and common-sense. The common thread to all motorcycle-related injuries is the fact that the injured got into an accident. The focus should be on eliminating accidents, not on accident-preparedness. If you aren’t smart and stable enough to eliminate the accidents while riding, then it is stupid to continue to ride. First, last and foremost.

              Just stick to the facts, use good logic, and you’ll be fine. If you then want to wear gear on top of that, it will be unnecessary but if it gives you additional piece of mind, hey that’s great. The main thing is, stay the fuck upright on your bike. If that is a major problem for you, then don’t ride a motorcycle. And if you need to be told that, then you’ve got severe mental problems.

              • Ethan Begley

                LOL you are retarded. You are convinced that you will never crash because “just stick to the facts, use good logic, and you’ll be fine.” Are you delusional? If anyone could always avoid a crash, they wouldn’t make safety equipment. Clearly you’re a troll, nobody is this stupid. I won’t feed you anymore :) (although i’m sure someone will be feeding you through a tube someday if you have that attitude about safety.)

                • TheSadColdTruth

                  “You are convinced that you will never crash because “just stick to the
                  facts, use good logic, and you’ll be fine.” Are you delusional?

                  Not quite delusional enough to need to convert a logically and factually-superior position into a strawman in order to deal with my own reality. Like you. Just deal with what was said, if you can. You’re not proving yourself right or anyone else wrong, you’re just expanding on your opinion. I think that your opinion was clear a while back.

                  “If anyone could always avoid a crash, they wouldn’t make safety equipment
                  …so the fact that safety-equipment is made means that no one can avoid crashing?
                  Surely even you realize that some people do actually ride bikes without getting into accidents?
                  Or are you so dense as to not get that?

                  Then that’s the entire problem here.
                  You’re not smart enough to realize that you CAN avoid wrecking by using your brain while riding.
                  …because you’re not smart enough to think of even trying to do it. So you don’t think that anyone else can.
                  Do you think that they should even try? Or is that a “bridge too far” for you as well?

                  Do you even get the basic point, that “protective gear” isn’t going to protect you from severe injury in the event of a severe accident? It won’t take much of an accident to do real damage despite layering-on $5k worth of protective-gear. Road-rash isn’t going to result in paralysis, dude. Beyond that do you get the point that if you ride safely enough to not wreck, then you will not wreck? I could go on with this but I think the point was made well a few posts back. The real issue from here is are you smart enough to understand how Reality works and mature enough to accept it. Denying and deleting factually and logically accurate posts isn’t going to change how the road interacts with your body when you fail to use good logic and stick to the facts while riding.

                • StunnedBySerialStupidity

                  Let’s examine your mental status by evidence.
                  You admit that you lack:

                  1-the resources to buy & wear enough gear to prevent anything more than the relatively-insignificant road-rash associated with sliding on a road-surface and of course a full-face helmet, of dubious injury-prevention capability. Possibly a neck “brace”, knee, hip and elbow pads, and a back “protector”, also of dubious effectiveness.

                  2-the intelligence to not wreck in any particular set of road-circumstances

                  3-any ability to predict how often you will wreck, or how many times you will wreck

                  4-any faith in any other motorcyclists’ ability to do any better than you, in these areas

                  5-the ability to distinguish between road-rash and a true medical-emergency

                  and last but not least-

                  6-the common-sense to not ride a motorcycle in the first place, given all the above.

                  And what do you call that if not “retarded”?


                  Seriously, you sound like not only do you want to get into accidents and risk death or a serious permanent injury while riding bikes, but you want every other biker to run the same risk of getting into them as well, with similar likely outcomes, so that they are no better at riding safely than you are. So they are all in the same boat as you, paddling towards the falls just like you.

                  And what would I be if I shared your point of view and your actions? “Not retarded”?

                  Keep thinking that you’re smart because you wear gear while ignoring all the other stupid crap that you say and do, and see how that works for you.

  • Austin Sorenson

    I agree about wearing the gear, and it always seems so easy to just put on a helmet and go. Those scars are brutal, and I am sure I would get the same. I am a little confused as why anyone would go 120 with a passenger. If you want to be deathly stupid do it by yourself at least. Not to mention the possible people you could kill just by hitting them with your bike, or causing an accident. We all probably have a story of a friend who decided to see how fast the bike could go with terrible consequences, and this is just another.

  • frankiejr

    I’ve been making every excuse not to wear gear during the past year. I even sweat when I’m cold, Urals are more visible, 1+1=3, etc. No excuse more valid than any other. All bull$hit. Brittany has succeeded here by grabbing my shoulders and shaking sense into me. I just dropped a good chunk of money on two jackets and two sets of pants. Sorry for being a squid!

    • Michael Howard

      One thing that’s always helped me convince myself to wear all my gear is the attitude that riding is very important to me and I take it very seriously. I acknowledge that riding is dangerous yet I accept the risks and choose to ride anyway.

  • JT

    Small edit, Naval Weapons Seal Beach is not in San Diego, it’s in Seal Beach. The Bases in San Diego consist of “Dry Side” where schools, barracks, medical and dental, and a few other things and “Wet Side” where the ships moor. The carriers park over on Coronado and we have subs and schools in Point Loma. Back in October of 2012 I know Brittany was teaching in San Diego since she was helping train with another MSF officer who happened to be a retired Chief Petty Officer. They also showed that video at my last safety stand down. Makes me glad I wear my saftey gear all the time!

  • octodad

    heather; thought you would find that EMS approved helmet and report on it. riders need positive reinforcement for safety gear use, too many tough guys w/o a lid. your earlier articles were readable and worthwhile, hope you can follow up.