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postheadericon Gear Spotting

      I enjoy research. I enjoy riding 2-wheeled vehicles. I don’t recall what, exactly, caused me to start contemplating how much protective gear the riders of different types of motorbikes were wearing, but I did. I started thinking about it, a lot. I started wondering how one could objectively measure who was wearing the most and or best gear. Both my wife wife and I hypothesized that sport bike riders probably wear the most gear. Cruiser riders, including Harley-Davidsons, Goldwings and other “Baggers” are known for their lack of gear, particularly helmets. Would they fair better or worse than riders of scooters?
I started by thinking about the most common and most important pieces of protection we wear. I came up with five categories: helmets, jackets, gloves, leg-wear and footwear. I figured that by observing different riders, I could give each a score of zero to five that would represent how protected they were as the rode. It occurred to me a bit later, that this would not be entirely accurate. A guy wearing boots, pants and a pair of gloves, for a score of 3 in my simple system, is probably not as well protected as a rider wear only a helmet and leather jacket (score: 2.)
I then further subdivided my five categories into a few more areas, allowing me to refine my protection observations. Helmets I divided into full-face, other than full-face and none. Jackets are divided into armored or leather, other and none. Gloves are still yes or no. I can’t really get close enough to know how good a pair of gloves are. Leg-wear is divided into riding specific pants or chaps, plain street pants or none, which doesn’t mean that the rider is bottomless, just that they were wearing shorts or a skirt or something other than long pants. Footwear is similar. The best protection is a pair of boots, followed by shoes that cover the entire foot, but not the ankles. The zero score includes sandals, flip-flops or anything that does not cover the entire foot.
This allowed me to make a weighted scale. I increased this to a 10 point scale and weighted each answer consistent with the overall importance of each category. The number of points for each item is as follows:

Item – Points given
Full Face – 3
Other Helmet – 2
No Helmet – 0
______________________________________
Armored Jacket – 2
Other Jacket – 1
No Jacket – 0
______________________________________
Gloves – 2
No Gloves – 0
___________________
Riding Pants – 1.5
Plain Pants – 1
Other than Pants – 0
____________________________{_________
Boots – 1.5
Shoes – 1
Other Footwear – 0

All that remained was to get out and make some actual observations. I did make some “rules” for this as well:

  • Observe at a variety of places around town.
    Observe at a variety of times and days of the week. Thus I could grade commuters and the casual riders.
    Don’t observe around the airbase. The Air Force requires a certain amount of gear. This would artificially inflate the numbers.
    I didn’t want to observe scooters at any of our club events. There is a certain amount of peer pressure to wear gear. Again, this would artificially inflate scooter scores.
    I wouldn’t make observations at any group ride of any type of bike. Again, peer pressure or group dynamics may artificially increase or decrease scores for that particular group.
    I took note of weather and time of day. This first group of observations took place with temps in the 90’s. I will endeavor to do another set when temps cool a bit and see if there is any shift in the numbers.
    I wanted to get a sample of at least 20 bikes in each of the three major types of bikes: Cruisers, Sport Bikes and Scooters. (I didn’t quite succeed.)

     I took observations on 71 different bikes (27 cruisers, 25 street and 19 scooters) on about 20 different days, in about 15 different locations. Temperatures at the times were between 82 and 102 degrees. I only charted the numbers on bikes where I could clearly see the entire body of the rider. I especially liked parking at intersections so that I could visualized the riders’ feet when they stopped.
So what were the results? Well, with only a relatively small sample, my hypothesis is spot on. Using the weighted scale, the numbers look this this:
Sport Bikes – 7
Cruisers – 4.69
Scooters – 3.42

     As a scooter rider, I am appalled, but not surprised. Some time ago, when I was writing an article about hot weather riding, I took random pics of riders on a hot day to put in the article. It was then that I noted so many scooter riders not wearing gear. I know a lot of riders crying ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) on forums and on Facebook, but my “on the street” observations tell a different story.
I also looked at averages on the individual pieces of gear. Helmet use (the single most important piece of gear) was the only in which scooterists were not dead last. (Numbers in the table below are percentages.

% Full Face
Sport Bikes – 88
Cruisers –       41
Scooters –      32
% Other Helmet
Sport Bikes – 0
Cruisers –      15
Scooters –     37
% No Helmet
Sport Bikes – 12
Cruisers –      44
Scooters –      32
Total % with a Helmet
Sport Bikes – 88
Cruisers –       56
Scooters –      69

     So, we scooterists came in second place, but still almost 20 percentage points behind the sport bikers. Also of note is that we are the smallest wearers of full face helmets. I’ve seen it reported that 40% of all injuries to the head in motorcycle crashes, occur to the face. Some of us in our Tucson club have personally seen what happens when someone crashes wearing a ¾ helmet. Also, 1/3 of us, aren’t wearing helmets at all.
How about the other areas? Here are the highlights of the other areas I was monitoring:

% Wearing Jackets
Sport Bikes – 48
Cruisers –      15
Scooters –       11
% wearing Gloves
Sport Bikes – 76
Cruisers –       41
Scooters –       11
% wearing NO leg protection
Sport Bikes – 36
Cruisers –       15
Scooters –      58
% Wearing NO foot protection
Sport Bikes – 0
Cruisers –       4
Scooters –       26

     More than of us wear shorts? More than a quarter of us don’t even bother putting on a pair of shoes? If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have a hard time believing this.
As I was acquiring the data and as I began to note the patterns, I began to wonder what conclusions could be made from this. Quite frankly, I haven’t thought of one yet. However, I hope this does cause us to think about our choices of what we wear when we ride.
What about you? What do you think about the above? I am looking forward to your comments.

***Call to Action – I would like to expand this research and get numbers from YOUR neck of the woods. If you would like to help out, please send me an email or private message.

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