It is common knowledge that it is not if, but when you will suffer some sort of injury if you race Motocross long enough. The longer you’re racing career the more injuries you will rack up. Most aren’t serious or else there wouldn’t be anyone racing.
I was once asked to talk to a group of trauma surgeons and nurses at one of the major trauma hospitals in San Diego about the difference between off road motorcycling, specifically motocross, and street bikes. It was an eye opening experience for me. When you go to the hospital with an injury related to motorcycles the staff for the most part is instantly prejudiced against you. The reason, they are in the business of saving lives. And after witnessing so much street bike related carnage they generally don’t like motorcycles. Yes, that is a general statement. If does not cover every doctor, nurse, specialist and hospital employee. Some of whom race; we have quite a few doctors that race with REM. But, while I was explaining the difference between MX and street bikes, the difference between speeds, safety gear, the types of crashes, the difference for the most part in experience between many involved in road crashes and those who race, they were giving me a graphic picture of what they see on a daily basis. Street bike injuries are catastrophic with great regularity. For the most part a street bike crash involving speeds of 25 mph or more is considered a trauma incident. Since most motocross crashes involve speeds from 0 to 30 mph we don’t see injuries involving multiple missing limbs, massive internal injury, and the types of brain, spine, and skin injuries common to street bikes. Not that they don’t occur. Just about every time a racer is injured today it is pretty much up for everyone to see on the World Wide Web. Most street bike injuries rarely make the news. I once overheard a mother proclaim that she didn’t know that you could die from racing Motocross. Yes, you can. You can also suffer traumatic life altering trauma.
I had a great discussion with Ryan Hughes not long ago. We are both on the same page with the idea that the most important piece of safety equipment you can own is that grey mass between your ears. It is what you know, learn, experience, train, and see racing Motocross that can save you from injury more than any other item of equipment that could ever purchase. When you watch a supercross or the national are you amazed at how they can hit those huge jumps, master those rhythm sections, slam into the huge braking bumps and kickers and still maintain control while racing at pro speeds? It is because they have done those obstacles thousands of times, it is sensation training. They know how the bike will react in every situation because they have raced, practiced and studied for those very moments. Pros crash too, they get hurt, some more than others. But, when you look at the great racers of every generation for the most part they almost never got hurt. Those that did usually had some type of mental lapse due to exhaustion, miscalculation, or mechanical breakdown.
That being said, it is still important to make the investment and purchase quality safety equipment. If you feel that a particular safety product makes you safer then not only buy the best one you can, make sure you wear it. Nothing drives me crazier than to see someone spend over 7 grand on a bike, put a grand into the exhaust system, and buy a $129 helmet. Skip the exhaust if you have to but buy a good helmet. And buy a new one every year, or every time you hit your head. Or at least send it back and have it checked out if there is any question about the integrity of the helmet. If you want to know what the good helmets are watch what helmets the guys in the industry wear, especially the older guys, the magazine guys that race, the ones that get their stuff for free, and can wear whatever they want.
Be realistic, safety gear is not invincible. I’ve seen broken collar bones, broken ribs, and back injuries with racers wearing chest protectors or not. I’ve seen footpegs break shin guards, puncture racing pants, and break knee braces. I’ve seen broken sternums, broken ribs, and broken collar bones from neck protection, I’ve seen broken ankles and feet with the best most expensive boots, and I’ve seen plenty of concussions with racers wearing even the best helmets.
Just like the conversation I had with Ryan Hughes the safest thing you can do if you are going to race is know your body, your machine, and what it is going to do in every situation. Don’t twist that throttle unless you know what is going to happen when the gasoline hits the combustion chamber. This is an unsolicited plug, it is always good to take a class from someone like Ryan Hughes especially if like most of us you work all week and don’t get an opportunity to work on your racing skills except at the races. Let’s all be safe out there, life sucks when you’re injured and can’t race.