Crashing is one of life’s big surprises. I mean, we do expect at some point to be leaving the motorcycle unintentionally, but it’s the “at some point” we always expect to be “not now.”
But there I was on the pavement at Thunderhill Raceway Park in lovely little Willows, California, really, really surprised by the situation. I detailed what I thought I did wrong on the Honda CBR1000RR in “Not Again” (Up Front, September ’17) but wanted to relay how the gear I was wearing fared in this 100-mph-plus slide.
First off, the Dainese Laguna Seca Evo suit, Axial Pro-In boots, and 4-stroke Evo gloves (all 2014–’15 “catalog year”) did an excellent job protecting my skin and bones.
Like most high-quality modern gear, break-in is essentially nil. This rack size 56 cowhide suit fit my 6-foot-2-inch, 218-pound frame superbly. The strategically placed stretch panels (both leather and fabric) are called a few variations of “stretchy”—microelastic elasticated inserts, bi-axial elasticated insert system, and just elasticated inserts. This made for a snug fit with ample freedom of movement on the bike. Gloves and boots were similarly comfortable and offered excellent ease of movement. A silver-treated removable liner in the suit helps keep it smelling fresh.
Composite armor at the knee/shin and elbows, plus “co-molded” shoulder armor with aluminum external inserts, protect joints from impact. And when Dainese first introduced the leathers-over-boot design I was a bit skeptical, but it does make sense not to have redundant armor (for lightness and less bulk), and having the strong hook-and-loop connection between suit and boots adds security.
I was extremely fortunate not to highside in this power-on corner-exit crash and was also lucky not to tumble much after I left the motorcycle. Most of my sliding was done on asphalt with the final bit taking place on hard dirt and dead grass. I impacted no stationary objects and took no blows to my helmet.
Damaged areas are cataloged in the photography. Apologies for the gratuitous butt shot, but that’s where I spent most of my time as a human brake pad. I was at first disappointed that the seam back there failed and opened a hole of a bit more than an inch but was delighted to find an entire second layer of leather beneath. Saved my ass, indeed.
The aluminum shoulder insert was largely removed through friction but proved to be a durable first layer of protection. I was later disturbed by the sharp edges it left, but after some consideration I could see little way that it might be detrimental in any crash scenario. The one true hole in leather came at my left palm, this dime-size void in the material leaving bare skin exposed, though without even a scratch. The boots merely were scuffed on most sides, their internal armor and external metal, plastic, and leather doing exactly the job they were supposed to do.
When I first was assessing myself after coming to a stop on my back and staring at the sky, I remained motionless and mentally searched my body for pain points and found none. I looked for visual signs of injury and found only the hole in the glove, expecting to find blood, but there was none. I stood up carefully and found my feet and legs fully operational. Considering the length of the slide, this was an excellent outcome.
Adrenaline was definitely assisting my feeling of well-being, and later that day my left shoulder ached (a lingering dirt-bike crash injury exacerbated) and a mildly sprained right thumb made opening twist-off beer bottles slightly more difficult for a week or so, but I essentially walked away with no consequences and was able to ride several hundred miles on our naked-bike street test the following two days (wearing different street-oriented gear, of course).
The Evo suit is replaced by the Laguna Seca 4 ($1,299.95), boots are updated for re-certification (and feature some new materials) as the Axial Pro-in R ($519.95), and the Four-stroke Long remains in the collection ($269.95). These are current prices; those shown in the specs are prices for the year-model gear on its release.
I may, at some point, crash again at a racetrack. My hope is that it is “not now.” But if it is, wearing new, uncrashed versions of the gear shown here would be a very good choice.