Gearing Up

by bj max

Gearing up or geared’ up is a pretty cool way of describing what we do before hoppin’ on our motorcycle and riding off into the sunset. Some of us have more gearing up to do than others and dare I say it, some of us are more responsible and safety minded when gearing up. To a few gearing up is nothing more than shorts, flip-flops and an attitude of invincibility while others take the dangers of riding two wheels more seriously. Sugar Booger and I fit the last category but, it hasn’t always been that way…

There was a time when wearing a helmet wasn’t the law of the land so I never bothered to wear one. Sugar Booger and I rode for years wearing no more protection than tee-shirts, jeans and walking shoes or in my case, cowboy boots. It never crossed our rabbit running minds that we might actually crash and possibly get skinned alive. We were young and immortal after all.

By the time the helmet laws were passed I had matured somewhat and was already wearing a half helmet and later, when I bought my first Gold Wing, a slightly used one, it came with twin color matched Helmets complete with headsets. Unlike a lot of my friends, I took to the new headgear and when I pulled my helmet on it was like a statement to any non riding peons that might be around that I was different and unlike them, I was going out and do something exciting and dangerous.

As time went by and our day trips lengthened into weekly jaunts we began to realize that we needed the proper gear if we were gonna’ continue to do this. One of our first acquisitions was rain suits. We bought ‘em at Wal-Mart and I think I paid three bucks apiece for ‘em if my memory serves me correctly. They weren’t the best rain suits out there but they were better than nothing. We hauled ‘em around for years until one day I discovered the waterproof coating had flaked off and lay in a little pile in the bottom of the saddlebag. Time for new foul weather gear and with both of us working steady we were able to buy motorcycle rain suits and they actually kept us dry.

So now we were equipped with decent helmets and rain suits. Next on the agenda, as the money became available, was boots. We looked at and tried on a lot of different brands and finally settled on a waterproof motorcycle specific boot that had ballistic Kevlar at the ankle and a thermoplastic toe box. Gearing up was getting expensive. Two pair of boots cost over four hundred bucks and there didn’t seem to be any end to the amount of equipment necessary to keep us safe on our nation’s highways.

Next on the list was a bolt out of the blue. Sugar Booger arrived home from work one day, put her hands on her hips and in no uncertain terms demanded a full face helmet. But we already have perfectly good helmets I argued and they were kinda’ like free coming with the bike and all. She gave me a stern look that let me know there would be no argument on this matter. This was strange behavior. You see Sugar Booger is very conservative, read that tight, when it comes to money and I couldn’t help but wonder what brought on her sudden zeal for such an extravagant expenditure.

She proceeded to explain. Sugar Booger manages an ENT clinic and her boss, a locally prominent ENT surgeon, also dabbles in plastic surgery and on this particular day a young girl that had been roughed up in a motorcycle accident walked into the clinic with a very nasty injury. She went down on her bike at fifty mph and her chin had been ground off as she slid down a blacktop road, an injury that most likely would have been prevented by a full face helmet. Sugar Booger has seen a lot of horrible wounds in her career and is usually deadpan cool when in their presence but because this young lady’s injury was due primarily from wearing an open face helmet, Sugar Booger took it personally. So today, we both ride in Nolan modular lids.

You would think with all the gear listed above that we would be equipped to deal with most road hazards we might encounter wouldn’t you? But, there’s one more small detail to gearing up that I haven’t mentioned and it may very well be the most important of all. It might seem insignificant to some as it did to me for years but after a visit to the dermatologist recently I realized that a little bit of sunscreen is as important to gearing up as armored boots and full face helmets.

About a year ago I had this small growth pop up on the top of my left hand. Sugar Booger kept naggin’ me to go see a dermatologist and get it checked out but I resisted and figured it would go away on its on in a few weeks. It didn’t and thankfully she continued to pester me and finally threatened to cut me out of her will if I didn’t agree to go. This drastic move motivated me to call and make an appointment.

To my horror, the Doc diagnosed the growth on my hand as a pre-cancerous lesion and not only that, he found several more that I didn’t even know about. This really shook me up but to my great relief he explained that my demise was not just round the corner and that coming to him when I did virtually eliminated any possibility of them becoming cancerous.

At this point he left the room allowing me time to contemplate what sort of torment he might be dreamin’ up just for me. I was already terrified and now I had to sit there with my imagination sifting through all the torture instruments available in a doctors office. But my worries were for naught because he returned carrying nothing more than what appeared to be a can of automotive air conditioner refrigerant. The liquid in the can was 300 degrees below zero and he zapped the lesions with a few quick squirts, freezing the growth instantly. It stung like the dickens but the payoff was worth the discomfort and the lesions vanished after a few days. Think about it, fifteen minutes with a dermatologist may have prevented me from getting skin cancer and the cost was less than a new front tire.

The Doc told me to come back and see him in six months then, after learning that I was a motorcyclist; he lectured me with a few scary facts about skin cancer and exposure to the sun. In 2009 70,000 people were diagnosed with melanomas and 8,650, one person every hour, actually died. That’s 3,360 more deaths from skin cancer than motorcycle accidents. He went on to explain that the vast majority of mutations found in melanoma are triggered by ultraviolet radiation or exposure to the sun. Those are staggering numbers; numbers that the Doc said could be virtually eliminated if people would just take a few minutes to put on a little sunscreen before venturing out. Then he showed me a few pictures of skin cancer that were very graphic in nature and designed to shock. Made a believer out of me.

Yeah I know, puttin’ on sunscreen is a pain in the butt. While you’re slathering it on your buddies are saddled up and gunning their engines, impatient to hit the road. But hey, do yourself a favor by taking a couple minutes to finish gearing up with a little sunscreen. It just might save your life and your friends, well if they’re really your friends, they’ll wait.


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