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What to wear when. . . you're going to crash

Now many of you will be aware by now that a few months ago I had an opportunity to test my protective clothing, as well as to demonstrate how well a GSX-R 750 survives a high speed crash. Being a man of science, the rather random nature of the test appalls me. But, in fairness, it's about as real-world testing as you'll get. Seeing as it was in the real world and all that...

So, to save you trawling back through the site to find out more, the accident took place on a track day at Mallory Park in Leicestershire. About halfway round a right hander (Gerrard's for those who know the place) I managed to highside at somewhere over 120mph. I landed on my right elbow, left hand and head, to put the kit damage into context. But how did it all do?

Helmet: Arai RX7XX Corsair

Not what I had in mind when listing consumables for the accountant...My Arai was the newest piece of kit I had with me at just a month old. The previous one also got crash tested though at far slower speed, and came out very well indeed. This one took the initial impact on the right side and then, I think, got scraped along the road as I tried to stay stable and avoid tumbling. The lacquer finish is scrubbed off, the top gel coat is gone in two places and the inner structure is clearly visible. That's it. The shell didn't crack or distort, the visor stayed on and the side pods remained intact. I suffered no head or neck injuries though I was knocked about sufficiently to punch enormous great holes in my memory for a while. That's all sorted out now, anyway, and I'm as back to normal as I will ever be...

While this is a new helmet, my last two have both lasted over four years before going the way of all sacrificial headgear. The removable, washable lining certainly makes a huge difference to the time you can use a helmet before it gets just too horrible to put your head in. And the build quality means that things like strap fastenings and visor mounts, both of which get a lot of use in a helmet that's worn for maybe eight hours a day, continue to function as advertised.

I can't recommend this helmet highly enough. Yes, it's expensive. Yes, there are quieter helmets out there on the market. And yes, there may even be some better looking ones, though that's down to personal taste. But it simply shrugged off a very big impact so easily that I would almost consider continuing to use it. I know, I know. Don't write in saying I mustn't, it's just a turn of phrase. But it's a great lid nonetheless, and there's no way that I will entrust my brains to anything else.

Leathers: Dainese Tattoo 2 piece

Not as stylish as they once were...At over five years old, these are the joint oldest items I was wearing. To be honest, while I love the style and fit of Dainese gear, I've long harboured my doubts about their crash-worthiness. To the extent that I have seriously thought about replacing them, even though they are far from worn out. There's nothing to put my finger on, just things other people have said about build quality and the like, and a sneaking suspicion that something this comfortable can't really be that protective.

I was mistaken. And then some. My leathers obviously bore the brunt of the impact, the first point of contact being my right elbow, and then put up with my sliding some considerable distance at a fair speed on both tarmac and grass. The right elbow has a small tear in the leather on top of the moulded armour, but there was no risk of skin touching the ground as the armour shell is still in place and securely retained. A couple of seams have popped around the right shoulder but they all have leather under them so my soft pink bits stayed off the road and protected. There is some fairly extensive scuffing on the back, which is no big surprise, and the decorative bits on the back are looking decidedly the worse for wear. But there are those who would say that this all just gives the suit a bit more character.

Hole in the elbow clearly visible here. Sort of "X marks the spot"Though they did the job brilliantly and could easily be repaired, I'd need advice before using them again. Why? Because the leather has been worn rather thin in places and I'm concerned that if I were to do something like this again (I don't plan to but you never know) then I might find that I wear right through the suit. Which would be a Bad Thing.

So an unreserved thumbs up for the suit in terms of protection but a question mark over longevity. Mind you, five years very intensive use is pretty good going anyhow, so I'd not consider that a criticism. They fit well, are comfortable as anything and look good. OK, that last bit is rather subjective. But I do think they look good. They've also proven themselves to be as protective as I could reasonably want, so overall I'd still recommend them, or their equivalent as I believe Dainese no longer make this style, for serious consideration.

Gloves: Racer Aeropower

These gloves were among the first products we ever tested, and I was so impressed that I hung onto them and have used them, quite literally, every day since they arrived with us. They are by far the most comfortable gloves I have ever worn and are thin enough to give plenty of feel while being armoured and reassuringly solidly put together. Putting tape over the vents on the back proved sufficient to winterproof them and allow me to use them all through the year with the addition of some silk undergloves. So on that basis alone they are brilliant.

Burst seam visible at the base of the thumb but I've pulled it apart to make it show. But we wear gloves for protection, not just from the elements but from injury. And on that front, these gloves performed fantastically well. At least a third of the initial impact, and probably rather more, was taken by my left hand. The impact was sufficient to break the scaphoid bone in my wrist - it's actually the small bone at the base of the thumb that acts as a spacer to keep all the little bits in place. Impacts like this are a tossup. If the angle is right then you break the scaphoid. If it's wrong then you break the forearm instead. Kind of Hobson's choice, really. Anyway, it was a big bang, from which lesser gloves would have simply fallen apart. That would have given me the added pleasure of having to be helped to the toilet for a few months while my hands healed.

Happily. though, that wasn't the case here. The sum of all my hand injuries was the aforementioned scaphoid, which doesn't really count, and a small nick on the back of one finger, the origin of which I'm really not sure about. The gloves burst a few seams and the palm padding on the left is partly detached. But that's the lot. No pink bits touched the road and, though I was sore and bruised, my hand function was unaffected. In fact, the fractured scaphoid didn't even show up for two weeks. Impressed? Let's just say that I'll be getting some more as soon as I possibly can...

Back protector: Racer

Comfortable as you like and worn just about every day since we got hold of it to test right at the beginning of MBT. Took the full impact and then had me sliding along on it at high speed. Not a mark to my back or shoulders. In short, it took and swallowed everything I threw at it. Or should I say everything I threw it at. What more could I ask?

Boots: Sidi Vertebra

It's surprising how much of a battering your feet get in a high speed spill. Even if they don't get caught under the bike, it's highly likely that one or other will strike the ground fairly hard, and you also have the potential for banging them against each other - a favourite for chipping ankles. And, like hands, feet are full of very small, not very strong bones and lots of delicate tendons. They take a very long time to heal, hurt like Hell when you break them and are extremely difficult to immobilise effectively while they're getitng better. Plus, in case you hadn't considered it, a broken foot is very difficult to walk on so you end up completely helpless until you're fit again.

Captain Scarlet jokes aside, these boots have served brilliantly for years. It shows rather in the colour - this is as clean as they get...So I was, and am, very grateful to Sidi for producing some boots that, even after five years heavy use, took the battering and absorbed it all themselves. Yes, I ended up with a bruise on my left foot. I have no idea from what, but if I had to guess I'd say it was from hitting the track on landing. The Lorica outer casing of my boots is rather more scuffed than before and in a couple of places the red is rather closer to pink as the colouring has been worn away. And that's it. I'm still wearing them and not worried about it. Now if I could just figure out how to stop them squeaking...

So there we are. A complete rundown of the kit I was using when I crash tested it. We'd be very interested to hear both your own experiences of (ab)using bits of kit and your suggestions for what I should replace things with. So please do get in touch.


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