Today I will ask each of you a very simple question – when you go snowmobiling, why do you strap on a helmet?
Most likely the answer would be because of the risk of head injury while out riding. Maybe you haven’t given it much thought and strapping on a helmet is just what we do out of habit because it’s what we have always done when we go snowmobiling. Not because it is a law or anything like that, but because we recognize the inherent risk of being thrown from the machine or maybe from hitting your head on a tree branch, or something similar. Chances are that nearly 100% of us will wear a helmet while riding a snowmobile, close to 100% of the time. There might be the quick blast across the back yard or maybe while loading your sled onto a trailer that you choose to not wear your helmet, but that’s about it.
So let me now ask you, do you wear a Tek Vest (or similar upper body protective gear) while riding? Do you wear a jacket or pants fitted with reactive padding, such as D3O or Poron XRD? You know, reactive padding that is a soft flexible foam rubber that conforms to your shoulder, elbow, back, hip, knee, that changes its molecular structure in an impact to absorb and disperse energy across a larger surface area to minimize the impact and injury? This is basically what a Tek Vest does as well, think of it as a helmet for your upper body. Just as a helmet distributes the forces of an impact across the shell, the Tek Vest does the same for your upper body.
Now the tough question – if the logic to wear a helmet on your head is valid, then isn’t that same logic valid to also wear a Tek Vest? Of course it is. I really can’t think of any logical person that would dispute this conclusion. So it begs to be asked, why do so few of us wear a Tek Vest in comparison to wearing a helmet? Some riders complain that it is bulky, cumbersome and uncomfortable. Gee, that sounds like a helmet, yet we wear one each and every time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pitch the Tek Vest like an advertisement or anything, rather I am trying to save a life or two. Yep, I want each and every one of you to learn from my own personal experience. I just wrecked two helmets in the course of three months. Ended up in the emergency room and was transferred to a trauma center both times. In each case, the emergency room and trauma center doctors wanted to know what kind of gear I was wearing because of my (relative) lack of injury. I really didn’t think having ten broken ribs and a bruised lung was worthy of being considered being “OK”, but they did. In their eyes, I was going to survive simply because I was smart enough to be wearing a full complement of safety gear and would live to ride yet another day. Most motor vehicle accident victims that come through their doors are more like big pieces of hamburger, so they took great delight in having one smart guy come to them who actually was going to walk back out that door, at some point in time, because he had made the choice to wear the very best in protective gear. To them, carbon fiber, a flak jak and reactive padding made all the difference in the world.
As you might of guessed I was wearing a helmet in both cases, which were destroyed in both cases. One was a thermoplastic shell, one was a carbon fiber shell. In both cases, the shell was not cracked but the inner EPS Styrofoam liner was crushed and destroyed as it has done its job, absorbing the forces of the impact and distributing the energy to prevent concussion.
In both cases I was wearing Tek Vest, and in the second instance I was told very clearly that had I not been wearing it I would have been dead within a two hour period. Sobering news as you’ve laying there trying breathe with ten broken ribs. Now you might be wondering, isn’t the Tek Vest supposed to protect you from breaking ribs? In lesser accidents that is the case. In higher speed impacts with an object (like a moving deer that runs right into you) then the Tek Vest will, like a helmet, distribute the forces of the impact across a larger surface area. In this case, the forces were so great that they were distributed across all of my rib cage. Yes, I broke ten ribs and bruised a lung but I did not puncture the lung, did not rupture the aorta and did not have any internal organ injuries, which is why the medical staff considered me relatively free of injury. Relatively, as it could have been much worse. I still spent almost a whole week in the hospital after getting titanium plates installed to secure my rib cage back together – by a surgeon who was a Ski-Doo rider.
To that point, I did not have a broken shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, or anything else. To this I credit the D3O reactive padding in my KLIM gear. This reactive padding was located on my elbows, shoulders, back, hips, knees. It did its job and protected these areas from even more severe injury. My hip was the most affected and would have very likely been broken had it not been for the D3O padding in my pants.
Being a magazine editor means we get to test all of the cool new gear, but one never expects to be called to action to perform product testing of this kind. That said, I am here to tell you that you have some very good protective gear to choose from and that you should exercise your choice to purchase and wear it. If you understand the logic in wearing a helmet, then you should also wear a Tek Vest. It saved my life. Purchase and wear the very best helmet you can afford. We now have brand new technology just being released that improves upon the old-style EPS Styrofoam liners in helmets for the past several decades, I strongly encourage you to look into this new technology from KLIM. After my track record of destroying two helmets in three months in 2018, I’ll be wearing one.
Learn from my experience, accidents can and do happen. You can be riding safely and being careful and things still happen. It’s not if, but when. That means you want to be wearing the very best safety gear money can buy to better improve your chances of survival. It’s worth every bloody cent, in my humble opinion. Don’t worry, I hope to be back out on the snow this winter, but I’ll have some new gear on.
Kevin Beilke – Editor