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A touch of knee. A little lightness in the bars. I stiffen. Then the front end goes.
So this is crashing a motorcycle, says a too-familiar part of my brain.
The bike deposits me at fine speed, right on my ass. I’d been leading the slower of two groups on a new BMW S1000RR, and I was happy. Also proud as all hell, because I’d taken a couple of fellas that had me by seconds all weekend in Turns 1 and 2 at the Streets of Willow Springs. And I was pushing past my limits. As the motorcycle and I part ways, hubris takes a back seat to math: The rest of the pack was on my tail. If they’re close, road rash is the least of my concerns.
This is my first big crash. A weirdly vivid thing, memorable, and before relatives and parents read any further, it was all totally fine. Aside from a savaged wallet. Because I watched the tarmac grind down the BMW’s fairing like a belt sander through a stack of hundreds. That hurt a lot more than my bruised buttocks.
The Alpinestars GP Pro suit is right in the middle of Alpinestars one-piece range. It’s what you think of when you think about motorcycle leathers. Bright colors. Some technology. Some padding. Miraculous and beautiful leather accordions that allow your knees and back to bend into the inhumane superbike tuck. Little nylon pucks that can gauge your distance from the ground or give you something to try and rub off in a canyon. All sewn together, it is many square feet of precisely-assembled 1.3mm cow’s hide that can save yours. The GP Pro is as comfortable a suit as I’ve worn and I’m totally enamored with it, even though I spend every minute inside hating it a little.
If I thought it was even half prudent to ride motorcycles stark naked I would. That’d be just delightful. Forget surviving the fall from a 200-hp superbike cornering a little too close to the limit: crashing even a slow motorbike will skin you alive. I have zero inclination to die in a puddle of my own blood. So I wear the best stuff I can get my hands on. Not even because it’s more protective, really, but because it’s more comfortable—despite the heat, squeeze, weight and inconvenience.
So I’ve been wearing motorcycle leathers for years, but I’ve never given them a proper test. That’s why I’m uncommonly attentive when I realize all my parts are intact, unlikely to break, and I’m conscious of everything happening around me.
The humming, hauling racket of fate bearing down on me, death by yowling BMW, it never materialized. Turns out I’ve crashed myself trying to escape the baying of hounds that’d already given up the chase. What an asshole. And now I’m skittering across the ground, watching the S1000RR fight its own battle with the Streets of Willow, and the Streets are winning. The hundreds are disintegrating. What’s happening to the bike is happening to me. Decelerating, turning speed to friction to heat. And somehow, I’m totally fine. Thanks to the suit.
Keep your head up, I say aloud, trying to squeeze another season out of my Arai helmet. I sit up a little, still sliding fast. My boots glance off the ground. I can support myself, just a bit, with my gloved hands. The transfer of energy through the suit is putting some serious heat on my ham, like backing up against an oven door. I try rolling over to the left a little to spread the love. The extra surface area quickly brings me to a stop, well before the bike spends the rest of its energy jumping the curb.
Adrenaline is a hell of a thing. I’m wrestling the bike up in seconds, but it’s done. Bars askew. Shifter dangling. Clutch lever bent to hell. With two laps to go, there’s no way I’m getting back in the race—and I’m pissed. So pissed that I don’t even reflect on the miracle of my race suit until I strip it off half an hour later. It’s barely fazed. I thought it’d be done for, after literally saving my ass.
The cost of the Alpinestars GP Pro is about $1,200, almost exactly the same amount as the necessary repairs to the BMW. The suit will ride again. The fiberglass fairing, tail section and levers? They all went in the bin. Totaled up, it was an expensive weekend, but nothing compared with the cost of grafting on a new butt cheek. The value of a suit that can save your hide? That can cover your ass when you’re hanging it out? It’s not a little more than a grand. It’s priceless.