Every time I throw my leg over my motorcycle and go for a ride I always have to accept the fact that in the back of my mind a crash can happen, it might not be that day, it might not be even my fault, but it can happen at any given time. It was only two and a half months into my very first riding season that the inevitable happen. Great Sunday summer weather, great people, great back roads, you name it that day had it. Of course if it was that type of story I wouldn’t be posting up this blog entry. Many things went awry mid corner; I lost focus, my entry line was completely off, drifted wide towards the shoulder, panicked, saw the guard rail upcoming and just dumped everything, literally and figuratively.
The only sensations I felt was that of rolling over and over again on the pavement. The scenery changed from sky to ground back to sky and ground. By the time I had come to a stop the panic was over, but the realization of what just happened was only beginning. My friends pinned me down; worried I might have broken a bone or multiple or worse, my neck. As I laid there writhing in, not of pain, but the idea of what has happened to my motorcycle. ‘It’s under the guard rail,’ Jackie said. Once she said those words I was done.
Of course this was a few years ago and I am in my 6th season aboard a motorcycle with many thousands of miles under my belt but it rings true every start of the season. When new riders come aboard and join for group rides it is a great way for them to learn the ropes; how to conduct your behavior amongst a group while riding, hand signals, how to take corners, just everything that comes with being surrounded by a group of enthusiasts and learning from them. Learning how to ride also means learning how to deal with a crash.
A lot of the time before group rides we have ‘The Talk,’ no it isn’t about how babies are born, or if you want babies in the future you probably should listen. It’s on safety and how to avoid dangerous situations while we are out riding. One of these situations is plain and simple ‘RIDE WITHIN YOUR OWN COMFORT LEVEL.’ This can’t be stressed enough. When we approach a twisty section of road it’s evident that the faster guys will take off, ride at their own pace, while you, the new guy, should take it slow considering it’s a new rode, you’re new to your bike, you’re new to this type of riding.
Twice this has happened to me where I would finish a twisty section of road only to have back traffic catch up and tell me to go back because a bike went down. In my head of course I worry about their safety so the whole ride back to the crash site I am running through all kind of scenarios. But once I see the bike is up and the rider is good I just think to myself ‘fackkkkk not again.’ It happens more than you think and I would say Casey Stoner’s words to Valentino Rossi at the Jerez round were something like ‘I think your ambition outweighed your talent today,’ couldn’t be any truer.
No one really knows why they crash, specially the first time, but for us seasoned riders it’s a combination of things and it’s usually always the same combinations. They want to catch up, fearing they will get left behind (do not do this), leaning the bike into turns will make them corner it faster (true and false, there are way more factors into a lean of the bike in corners than just simply turning it to one side), underestimations of new roads they are on (I always go at a turtle’s pace on new roads I have never ridden, unless I know the ins and outs of every crack I refuse to go full throttle – can be very dangerous), inevitable fall to bad riding habits developed over the course of riding without taking the MSF Safety Course (I recommend this to any and all new riders – they will teach you more than the basics!)
After we pick up the pieces, bring the bike out of whatever ditch it might be, do a good once over on both rider and equipment, there is a discussion on what happened and what to do next. Hopefully both rider and bike are in one piece and the ride can continue, but sometimes we aren’t that fortunate and Triple A needs to be contacted. It’s a great lesson to learn, crashing, because everyone is going to crash (a matter of WHEN, not IF), and the hope here is that they take it in stride, learn what they did wrong, and hop back onto the saddle.
It’s a scary thought – falling of a motorcycle at speed through a corner – but to be honest with time, dedication and a thirst on wanting to be a better rider that idea becomes an afterthought. I won’t deny that six seasons later that thought never cross my mind, but by now I rely on my skills I have acquired to just drop a gear, set my entry speed, pick my line and hang on for dear life.