As we all know, the most unfortunate aspect of our sport and hobby is that gravity and physics sometimes team up to win the battle against our two tires, and we find ourselves on the ground! Hopefully in those instances you are wearing the appropriate gear (and further, we hope it's Bison), but even if you are geared up it's always a bummer to see your expensive jacket or gloves scuffed up. Fortunately in most cases the repair and reconditioning process is simple, and you can do much of it right at home! In this article I'm going to walk you through how to evaluate your gear following a crash and get it back to 100% again.
Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/6_SR9xLi7Lk
Types of Crashes
As an expert in the industry, I am commonly approached or contacted by people with damaged gear from various companies and asked whether or not it held up well. The first thing I ask is for them to provide all the details possible: speed, angle, surface type, and whether they tumbled or slid and for how far. You've probably heard this before but it rings true: Every crash is different. With that in mind, we're going to try and narrow the focus to just a few types of crashes and explain how they can affect the integrity of your gear in different ways.
- High speed high-side
- High speed low-side
- Low speed crash
- Impact crash
High speed high-side
The granddaddy of crashes, a high speed high-side indicates the rear of the bike sliding sideways - usually in a turn - then violently hooking up and catapulting the rider several feet into the air. The rider typically lands on the back of his or her head, top of shoulder or upper back with their extremities slamming to the ground shortly thereafter. Given the violent nature of this incident and resulting torque exerted on the suit or jacket in an impact, there are multiple ways that your gear can be damaged.
The most common damage from a high-side crash will be ripped seams and general scuffs, but tears in perforated leather and (in rare cases) broken armor can result as well. Because this type of crash is primarily an impact with a slower slide, it's rare that we see holes in the hide. You're going to want to inspect all the seams at the point of impact and adjacent panels, paying close attention to the stitch holes and thread itself. Look for evidence of strain and damage from the thread pulling at the leather due to torque on impact. You'll also want to check the zippers and make sure the teeth haven't been stressed or damaged. Finally, pull any armor which saw a hard impact out of the suit or jacket and inspect it for tears and cracks.
High speed low-side
A low-side occurs when the front and/or rear tire loses traction during cornering and the rider falls directly to the ground on the arm/shoulder/hip/knee. This type of crash can subject your gear to different types of stress: torque due to the initial impact at high speed and possible tumbles and heat due to slide friction. Damage from these crashes will probably be pretty obvious in the form of hot spots, holes and missing thread.
Low speed crash
Beit a high- or low-side, low-speed crashes can be surprisingly brutal on suits and gloves. At first it doesn't make much sense - after all, higher speeds mean bigger crashes right? Yes, but higher speeds can actually allow your gear to slide along the surface without grabbing. That means after the initial impact there isn't typically a whole lot of lateral force acting on the seams and hides. Low speed impacts can actually grab and pull the leather with more torque, thereby tearing seams and hides.
Impacts are fairly simple, with lateral forces and armor crush being the primary areas for concern. Check all seams and seam holes, and remove the armor to inspect for tears and breaks. Finally, inspect the inner liner to ensure it did not tear away from the outer shell.
Repairing Your Gear
Fortunately, almost all damage can be repaired. You can even fix some of it right at home! Let's walk you through the inspection process and subsequent repairs.
Often overlooked, the seams of your suit and gloves are critical to, well... holding them together. I've seen many cases where a rider has slid and completely worn away seam threads but continues to ride in the gear because the panels are still held together internally. You must look for missing stitches and have them addressed by a professional. This is quite simple and involves getting them restitched using appropriate thread.
The most obvious damage in any crash situation will be scuffs and of course, holes. These are the things most people are concerned with as they present glaring eyesores, however more importantly any holes or thin spots in the outer shell present safety issues. They should be patched or reinforced by a professional.
In rare cases the armor in your suit or jacket can be damaged, so pull the padding out of your gear and check it out after a bad tumble. Even without crashes, interior armor can degrade and become less protective over time. We recommend inspecting your armor pads every season and making sure it isn't hardening or becoming brittle.
Zippers - even big chunky metal ones - can be damaged over time by normal use, or in a single crash incident. If a nylon (plastic) zipper pops open once, it is compromised and will likely let you down again soon (and likely at the most inopportune time such as 3rd call for your session). Damaged or weakened zippers should be replaced by a professional.
Cosmetic damage such as scuffs and scrapes can be repaired at home with a little patience and a few materials! All you'll need is some leather cleaner, leather prep, sandpaper and acrylic paint. I won't get too deep into the process in this article because I wrote a dedicated blog about it here. If you're like me and hate reading, here's the accompanying video.
Other items which can be damaged cosmetically include external protectors like shoulder, elbow and knee armor. Depending on the brand and type of protector you may be able to replace only the branded portion of the protector. For instance some of the Bison shoulder protectors feature a rubber panel with Bison logo which can be removed and replaced at home using glue. If the parts are not serviceable in this way you will need to have the entire item replaced by a professional with proper sewing equipment.
When Is Gear Unrepairable?
I've been asked more than once "Is this even worth repairing?" while looking over someone's damaged gear. The answer to that one is complicated. Like anything else in life, at some point it may not be cost-effective to repair your gear. Things you should consider when determining whether to repair or replace:
- Age of the gear. Generally speaking, the older your gear is the more prone it is to damage in a crash. Leather and stitching become less pliable and more brittle, and therefore less safe. A professional assessment can help determine if your gear is aged beyond repair but in some cases a good cleaning and conditioning can bring it back to life! Learn how to do that at home with this blog and video!
- Number of prior repairs. Over time, with enough repairs your gear may become a bit of a hodgepodge of panels. We recommend using the same repair shop for all your repairs. The repair shop will know everything they have done on the gear and tell you if they see any concerns with adding repairs to the prior work.
- Severity of the crash in question. Let's face it: one single crash can "kill" a suit, boots... especially a helmet or gloves. Replacing multiple panels can add up, and at some point you might weigh the difference between wearing repaired gear and simply replacing it. Your repair shop can help offer advice on this debate.
Hopefully this article helps you get back in the saddle safely. We see firsthand too often that the motorcycle and rider get all the attention after a crash, while the rider's gear is neglected until the last possible moment. I've seen pro riders go out for races with duct tape holding seams together and in gloves without any leather on the palms. Don't let this happen to you! Make it a habit to inspect your gear not only after every incident but also after every weekend of use.
As always, if you have any questions about how to care for your gear - beit Bison or another brand - don't hesitate to reach out to us via phone, email or on social media. This is our passion and we're here to make sure everyone stays fast while being as safe as possible.
Rob Lackey has been a motorcycle gear connoisseur for years, mostly because he crashed a lot there for a while. After spending 20 years in the automotive industry managing service departments with a focus on culture and customer service, Rob decided to combine his passion for making people happy with that of racing and "going fast while staying safe". He founded Bison Track LLC with his wife, Tosha and they now roam the country with their two youngest kids, Edith and Carter, growing The Herd and educating others about the importance of safe riding gear. Every now-and-then he still gets to race.