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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Crazy things I do: Measuring the door

Prince never has trouble parking.
He uses his sexiness to create space.
A few years ago I saw a short film produced for U.S. soldiers stationed in Britain during World War II. The short was a light-hearted look at the British "teammates" (the film used the analogy of a football team to describe Allied forces) and life on this island of rain. In it, Britons were described as "living in a sardine can" due to their affinity for building living spaces closely packed together. 

In 1940, the UK population was about 48 million. Now, it is just shy of 63 million. That's roughly double the population of Canada squeezed into a space smaller than Oregon. This is a cosy island, y'all. And what that means in practical terms is that far fewer of us have a garage or driveway in which to park a motor vehicle. This is especially true in the cities and – as in my case – areas that were built up before WWII. I live in a house built in 1895; no one was really worrying about where to put their car or motorcycle back then.

As such, the vast majority of us have to park our vehicles in the (very narrow) roads and hope they don't get hit or stolen. This is a situation that can be particularly unnerving for motorcyclists, whose mode of transport can often be physically lifted into a van by two or three strong blokes. From my fascination with bikes I've learned that if you linger too long near one that is parked in the road its owner will shortly be stepping out of a nearby house with a head full of steam.

Fortunately people here see Americans as being universally friendly, so once they hear my accent they always relax into happy conversations about their bikes and the fact that they've visited Florida (I think it may be law that in order to claim yourself as truly British you have to have visited Florida at least once).

The parking solution for many motorcyclists then is to store their bikes in the "garden" – the gated space outside a house, which Americans might call a front yard or back yard but for the fact it is generally too small to be awarded such distinction. We have such a space at my house, with a wooden door that leads out to the street.

As my motorcycle obsession was first starting to take hold I found myself measuring the width of this door with a mind to the size of bike I might could push through it. 80 centimetres. Armed with that knowledge, any time I now look at a bike, one of the first things I check in the specs is its width.

Frustratingly, this is a criteria that eliminates most cruisers, which is my favoured type of bike. That may again be a case of the universe doing things for my own good, ensuring that I will get a smaller, more manageable bike when I start out. But I can't help thinking that perhaps I should just move to a new house. One with a garage.

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