Let’s make the safety pitch

by

This space has been filled more than a few times with my take on motorcycle safety gear and apparel — why it should be worn, why it could be smart business for dealers to sell the heck out of it, and why the industry as a whole should be more aggressive in promoting its use.

Yes, training is absolutely paramount, too, but protective gear is something I feel very strongly about personally, and it’s an aspect of riding that intimately involves powersports dealers. It seems to me it’s one-third of the trifecta — unit sales, service, and PG&A — that makes up much of the business relationship between a dealer and its customer.

There are tons of reasons why a rider should wear ATGATT and why it should be promoted, and we’ve heard from dealers like Bob Henig, owner of Bob’s BMW, whose store atmosphere revolves around strongly suggesting that customers wear all the kit — not because it’s legally required, but because it’s the smart thing to do.

Yes, I can sound a little preachy, but quite simply, I’m a safety geek. Motorcycle riding is inherently risky and can result in death or severe injuries, and for me it’s all about managing that risk. Suiting up each time is second nature, so much so that I feel naked if I’m not in full kit.
And then I received in the mail a package from Phil Davy at Leatt USA (see our “Five Questions” interview with Davy on pg. 12). Inside the box was Leatt’s new STX Road neck brace, the street-rider version of the company’s successful lineup of neck braces developed and built for off-road riders.

With some interest, I’ve watched as neck braces have become a fairly common part of motocross and off-road racing and riding. (An interesting phenomenon yes, but remember the days before knee braces became the norm?) But I never made the connection to the street until Leatt announced the STX at Dealer Expo.

Upon inspecting the STX I was struck by just how much it looked like safety gear. The armor in a riding jacket is pretty well-hidden, Kevlar jeans are mostly discreet and helmets are just helmets. But this, it looked absolutely orthopedic and a bit awkward. In adjusting the STX for fitment, I was concerned it would be bulky and strange to wear.

I was wrong. After it’s dialed in and properly fitted, the STX just kind of disappears, and can barely be felt while being worn. In fact, there’s almost a comforting feel to having it snugged up against me. It quickly has become a standard part of my riding gear, even for spins around town.
Although it’s comfortable, the Leatt makes me hyper-aware that I’m wearing a protective brace to guard against neck injuries in the case of a crash. Putting on the neck brace before each ride has made me even more keenly aware of protective riding gear — mainly how little of it many riders wear. It’s summertime, so you know the drill; shorts, T-shirts, tennis shoes, no helmets. In noticing all of this it has me thinking about what the industry as a whole can do to get more people suited up.

Perhaps these are wasted thoughts, that those of a mind to protect themselves will do so, while the rest won’t. But I can’t help but think it’s a good thing for our industry if there was a concerted effort to promote protective gear.

Pushing safety gear doesn’t scare people away. Indeed, Davy says that “injured, maimed and dead motorcyclists do more to chase away new customers than any safety pitch.” We all should keep this in mind.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews September 2011 issue. 

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