Huge impact, minor injury
We don't plan to crash test leathers but somehow, it happens every time. No two get-offs
are the same, which makes comparing suits in the aftermath a difficult task. Here at TrackdayMag.com, our method of post-traumatic stress assessment is to ask the rider what he remembers about the fall, factor in how much injury he took, look over the location of the crash and the damage to the leathers, then form an opinion about the forces that were involved and how well the suit withstood them.
Our latest sacrifice to the god of velocity is the AGV Sport Monza 1-piece leather suit. We reviewed the Monza on-track last summer and now it's been tested a good bit harder. We've binned AGV Sport products before. In fact, our Laguna test suit was tossed not once but twice, landing on the same arm, hip, knee and butt cheek both times. That doubly-abused Laguna has since been replaced by an identical garment, which should tell you what we think of AGV Sport quality. By comparison though, those two get-offs in the Laguna were nothing compared to what we had in store for the Monza.
While riding at Road America on the first weekend of May, TrackdayMag.com associate Lee Dean had one of the biggest impacts we've seen in quite a while. In fact, this one may have registered on the Richter Scale as a medium-sized Wisconsin earth tremor. Approaching Road A's Turn Fourteen at approximately 70 mph, Dean was in the process of braking, downshifting and sliding his six-foot, four-inches and 260 lbs of Law Enforcement Officer muscle off the inside of his GSXR when he inadvertently snagged the shifter with his size 14 boot and selected first gear. The bike instantly slammed Officer Dean down onto his outstretched knee, pile-driving his entire upper body into it. Imagine having your heel pressed against your buttock as your knee is driven into your chest and you'll get the picture.
Lee slid off the track, stood up and limped out of the immediate impact zone. He felt a stinging sensation in his right leg but was otherwise OK. Aside from a breach in the accordion leather flex panel above the right knee, Dean's AGV Sport Monza appeared to be muddy but intact. Then those pesky EMTs showed up and began poking and prodding him. In an instant, they got way more serious and helped him onto a gurney. Lee slid out of his suit, revealing a mass of exposed meat, fatty tissue and tendon. Imagine a National Geographic special showing scenes of whales being skinned on the deck of a Russian trawler and you'll have a pretty good mental image of Dean's injury. (Pictures exist, but that's not the sort of content we choose to run.) Our man was headed to the hospital, leaving us in the paddock to collect and load his mashed motorcycle. We looked long and hard for a sharp edge that would have been capable of causing such a horrible wound but were unable to determine what had bitten our friend.
Post-surgery, the doctor was able to explain what had happened. In the initial impact, Lee had simply hit the track hard enough to burst his skin, just like you might see happen as you cook sausages on the grill. This wallop had popped the Monza's leather, its inner liner, the under-suit that Dean had been wearing and finally, his flesh. Here's the kicker. That massive slam had been absorbed to the extent that the burst skin was Lee's only injury! His bones, tendons and muscles were totally undamaged. All the doctor had to do was pull the skin back into place and rejoin it with staples, then immobilize the leg with a brace. The damage turned out to be far less severe than it had initially seemed. Beyond our wildest hopes, we were able to take Lee home that afternoon.
Unless you insert a fully-instrumented crash test dummy into a set of leathers and then use an air cannon to launch it into solid objects, you'll never be able to tell for sure what kind of forces it takes to destroy a given set of leathers. In the end, it's all about how much confidence you feel in your suit after it has given its life for you. Tester Lee Dean will be back in the game four weeks from now, rather than the four months or more that it might have taken if the AGV Sport Monza suit that he was wearing hadn't had such good armor. Further, even though the impact of Lee's crash was enough to blow apart the leather material of the suit, not one stitch of AGV Sport's Armageddon-proof seam work (see Laguna article for full details) came adrift.
Trust. You can't buy it. As a man who wears body armor to his day job, this policeman understands the life-or-death importance of good gear. The bottom line is that even as he heals, the ever-enthusiastic Officer Dean has put in his order for another AGV Sport suit. Enough said.