Winter quickly turned into summer, the season got off to a flying start, which in itself is not a problem, but it should be taken into account that tiny motorist eyes are not yet used to the sight of bikers.
The mind of a motorist is at times interesting from a biker/scooter-rider perspective. The biker is right there in front of them, they may even see them but the fact does not register in their brain. And I’m not talking about when the biker is an idiot and has no idea what a blind-spot is (you also shouldn’t forget that even if the car driver had eyes all around their head, the car body would still block out a lot of things in the environment), what I mean is when they drive out in front of motorcycle riders travelling normally on a protected road because they do not actually realise they are there. This is why you have to be careful and always anticipate that some idiot might drive out in front of you.
Just a few days ago, two ambulances tried to shove me out of the way, although I was in the blind-spot of one of them (if you consider him being parked on the side of the road and then driving into traffic without looking around being in a blind-spot). I can almost understand why he didn’t notice my bike: it’s slim, and although the headlights were on, the turn signal is not actually hooked up in ambulances or in BMWS for that matter, and I’m pretty sure he was all focused on not accidentally using it.
Unfortunately, motorcycles/scooters can suffer accidents at any time. How can you protect yourself?
There are two effective tools: increased attention and protectors. And this is when an anatomy lesson becomes necessary.
Joints are highly sensitive body parts. Broken bones typically heal without problems, and even if some end up slightly crooked or shorter, they can still fulfil their function, i.e. to hold the body and the muscles around it.
Joints are more complicated instruments. When I had my accident – I was stupid, because I was convinced I would get right of way and as a result I failed to prepare for emergency braking when arriving into the junction – before resetting my shoulder sprain, the doctor told me that my shoulder would never be the same again, it would never be all right. Go to hell, I said, I’ll show you!
I did not, and in this regard the doctor’s attitude and utter incompetence are irrelevant; the only reason I can train and ride a bike today is for the efforts of a professional sports manual therapist. However, I can’t screw in a light bulb as I can’t lift my arm that high. The doctor ended up being right, it will never be as good as before, even though it was just a sprain. And this happened despite my jacket being equipped with a shoulder protector.
Fortunately I’ve not had any knee injuries to date, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that the knee is much more vulnerable. As the shoulder, the knee is also a load-bearing part but, to put it simply, while your shoulder just holds your arms all day, your knee supports your entire body. You can only walk, stand up, sit down or run by moving your knees.
The knee joint is perhaps the most complicated and complex joint in the body, made up of thigh and calf tendons and muscles, knee-joint cartilages, the synovial membrane, the joint capsule and ligaments. The knee is a unit so refined that its movement couldn’t be modelled just 20 years ago, as computers and algorithms were not sophisticated enough to mimic the way humans walk.
Nothing on the human body protects the joints of the knee against mechanical impact. Just try to imagine the forces impacting it if you fall with your scooter catching the ground with your knee or if you hit the curb.
Think about it: if my shoulder was ruined because of a sprain from simply falling on my back and despite one year of sling suspension therapy, imagine what would happen to you if you broke your knee. After an accident like this, you would be happy just to walk again, even after suffering through a lengthy rehabilitation process.
You have one knee (per leg obviously) and if you break it you can’t buy another one at the store, but you can buy a knee protector to prevent this from happening.
There are a lot of different types of knee protectors. There’s a version built into motorcycling suits. I own suits like that and it doesn’t work for me as I could never succeed in buying trousers where the protector is in the place I needed it to be, so I take them out. There are also versions integrated into jeans, which is obviously less suitable but it’s better than nothing. The protectors in leather or combination-trousers are, in theory, acceptable as you buy them to size so they fit you to begin with, and given the price you actually pay, they should be quality protectors.
For everyday use, however, the best form of protection for most people is external protectors. Especially, given the fact that huge numbers ride motorbikes or scooters in street clothes and people driving scooters will certainly not put on a bike-suit with integrated protectors.
There are two fundamental types of external knee protectors: hard and soft protectors. I have both, but I’m leaning towards soft protectors. Firstly, they’re much more comfortable: a good soft protector adapts to the body seamlessly and you won’t even notice you’re wearing it. Many a time I’ve actually forgotten to take it off. Given that it’s elastic, it does not come off your knee even when you crash. Secondly, it reacts differently to impact.
My problem with hard protectors is that I’m convinced that although the hard exterior distributes impact energy on the outer surface of the protector, its padding is insufficient and that the impact actually becomes harder. This may not actually be true, but what I do know is that my soft protector is more stable on my knee thanks to the double-sided, double-fastening hook and loop straps. The impact is absorbed by three layers: the rigid protector under the neoprene, as well as the special memory foam and sponge padding inside. I personally feel it’s more secure.
Still, the important thing is to actually have one. If nothing else, then just to save money as good knee protectors are already available to buy for slightly over HUF 10,000. In comparison, allow me to present a few figures on the costs of rehabilitation.
I’ve received a reliable price list on medical aids, but have not had the nerve to browse through it. Let’s say a rehab knee brace is HUF 20,000, which must be replaced every two months. The costs of taking time off work during hospital treatment depend on your salary. Whether you tip doctors for surgery, I don’t know. Whether your place of work will wait for your return I have no idea, nor do I know whether your ability to work changes or not. Other costs of the treatment, travelling to the doctor, therapist, private therapists etc. all pile up to a sizeable amount. Virtually, this comes to hundreds of thousands of forints. All because you were too stingy to get a knee protector or were too lazy to put it on. Referring back to the beginning: if you break your knee, it will never function properly again and I don’t mean that it will hurt when it’s cold, but rather that you’ll be lucky if you can bend it at all.
But a knee protector doesn’t just come in handy in case of accidents.
The knee is particularly sensitive to headwind, which can result in rheumatic problems. People say that in their old age, bikers pay the price of winter riding and it is true, the knees of those who ride in the cold do hurt. If the joint ‘catches a cold’, it leads to a permanent inflammation of the joint.
The knee protector, however, actually acts as a spoiler, diverting headwind away from the knee. Due to its neoprene material, soft knee protectors also specifically warm the knee, making any motorcycle trips in the cold infinitely more enjoyable. They also serve their purpose in the summer as one should not forget that headwinds also exist in the summertime. Never expose your joints to the effects of headwind: the jacket is responsible for protection on the upper body, and motorcycling footwear do the same for your feet. So why would you leave your knee exposed?
Health and accident protection are crucial matters. We ride for the experience and the excitement, not to collect problems. I’m hoping that I don’t actually have to tell you that you should never sit on a motorcycle without a helmet, knee protector, motorcycling jacket, gloves and appropriate footwear.
The situation is somewhat different for scooters, as they frequently travel short distances and no one would get all this gear on just to pop out to the diner at lunchtime. For them, I can wholeheartedly recommend soft Asesso knee protectors that I myself also use, as they are comfortable, can be put on and removed quickly, not to mention the fact that they look all right, you don’t feel like Robocop when you’re wearing them, and usually you can leave them on while you pop into a store.
Last but not least, it’s also worth considering that the manufacturer, Asesso Zoli, is a fanatic when it comes to quality and design, and is just as crazy as I am when it comes to such things. Although, I didn’t know him back when I bought his knee protector. Today, you can buy these at any serious motorcycling stores, but you don’t have to necessarily go for this particular brand, the important thing is to have some type of knee protector.
Just make sure it’s not your kid’s Mickey Mouse bicycle protector.