Does Old Equal Fragile

February 13, 2013

All Posts, News

A story about old bikers and the severity of their injuries in motorcycle crashes started infecting the national newzsphere about a week ago. The New York Times ran the story yesterday under the headline “Older Bikers More Injury-Prone.” Today’s Los Angeles Times ran this canned news on page A9 and titled it “Accidents harder on motorcyclists as they get older.” If the story hasn’t run in your local newspaper it will soon.

The scholarly monograph on which all these newspaper accounts are based appeared online in the journal Injury Prevention February 6. It has not yet been published. It may be important to you because this international journal is read by policy makers in multiple governments. It is also important because it is already shaping public opinion about old bikers.

One conclusion of the article is “The increased number of older adults riding motorcycles should put further focus on risk of injury to this population.” Statements like that usually mean more nanny state laws are imminent.

The Scholarly Article

The Injury Prevention article is titled “Older bikers three times as likely to be seriously injured in crashes as younger peers.” It was written by a Brown University graduate student named Tracy L. Jackson (photo above). Jackson based her research on data supplied by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program – a surveillance apparatus about which most readers are just now learning.

Jackson looked at “around 1.5 million motor bike crashes involving adults aged 20 and above (that) required treatment in US emergency care departments. Men made up the majority (85 percent) of these incidents.” The study is an entirely statistical exercise uncolored by insight. As her use of the quaint term “motor bike” indicates, Jackson doesn’t know the difference between a Harley, a Vespa and a Ninja let alone the demographics of the Harley boom that peaked in about 2007.

But nobody who reports on this will read the complete study anyway.  The complete article costs $30 and everything worth quoting is already in the press release. Here are some of the statements that release contains. You’re going to be hearing them come out of politician’s mouths for years; usually in concert with a phrase like “intolerable public burden.”

The Press Release

Jackson divided injured bikers who went to emergency rooms into three age groups: 20 to 39, 40 to 59 and 60 or older. “Injury rates for all three age groups increased between 2001 and 2008, but the greatest rate of increase was among those aged 60 plus, among whom biking injuries rose 247 percent. Bikers in this age band were also three times as likely to be admitted to hospital after a crash as were those in their 20s and 30s.”

“Middle aged bikers didn’t fare too well either. They were almost twice as likely to require admission to hospital. Both older and middle aged bikers were also significantly more likely to be seriously injured than young bikers, with older bikers 2.5 times as likely to sustain serious injuries and middle aged bikers 66 percent more likely to do so. Injury severity was associated with greater rates of hospitalization, with older adults the most likely to be admitted for both serious and less severe injuries.”

“Fractures and dislocations were the most common type of injury across all age groups. But older and middle aged bikers were significantly more likely to have sustained this type of injury than younger bikers, particularly around the chest and rib cage. They were also significantly more likely to have sustained internal organ damage, with the brain the most common site. This is worrying, given that head and chest injuries are associated with the lowest rate of survival among bikers, say the authors. ‘The greater severity of injuries among older adults may be due to the physiological changes that occur as the body ages,’ write the authors, pointing to dwindling bone strength, changes in body fat distribution, and decreasing elasticity in the chest wall. Underlying illnesses may also increase the risk of complications, they suggest.”

The author does not consider obvious factors that skew results like the cost of different motorcycles and the increase of prosperity with age, differences in helmets, the frequency of injuries suffered by dirt bike riders and cruiser riders, the location of handlebars and dozens of other obvious factors.

Instant Conclusions

But shallow is as deep as most reporters are willing to go. The New York Times and Jackson both concluded “…the rising age in ridership, and the trends in hospitalization, should prompt public health officials to ‘put further focus on the risk of injury to this population.’”

The LA Times, which doesn’t understand that Harley is in a sales slump and trying hard to sell bikes to women in India, thinks, “As more older Americans take up motorcycling – or return to it after a decades-long hiatus – one thing is becoming clearer to emergency room physicians: When graying riders go down they go down hard.”

The day the press release was sent out, USA Today claimed Jackson’s study proved that timid riders are “smart to be so careful.”

Two days ago Consumer Reports urged riders to wear a “DOT-approved helmet” and “chest protection.”

So now you know. Now get out on that freeway and split some lanes.



41 Responses to “Does Old Equal Fragile”

  1. Grumbler Says:

    Summer 1973 by Drifter Jack with Grumbler

    We rode our new Triumph T140RV Bonnevilles south from Santa Cruz on Hwy 1 that Friday. And, after hitting Salinas, grabbed US-101to Atascadero.

    About 40 miles south of King City we pulled over at a rest area
    to have a “smoke break.” As we were checking our drive chains and sprockets, a lone Harley rider rumbled in and parked next to us in the lot and we kinda admired it since it was a full dressed 62-64 Duo Glide Panhead with clearing lights if my memory serves me.

    The mysterious helmeted, full dressed leathered Harley rider killed the motor, still sitting in the saddle seat, took off his helmet. I was shocked that the guy was ancient!

    We had short chat, he came from Ben Lomond which it was a stone throw from Santa Cruz. His plans were that he was headed for Mexico then back home. He rode non stop from his home to this rest area via the San Jose route and needed to take a leak bad. So, off he went. That pushing 175 miles!

    We made our pit stop almost every 90-100 miles. Tough old bird isn’t he…

    He was walking slowly, stretching his back, taking the kinks out his joints and then as he approached his “Hog” we can see that his inner energy was bursting out of his weathered shell.

    We would BS some more. Then he said, “Time is a wasting” and sat back on his bike.

    I just couldn’t take it any more and bluntly asked, “How old are you?” He laughed and he said “I’m 80.”

    He put his helmet on, kicked started his “Hog” and said, “Have a good day!” Slammed the shifter in first gear, he lurched forward and took off heading south…

    We were standing there in awe as he was shifting up the gears then disappeared over the freeway ramp.

  2. fuzz Says:

    Janis sang “Freedom’s just another word for nothin left to lose” She was so wrong…when they take all our freedom, then there will be nothin left to lose!!! I’m glad I’m really old cuz I won’t have to watch much longer as they steal all our freedoms!!

  3. Paladin Says:

    I’ve been on two wheels since 1965. My first bike was a knucklehead stroker (FL lower/EL upper). I also raced sidehacks for a number of years.

    I’m still ridin’ and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. At some point, I suppose the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) could jerk my license. I’m not sure, but I’ll just bet that my bike will lite right up, and run just fine, with or without the license.

    The statistics that were quoted in Ms. Jackson’s article would also apply to people that drive cars, ride bicycles, or horses.

    I wonder what kind of grade Ms. Jackson received for her powerfully insightful research paper. Hell, she probably won’t dare to fuck without wearing a helmet and chest protection.

    Long May You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  4. One Eye Says:

    “Older Bikers More Injury-Prone.”

    Wow, what an epiphany. As I’ve passed 50 I find that I could substitute the word “bikers” with guys who play hockey, guys who lift weights, guys who bowl, run, play softball, try lots of different positions trying to impress the girl half his age he picked up, pour concrete, lay ceramic floors, etc., etc. etc. No kidding Tracy, it’s called aging and I don’t care if you’re riding a bike or roto-tilling a garden, as you age you are more prone to injury. You received accolades and approbation for this revelation? Well, Tracy, I’ll say you are very good with your hands because you have a wonderful grasp of the obvious.

  5. Phuquehed Says:

    They let any fucktard write whatever seems to let them get away with not having to actually go out and get the cold hard facts themselves and in real time. Shit, I should write something about reporters being the dumbest bunch of shit-stains on the planet and that they cause poor eyesight by having people read and re-read their shit to even understand it because it was written so badly. If the reader only had to read it once, their eyes would be fine all the way to 90 years old.

    I could also write that every jagoff ‘grad student’ I’ve ever met, was still so fucking lacking in common sense that they represented the term ‘sophomore’ perfectly. The most dangerous and idiotic minds on the planet belong to sophomores in higher education. The dimrod who wrote the article about aging bikers proved it.

    Now that I have my research done and ready, who the fuck is in charge of getting me to write it up for their dumbshit rag?

  6. 626 vago Says:

    I really hate stupid people

  7. Base Says:

    Your post brought back memories of a few Grey Beards I knew & learned from throughout my life time. All good men, everyone. Sincerely appreciate that, thank you

    Here’s too the good ol’l days,,,


  8. Ronbo Says:

    AWW shit! Grumbler and Jim66, didn’t you both just have birthdays!! FUCKEN A. L O L

    Grumbler, I was trippen, You know that’s my old stomping grounds. And my only bike was a 68 trophy. loved it. gave it up when i came here in 90 and am ready for another.
    Looking forward to getting down there and Having several especialy after that great story. I remember a guy named Bob made my mouth drop when took a hit, me only being maybe 18 and he was atleast fucking FIFTY! He always said “Never be a candy ass, Always be somebody. Good times

  9. Red&Gold Says:

    Nobody said gettin’ old was for pussies…

  10. Paladin Says:

    My first bike was a Knucklehead stroker (FL lower/EL upper). I also raced sidehacks for a number of years.

    I’ve been on two wheels since 1965 and don’t have any plans to quit. I suppose at some point, the DMV (Department of Motor vehicles) could jerk my license, but I think my bike will run just fine without it.

    The statistics Ms. Jackson quotes would apply to anyone, doing anything. If a younger person trips and falls while walking, they’re likely to suffer less damage than if that same accident happeneed to an older person. So what?

    I’m sure the insurance companies will find Ms. Jackson’s research paper profoundly illuminating. They will now have yet another reason to raise their rates.

    Long May You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  11. Chesty Says:


    Well said, I may just have to borrow that!

  12. Grumbler Says:

    @Base – That was the first and last time we saw him, and he said that it was probably his last trip to Mexico. Looking back, it was pretty amazing meeting an active biker who was born around 1892! Don’t know why he supposedly took the longer San Jose route to what I *think* it was the Camp Roberts Rest Area. Memories, especially those going back 40 years, tend to be fuzzy.

    @Ronbo – 68 Trophy? I actually owned a 1968 Triumph 650 TR6R Trophy for awhile. Blue on silver with chrome parcel rack on gas tank. Longest road trip on that bike was the Visalia loop of 1-152-99-198-101-1 out of Santa Cruz. Gave it to down on his luck bud in ’78. Got it back as semi-basketcase from Mesa, AZ in ’90. Sold it to friend in CdA in ’92. Truth be told, they seem as light as bicycles these days for those of us used to heavier bikes.

    @Red&Gold – We’re only as old as we feel!

  13. Glenn S. Says:

    I wonder if they ever did a study comparing the frequency of cage-hits-bike accidents (cager at fault, as in the majority of cases) to the proliferation of cell phones and the advent of text messaging.

  14. Goldsboro Williams Says:

    @one eye and Red & Gold:

    You guys both nailed it. My guess is that the author of the “news” article is young, and that it came to her as a shock that older people don’t fare as well. She probably thinks it is an original thought that deserves a research grant.

    My current job is not hard on the young guys, but most nights I go to bed hurting and exhausted.


  15. Grumbler Says:

    I wonder whether the AARP will fight this one:
    Safety Sphere – Ultimate motorcycle airbag suit

  16. 10GUAGE Says:

    I know and ride with a righteous gray beard who rides the same pan – shovel frankenchopper he has been riding for over 45 years…carries everything he needs to do most repairs road side, can do more miles than most on Road Kings, can change his rings in a 711 parking lot in the dark before you have time to finish a gree burrito and two quarts of beer……so she can take her report and jam it UP HER ASS

  17. Sieg Says:

    There are, IMHO, two kinds of older, fragile riders.

    The first kind, and the ones I believe are responsible for both the spike in injuries as well as the increased severity of injuries, are riders who started riding relatively late in life. You know the ones, they made a few bux, decided they wanted to ride, and presto! Now, not saying anything bad about that, but someone learning to ride at 30/40/50 years old, they are learing to respond to things by TRAINING. When they get into trouble, an accident happens, they will respond as they have been TRAINED to respond. That means their brain processes the various inputs, and then sends out the body’s commands to be carried out.

    The second kind of older rider is the one who has been riding for fucking ever. He started riding in his teens, if not before, and all of his actions now are purely reflexive, instinctual, and automatic. He doesn’t have to process shit, he just reacts. He may not be as fast as he once was, but I tell ya what, his reflexes are bigtime faster than the guy who had to think about what he was trained to do.

    Guess which one gets dinged more often and which one is less likely to walk away?

    I’m 60, been riding since I built an Allstate frame with a 5 horse Briggs & Stratton when I was 12 years old, had my first hog when I was 18, and had the same E-Glide since 77. Haven’t been down in quite a while-moved out of the city-and hope to keep it that way!

    5 to 1

  18. Uesque Says:

    Well duh. Now that I’ve hit middle age, I also get hurt more on the ski slopes. It’s called getting older. I know the risk and I’m good with it.

  19. PigPen Says:

    it’s stupid as fuck. I think I was 29 or 30 when I bounced off the pavement, i think the only thing that didn’t break was my helmet. i was laid up for a while, had physical therapy, and short term disability, and i wouldn’t consider 30 old by any stretch. it all depends on how you bounce, and of course what you hit. grandpa can slip on a fucking banana peel and crack their head wide ass open. grandpa can get hit by a city bus, but if the numbers are on his side that day, might not even get a scrape.

  20. Rambler Says:

    Sieg I live in the middle of the cornfields of Illinois. When I was 16 I took a small engine repair class and cut the muffler off of a Honda Spree. That lasts 3 days before the cops told me I had to weld it back together. I hadn’t thought about that in a couple years haha. Thank you for bringing back some memories.
    With Respect,

  21. kingkong Says:

    What a completely useless article. Hell, falling down hurts more now then when I was younger. I suppose the government will start mandating training wheels over a certain age…..or try to minimize engine size next.

  22. swampy Says:

    Maybe Miss Jackson would rather get on the back of a rice rocket or a sportster with a 16 to 25 year old that just bought his first bike.

  23. JMacK Says:

    It might be a strange mix but there’s only 2 places on earth that I feel young, strong and free…one is a hockey rink, the other and more important is my bike. I’m 38. The only real pain I feel is the gut wrench when I see how much tax I pay…causes more poor health than anything…


  24. Sieg Says:

    “Maybe Miss Jackson would rather get on the back of a rice rocket or a sportster with a 16 to 25 year old that just bought his first bike.”

    Amen-that’s an endangered species right there!

    5 to 1

  25. Austin Says:

    @Sieg – you absolutely nailed it with this statement;
    “someone learning to ride at 30/40/50 years old, they are learing to respond to things by TRAINING”

    I spend a fair amount of time rebuilding broken and damaged people.
    I’ve put plates & screws in someone like that who dropped it in a cul-de-sac going 5mph.

    When I encounter a “Righteous greybeard” in surgery – he is usually having his appendix or gallbladder out.

  26. Martin 1% Says:

    Very insightful info . from Ms. Jackson , I suppose her next article will be about older firefighters being more likely too be injured then younger firefighters while fighting fires . Or older sailors more likely than younger sailors to drown when the ship is going down . WTF , Crashing sucks regardless of your age , the older you get , the longer the recovery from your injuries

  27. DocB Says:

    Lets see……. When I was a kid they said I was too young. I’m over 60 and now they say I’m too old. Why didn’t they say anything when I was just right? Hell I never listened to em any way.
    Instead of coming down on “senior citizens” why not address the problem where it lies. The moron cage drivers that have been trying to kill us for years?

  28. Samurai Says:

    Now why can’t I get a job where i get paid a shit load of money for stating the fucking obvious. Christ half our citizens are broke and can’t get jobs flipping fucking burgers to take care of their kids and this dumb bitch probably just made enough money to keep an average family going for a year because she had such a brilliant idea. fuck society pisses me off sometimes

  29. Jim666 Says:

    Theres no experience like experience.

    Ronbo I,ll be 50 next Jan.

    I started riding at 6 yrs old on a little yamaha 50 endero.
    I learned how to completly wipe that little bike out time after time,lol
    By doing so I also learned how to not wipe out,,,, sometimes,
    Ive only been w/out some kind of bike in very short periods, like most here probably safe to say We,ve ridding more miles than weve walked,lol

    Given that and the fact that a lot of men that “live the life”
    Dont live long, the gray beards just by living long enough to be gray beards have earned respect.

    Motorcycles have been in my family since 1920 when my dad,s dad bought his 1st harley, actually he traded a .22 rifle for the bike, as the story was told to me.

    Theres a saying
    there are two types of bikers,
    those that have been down
    and those that are going down.


  30. One Eye Says:

    Her next article will be titled,”Teen Pregnancies Decrease After Age 19.”

  31. madman Says:

    well i probably dont have the experience most of you have i’m 48 and i went down last summer i was 20 feet from a cager on my side of the road sitten in his driveway and the fuckin idiot pulls out in my lane,i locked her up but i new i was gonna hit him,sure enuff hit the front fender over the engine hood i went hit the pavement on the other side,but i got up off the road without help and nothing more then a dislocated shoulder…at 30 miles an i weigh 300 lbs,i’m not braggin or complaining ,just sayin…if you can walk away its a good day

  32. uncle don Says:

    Ok Fellers. I turned 70 in Janurary and I still ride every day. Been doing it since I got out of the service in ’65 mostly. Up here their aint much need to split lanes but when I go to L.A. or any where I need to I don’t hesitate. I use to be good but now I guess I’m careful. As far as the young lady that wrote this bullshit goes I believe I could ride my bike from here to San Diego nonstop and still have enuff left over to eat her pussy tell she squeels like a pig then fuck her till she farts like a cow.


    uncle don

  33. Jim666 Says:

    uncle don Says:
    February 15th, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Ok Fellers. I turned 70 in Janurary

    I believe I could ride my bike from here to San Diego nonstop and still have enuff left over to eat her pussy tell she squeels like a pig then fuck her till she farts like a cow.

    See thats Respect,

    lmao thnx Uncle Don

  34. Tim Says:

    WTFFFFF!!!!! I can see it now, every state and county poiltian with BIG dollar bill signs in their eyeballs, with their new older bike rider agenda, they will come up with, are you 50 years or older? do you have any health problems? do you have false theeth? how are your eye’s? do you have any eye’s? have you broken any bones,are you missing any bones? can you walk? do you eat meat?are you married? well if yes to all these questions, we are gonna make $$$$$$$$$$$$$ off of you if you want an endorsement to ride a motorcycle, you have to go thru a state approved rider program,for the elderly, and get a doctors note proveing your healthy enough to ride a motorcycle, with one eye and a set of false theeth, with a double dose of viagra,and 20 hot looking nude babes on bikes in front of your Bike,at the speed of 35mph,and if you dont pass any of these tests with 89.9% you can have a hearing , thats if you pass the hearing test,and re apply at the cost of $$350.59 cents,what in the hell are they gonna come up with next???

  35. Paladin Says:


    With all due respect, I think you just gave the politicians the F.A.R.T. (Fundamental Aging Riders Test) program outline they may have been looking for.

    Long May You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  36. Sieg Says:

    Uncle Don, I’m not all that damn far behind ya! You ever make it out of the sunbelt, you got a place to crash and a secure garage.

    With respect.


    5 to 1

  37. uncle don Says:

    Seig, and if you ever make it to far norcal I’ll be happy to do the same.

    Much respect

    uncle don

  38. Cap'n Bill Says:

    Thanks for all the insight to my twilight years. I’m 56 & the cold seems a lot colder now. If I couldn’t ride I may as well be locked up somewhere. As for the girl, uncle don hit it right on the head!

  39. Mike Says:

    Did the report say anything about the increase of distracted texting younger drivers?

    Thanks, Uncle Don for the chuckle! Thanks, Rebel.

  40. El Juano Says:

    When “Government” tells the populous they’re looking into gun control, the NRA and the USSA and a whole bunch of other groups get together and protest and write letters and e-mails and testify before Congressional committees and scream that no one will take their rights away.

    When “Government” tells the populous they’re looking into biker control,
    EVERYONE gets together to tell them it’s about time the bikers lose their rights!


  41. Big Rig Says:

    Frailty is relative. The oldest men I know far outweigh the hardness of the younger crowd. Older bikers may be more prone to physical injury, but they’re far more likely to keep riding as long as they’re still breathing.

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