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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…

Ready

I like to do things by repetition. That is the way I learn, the way I perfect things. I do them over and over and over in my own time, at my own pace. That's how I taught myself to speak Welsh, for example. I downloaded a single lesson and I spent the whole week running through it, breaking it down, saying things to myself over and over and over -- as I ran, as I drove to and from work, as I showered, as I lie in bed at night.

My pace has not always matched those of others. This is one of the reasons I struggled in school. I'd miss an assignment, or not complete one in time, then another would pop up. And another and another. I'd slip further and further behind, get frustrated and think: "Forget it. I'll talk to girls instead."

But when I get the handle of things, I do them well. That is why I have a masters degree in Welsh. But it is something I accomplished more at my own pace. In the British university system one has just a single exam or essay that determines the grade for an entire semester. It is even less stringent at the post-graduate level. So, I was able to spend months and months pushing toward a goal, always working, always doing.

When I think about it, I was the same at age 15, when I had my learner's permit. For those of you playing along outside the United States, a person can get his driver's license at age 16, but he or she is allowed to drive under the supervision of another licensed driver from the age of 15. I got my permit on my 15th birthday and insisted that my dad allow me to drive him home. Thereafter I did little else but create reasons for my parents to have to go somewhere and for me to serve as chauffeur. I started going out with a girl in part because she had a car and she let me drive her around. So, when my 16th birthday finally came along, and I was eligible to take my driver's test, I felt ready.

My third Module 2 exam is tomorrow. And I have to admit that, in my gut, I don't feel quite as ready as I'd like. I feel confident; I have all the skills; there's nothing I feel that needs to be addressed before I can safely and reliably take to the road on my own, without having some bloke shouting in my ear. But I don't quite feel ready.

I haven't had the opportunity to prepare in the way that I am most comfortable. I haven't had the chance to ride day after day after day after day, haven't had the opportunity to transform a task into an innate ability. The fact is, that's just not possible in this scenario. I have had roughly 30 hours of on-bike time, spread out over a space of almost three months. If I were in the United States, I'd feel confident taking to the road and could be pretty certain that already I am more skilled and aware than any number of "squids" sharing the road with me. And, indeed, I feel equally confident here. But I don't quite feel ready to test myself by the standards of the British bullshit machine.

What else is there to do, though, other than try? I can't roll time backward and build up a wealth of experience back in the States. I can only go forward. Even if I'm not ready.

Comments

  1. Good Luck on your Module 2 exam. Sometimes we don't feel prepared but we actually are. I'm sure you will do excellently!

    What will you be tested for on the exam?

    ReplyDelete
  2. You'll nail it this time. You know the score now.

    Good luck tomorrow!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Chris:

    We realize that the standards for riding in the UK are much higher than in the USA and also the fact that you are "challenging" the System for a full motorcycle license with little road experience where they are looking at riders who have been riding for perhaps "years". So YES, they are nitpicking and notice all the errors, large or small as they expect that you should know what you are doing.

    Even here in BC we have graduated licensing. Our final road test is an hour with a radio in your ear and a car following, giving you instructions as to where to ride, and they take you to confusing ambiguous situations where they try to trip you up and you have to make sure you are in the "dominant" lane. It's not about the mechanics of riding, but rather your riding style in traffic and also on the freeways and how forceful or submissive you are, and your confidence

    Good luck and we hope to read GOOD news tomorrow

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi bud,

    Good luck for the test, let us know how you get on.

    I felt somewhat unprepared before my test despite best efforts from instructors. My riding sucked on the way to DSA centre too but somehow I just nailed it for 40 minutes and Robert was my mother's brother.

    Cheers,
    MK

    ReplyDelete

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