Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deglove with Love

I decided to run this CityBike column from July, 2007 when I read a post on BARF underscoring the BARF concept of "ATTGATT": All The Gear, All the Time. That is, when you mount a motorcycle, dress for the worst possible crash, not for comfort or fashion.

OK, this month you need to drink a Bromo or something and sit somewhere warm and comfortable, because it’s serious gross-out time. Everything I’ve been taught as a moto-journalist tells me that I should accentuate the positive, deemphasize the negative, and chirp happily away about how the XYZ1000RR is two percent faster, 1.2 percent lighter, with .02 percent more torsional rigidity for maximum pleasure. Unfortunately, I had yet another life-changing experience lately, so I can’t really be that guy. At least not right now.

 I was bombing up I-5 on a big-ass scooter of all things, zipping in and out of traffic at 70-plus MPH when an SUV (Ha! you say. Serves you right!) pulled onto the roadway in front of a car I was behind at the moment I turned my head to change lanes. Car slows down, Gabe and scooter do not. Crunch! I hit the pavement, sliding on my ass at about 60-70, feeling my butt get warm through my trusty Aerostich.

I’ll spare you the details about the aftermath, the people I hit, and getting a squirrel’s-eye view of I-5 on a busy Memorial Day weekend Saturday. Not so fun. Even less fun was riding a disfigured scooter another 150 miles with a massive bruise and swelling covering my lower back. I shouldn’t focus on that. I was incredibly lucky, after all.

In fact, not only was I lucky, I even got to meet Mr. Lucky. Well, actually, I met Dr. Andrew Slucky, a Kaiser spine surgeon who examined the CT scans of my spine and talked to me about my injury. Slucky told me I was very lucky, and who would know more about luck, even if he puts an ‘S’ in front of it?

I was lucky because I hit the ground with a relatively large and flat area (my ass and lower back), and lucky that nobody was following me too closely when I got off. I was lucky that I had lots of smooth, flat pavement to slide to a stop on, and I was lucky I stayed relaxed so I wouldn’t start to tumble. I was also lucky that I didn’t run into anything to cause a secondary trauma, which is where Dr. Slucky says the Bad Things happen, and he’s seen plenty of Bad Things as a trauma surgeon.

Oh you bet he has. 

Take “Degloveing,” for instance. Your skin is bound to the muscle with just a thin layer of fat and whatnot, and severe friction applied to it will result in huge sheets of skin being stripped from the underlying tissue, just like a glove being pulled off. It’s one of those gruesome phenomena that happen often enough that there needs to be a name for it, like “necrophilia” or “Limbaugh.” But still...how often does it come up in conversation? Can you imagine the two EMTs at the water cooler? “Wow, Bill, you should have seen the degloveing we had last night! Wowee!” 

Photo: This is what happens to the ass of an Aerostich contacting pavement at about 65 mph. What would it do to your skin? Answer: remove it completely!

Another pleasant tidbit from Dr. Slucky was the news that some bruising can be so deep and severe that it causes dangerous infections. And we haven’t yet discussed the effects of losing huge amounts of skin to garden-variety roadrash. They are all reminders of the fact that even the toughest human body imaginable—which is Keith Richards, if you’re wondering—is basically a six-foot stack of gelatinous matter supported by a slightly sturdier  skeleton. But we’ve all known this since we first fell down and skinned our knees, haven’t we? Why am I even discussing it? 

On that 150-mile ride home on my big purple ass, I passed a lot of other motorcyclists on I-5 and the 580, enjoying the almost perfect weather. Of course, almost none of them were wearing protective gear aside from helmets. When the debate is safety, we bicker about helmets, and that mystifies me. Of the 40 or so crashes I’ve had in 20 years, I’ve only scratched my helmet a few times, and many studies (but not all) are inconclusive about the effect helmets have on reducing head injuries. Much more important to reducing injury is abrasion and shock-resistant apparel. 

Dr. Slucky told me I was lucky because I survived a 70-mph scooter crash with pretty minor injuries. I don’t think there was really that much luck involved; I just put on my Aerostich, boots, gloves and full-faced helmet thinking that this could be the day, because it could. It could be your day today, too. Are you going to be dressed for it? 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nichols Manufacturing Top-Triple Clamp Tool: You Can't Afford to Not Have One

I am a cheap-ass mo-fo, I'm not afraid to admit it. But I'm not truly  cheap. There's stuff I spend money on, but it's not the right stuff. I won't buy Johnnie Walker Red Label, for instance. Only Black will do. But when it comes to automotive tools, I have an ugly assortment of bargain-briced Kragen sockets, wrenches and other crap. 

Which works for most things, but when it comes to taking the steering-head nut off the top triple clamp of my Ducati (this is the later-model nut that is on most Ducatis built after 1999...it's lightweight aluminum with holes drilled all around the edge and requires a special tool to remove/replace) there is nothing I can improvise to remove it. My biggest, rustiest vise-grips won't fit it, and using a pair of drywall screws as leverage points for a breaker bar was successful in removing it, but not without some collateral damage. Also, there's no way to set the proper torque spec, as the screws bend. Do not, under any circumstances, let me work on your motor vehicle, no matter how smart I sound.

What to do? Ducati dealers won't sell you that special tool, and if they did it would probably be the same price as a new Ducati. I went to see Mike at SF Moto to see if he had any ideas. He did not, other than to call Desmoto Sport, who told me to call Nichols Manufacturing, which I did.

On the line with Nichols, they told me they did have a tool, for $40. $40! shrieked my internal cheapskate. I sucked it up, telling my cheap-o side that it didn't have a choice, and I would drink some scotch to make up for it. 

I was expecting a cheesy, stamped-metal made-in-China crude-but-effective thing for $40, but I was very wrong. What I got was something that is worth $40 even if you just want to drill a hole in it and wear it as a medallion. Solid billet aluminum, with stainless-steel pins and nice powder coating. "Nichols Mfg." and the phone number is even etched into the top of the tool. A very nice item.

I'll rent it to you for $10!