I remember crashing into a petrol pump as a small kid the first time my friend let go of the back of my bicycle. I eventually learned how to balance on 2 wheels. That was until the motorbike training came calling! Harley Davidson you say? Why yes please!
When the challenge was laid down to me to learn how to ride a motorbike, I did as the old saying about fools goes, and I rushed in! Thankfully I had Tony Toner (@TonyTProf) from the Institute of Advanced Motorists of Ireland, and resident writer with BeepBeep.ie, to help. Though he couldn’t run along and hold the back of the motorbike to keep me steady, he gave me the most expert tuition. One of the most valuable lessons was the importance of protective clothing.
To tell you straight up, I’m not an easy student. I’m a messer who’s easily distracted and has been brought up with an (un)healthy fear of motorbikes. This meant that the first time I was going to get on a bike I was giggling and welling up with nervous tears at the same time.
I squeezed myself into the many layers of safety gear, convincing myself that it would surely soften with time and I’d be less “Tin-man” and more “Easy Rider” very soon…my own version of “Biker Chic”.
The trousers & jacket are equipped with more Kevlar than an episode of the
“A-Team”. I was surprised to learn that even the boots have to be specific for biking. Normal boots or shoes will rip if you drag them along the ground. Don’t even start me on wearing trainers on a bike! Even before you put on the jacket, you need to put on the back protector – or as I called it, the turtle shell. This offers extra protection for the crucial delicate spinal area, going all the way down along the lower coccyx (your tail bone). Basically, covers the bits that keep you standing.
The jacket had 3 layers – you’d be amazed how cold it gets on a bike, even in warm weather. It’s like putting yourself in front of the world’s largest cold wind-tunnel!
The jacket is really heavy. I was torn between moaning about how heavy it was and marveling at the protection it offers in case of accident. The shoulders have a plastic-feel large protection pad inside. Think of a cross between Joan Collins in Dynasty and the Michelin man. Now you have it!
Extra pointers along the way- don’t put loads of stuff in your trouser pockets when you’re biking. That’s REALLY going to hurt if you land on it! Imagine the pain of a paper cut and a splinter together… then multiply that by about a half a million to bring you to the approximate place.
Putting on the helmet nearly required me to have a medic on standby! There were a lot of tight helmets tried on before the right one was found, and struggling out of a tight helmet does my nerves no good!
I learned so much about a helmet and how much it can do to save a person’s life. An open face helmet may look well cool on a motorbike but I am very fond of my jawline and if something had ever happened me I’d still like to keep that jawline and face in general! Hence the importance of a closed face helmet. I was instructed not to let my helmet drop. At about €800, it’s not the kind of thing you’re going to play fast and loose with but one single drop can affect the integrity of it. You won’t realise this until you land on your head.
It’s crucial to NEVER rest a helmet upside down; again that compromises the long-term viability of the helmet. I made the mistake of resting mine (right way up) on the ground and was asked how I’d feel if some little critters & creepy crawlies moved in while it was on the ground. Hey presto, I learned to rest my helmet on the wing mirror!
I eventually got to the stage where my chest wouldn’t tighten at the prospect of putting on all the layers and trying to throw my leg over the bike – with all the grace of the Michelin man after a particularly indulgent Christmas!
I can hand on heart say that I have yet to get to the stage where I will feel comfortable on a motorbike, even with all my protective gear, but if this threatened cold-snap ever kicks in, I’ve got some pretty warm clobber so that I can walk to the shop without getting frostbite!
Ruth in her protective clothing - all dressed up and ready for the road!
2 FM DJ Ruth Scott co-hosts The Weekenders, every Saturday and Sunday from 2-5pm.