Skip to main content

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…

Bullet points

Near St. Bride's Major, Wales –– 15 June 2013
Here's a collection of various thoughts I've had since getting a motorcycle:
  • Great googly-moogly, lane splitting is awesome. Nothing better confirms the awesomeness of owning a motorcycle like filtering through a mile-long traffic backup.
  • So, this is my life now? I am destined to always have chain grease on my hands and under my fingernails.
    • I suppose I could get some latex gloves for when I'm working on my bike. Thank goodness for the internet that I can have those sent discreetly to my house rather than having to go into a shop and explain why I need loads and loads of latex.
  • Everyone stares at you when you're on a motorcycle. Everyone. Sometimes the looks are of disdain/annoyance, sometimes the looks are of envy, sometimes the looks are of approval. But everyone looks. This must be what it's like to be a sexy lady.
  • Is it just my bad luck, or are BMW riders jerks? What's wrong with saying hello fellas? Harley riders get a bad rap, but all the dudes I've encountered have returned a nod, and if they were to roll up next to me at a motorcycle shop I suspect they would respond to my saying hello. The same cannot be said for the BMW riders I've come across.
  • Why does so much of the gear for motorcyclists have to look so stupid?
  • Riding a motorcycle really makes you thirsty.
    • I have yet to come up with a particularly good means of carrying water.
    • I want Kriega bags.
  • I wish there were a way to transport my cowboy hat (that does not involve a top box).
  • I am still nervous as hell going into bends; I have watched way too many motorcycle crash videos.
  • There is something therapeutic about washing a motorcycle. My favourite part is covering the exhausts and lower frame with GT85.
  • That whole riding with two fingers covering the brake thing? I cannot figure that out. When I try to do it, I feel terribly unsafe.

Comments

  1. Great post!

    Carrying Water: I hear Camelback systems (and work-alikes) are awesome. Personally, I just keep a bottle of water or two in my tank bag/backpack, and drink when I stop.

    BMWs: I haven't noticed snobby behavior from Beemers, but I have noticed there are differences in motorcycle culture based on geography. For example, no one here on the middle coast wears a helmet. There weren't helmet laws in Phoenix, but almost everyone there wore a lid.

    Grease and filth: yep, that's your life now. Gloves help a little, but you'll still want to invest in some Lava soap and a fingernail brush.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, I don't do that two-finger thing, though I've found it useful on the clutch lever when going from 1st to 2nd.

    As for BMW riders, it was BMW that really defined the sport-touring concept, and ever since the other brands, particularly the Jap bikes, came out with their own versions, the Beemer riders always refer to them as copy-cats. Metric cruiser riders get the same thing from Harley riders.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Agree with Lucky above about the Camelbak system. http://shop.camelbak.com/accessories/reservoirs-packs/standard-antidote/l/311

    Although I normally just through a couple of bottles of water in my cooler, put it in the top box and away I go.

    What's wrong with having a top box by the way?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not necessarily against having a top box but for the fact that:
      a) They're expensive
      b) It seems to me they'd catch the wind
      c) For all that cost and bulk they don't really hold all that much weight (When I looked at one last week I was told it would not hold more than 8 kg).
      d) I think they spoil the look of some bikes (Not all, though. Indeed, some bikes look odd without a top box).

      Delete
  4. Nice post. I'm sure all those thoughts have gone through the minds of many a rider.

    In Canada, I find it is the opposite between BMW riders and Harley Riders. BMW waves and Harley riders don't.

    As for motorcycle gear I tend to agree with you. You can either look like a leather freak who just stepped out of a dystopian future or a ultra safe fluorescent banana. I wish they made gear you could wear into an office and not have to explain. I think gloves are the worst. I have yet to find a nice pair of gloves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Personally, when I update my gear, I'm going to go for the ultra-safe leather freak Mad Maxian banana look. Because screw anyone who doesn't like it. ;)

      I like the look of most motorcycle gear. It's purpose-built. You're not supposed to stand there looking cool in it. You're supposed to ride in it.

      I've found some nice gloves in the past, but they're always a big investment. Right now I've got a pair of $40 gloves. They seemed OK in the store, but have proven themselves to be torture devices while riding. For my next pair I'm going to bite the bullet and spend whatever it takes to get the right gloves.

      Also, walking into work looking like you just came off the set of Mad Max starts a lot of conversations with people who otherwise wouldn't talk to you. But I like talking to people. And the office I rode to was exceptionally tolerant of flying freak flags (Diversity for the win!). YMMV.

      Delete
    2. You my friend have obviously never owned a pair of Watson skin gloves. es. They only set you back $35 and it makes your hands feel like they are being touched by 1000 baby angel butts.

      Delete
  5. Chris,

    I have wished for a way to carry my good black cowboy hat on this trip so badly! But I've had to settle for my crappy hat that folds. :(
    Good list! But I don't grease my own chain. I can always find a nice man for such things!
    Lastly, you think people stare at you!! Try being a chick on a bike! I feel 16 again with all the stares! :)
    Smooches,
    Sash
    Www.sashmouth.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Chris:

    Top boxes for me, are a necessity. I need a safe place to lock my helmet, put my camera (for easy access). I worry that someone is going to cut my helmet strap and steal it, then I won't be able to ride home.

    then there is the idea of having a larger footprint in front of other cars to make you more visible. We have many large pickup trucks here and if they come behind you, the top box makes you stand out more.

    I agree that most top boxes are mounted high and look funny, but when you balance it out with side cases, then it looks right

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ride review: Harley-Davidson XL 883 L (aka Sportster SuperLow)

Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like riding a tractor.
That's the criticism so consistently levied against Harley-Davidson motorcycles: that there is something agrarian to the experience. And I can now say from personal experience that all those critics are right. But I can also say those critics are leaving out a key piece of information, which is this:
TRACTORS ARE FUCKING AWESOME!!!
It's a tractor that hurtles forward with roller-coaster intensity, a tractor that goes really fast, a tractor that makes you feel like Brock Lesnar in a children's ball pit. A tractor from the Land of Bad-Ass, with which you can sow the seeds of awesomeness.
But let me back up a bit...
A few days ago, I decided to take the day off, solely for the purpose of getting a chance to ride around and finally make use of the free breakfast coupon sent to me by Thunder Road. As I was gearing up, I suddenly decided that since I was already heading west, I might as well push a few miles further and che…

Ride review: Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt

Imitation, Charles Caleb Colton famously noted, is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's true, the flattery the Harley-Davidson Iron 883 receives from Yamaha's XV950 is enough to make one blush. Put the two bikes side by side, and the inspiration for the latter is undeniable. Yamaha claims its bike has a "new neo retro Japanese look," but that's clearly just nonsense –– lorem ipsom that was used instead of "totally looks like a Harley-Davidson Iron 883."
Certainly the XV950 –– known as the Star Bolt in the United States –– isn't the first example of a Japanese OEM adhering faithfully to the styling cues of America's best-known motorcycle manufacturer. The orthodox members of the Church of Jesus Harley Latter-day Davidson write these bikes off as "wannabes," and tend to be pretty dismissive of anyone who would dare consider purchasing one. But I'm going to commit blasphemy here and tell you that the XV950 is unquestionably the …

Ride review: Triumph Bonneville

"OK," I said. "I want one." "Well, you know, maybe you should ask your wife first." "She loves Triumphs," I said. "Still, Chris. You should give it a think. Go home, discuss it with your wife, give yourself a chance to think clearly. After all, this is one of Triumph's most popular models; there's plenty of stock available."
The voice of reason in that conversation was Drew, the salesman at Bevan Motorcycles. He was doing his best to talk some sense into me after my test ride of the 2014 Triumph Bonneville. I was wild-eyed and yammering like a teenage boy who has touched boobies for the first time. This, my friends, is what the Bonneville does to you. It is an instantly rideable, instantly enjoyable, instantly lovable motorcycle that surprises you in just how good a simple motorcycle can be.

The Bonneville, of course, is a storied machine that's been around in one form or another for 55 years. It is a classic. Partially b…