"All The Gear, All The Time saved my life."
Rob Keller of Bismarck, North Dakota, wears full protective gear every time he rides his motorcycle. In the summer of 2013, that choice saved his life. Keller had been on a 10-day adventure ride through the Western United States. Checking his map, he decided to return home by way of Yellowstone National Park. As he rode east toward Cody, Wyoming, he came to a mule deer migratory crossing sign on a curvy section of highway.
"Wearing all the gear all the time saved my life." explains Keller.
"It's the choice I've made, and my family appreciates it."
As an alert rider, Keller kept scanning the sides of the road for deer. As the road straightened near the bottom, where the Shoshone River crosses underneath, he turned back from checking the right side.
“A deer was right there. I could see his eyeballs,” says Keller. “All I had time to say was 'uh...'”
Keller’s BMW touring bike went down. At 60 miles per hour, he slid on the left side of his body, helmet and face shield. As he retells the story, he likes to show the damage to his helmet to point out the value of protective gear.
"I wear a full-face helmet. Even if I was wearing a half-face, I'd have no face." says Keller.
The rest of Keller’s gear — which includes clothing with built-in armor guards — took a beating as well.
“I flipped over on the right side. All of my damage on my gear was my shoulders, my elbows, my hip pads and my knee,” he remembers. “The textile just deteriorated around that. But those guards protected those vital parts.”
In the 100-degree heat that day, Keller was wearing thin, mesh gloves instead of his usual leather gloves. Instinctively trying to catch his own fall, he had extended his arms forward, resulting in deep abrasions with gravel embedded in his hands — his most painful injuries from the crash.
Following the crash, Keller spent a half-hour in a park ranger vehicle awaiting an ambulance. At the emergency room in Cody, medical personnel spent six hours using metal plates and screws to fix his ankle which was broken “in a couple places.”
Keller realizes that riders can make their own choice not to wear full protective gear. However, he saw from personal experience how it saved his life and recommends full protective gear for all riders.
Although many riders say they will just be careful instead of wearing the gear, Keller points out that as a rider it is impossible to control the unknown.
“If someone is blowing through a red light and you're not watching, you could be injured. Or you could be a fatality,” says Keller.
Speaking to other riders about his experience, he compares wearing full protective gear to other common-sense safety decisions.
“You would never not think of going out on a hazardous worksite without the necessary protective gear. You wouldn't head out in the winter with just flip-flops on,” he suggests. “Take a look at what you need to prepare. My mantra is I would never think of going out on my motorcycle without full protective gear.”
Keller feels the gear he wears saved his life. He keeps the damaged helmet and clothing from his crash as a reminder and proof that it was a good choice.
“People tell me they're glad I'm still here,” says Keller as he tells other motorcyclists, “you've got friends out there that really care about you and they want to see you around.”