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…

20 things I've learned about motorcycling

Aliona and me
Today marks exactly six months since Aliona came into my life. That's not all that much time in the grand scheme of things, but she is, of course, my first motorcycle. So, a lot of things have happened since that exciting June day I took the train out to Cheltenham to pick her up. And from all the experiences since then, those thousands of miles travelled, I feel I've gained a certain amount of knowledge. So, here are 20 things I've learned in my first six months of motorcycle ownership:
  1. When kids wave at you, it's awesome
  2. Expect spiders to be hiding in the motorcycle cover
  3. Expect spiders to be hiding in your helmet. They will usually only reveal themselves when you are taking a curve at 80 mph.
  4. Baby wipes are your friend. They are especially useful in cleaning your helmet -- inside and out. 
  5. Cold tires really are slippery. That's not just something that people say. 
  6. Pay attention to tire pressure. And the chain. And fluid levels. And tire tread. And all the other stuff they tell you.
  7. Your hands will always have grease on them. If your hands are clean that means you've been off the bike too long.
  8. Confidence ebbs and flows. Sometimes you just have a gut bad feeling about a corner or filtering opportunity, etc. and it builds The Fear in you. It's OK to back off in these moments; if necessary, pull over, stop, turn off the engine, get off the bike and take a break. 
  9. Seriously, learn the value of taking breaks. Really. Even if you're not tired. Turn off the bike; listen to the sound of the world. 
  10. Nothing makes you feel more like a magician/god like turning your bike on the side stand. Learn how to do it. 
  11. Keep practicing all that stupid stuff they made you do in training. Yeah, you feel like a loser doing circles in a parking lot on a Sunday morning. But when you find yourself having to U-turn on a stupidly cambered road in some place where drivers have the patience of hornets, you'll be glad you did. 
  12. Getting angry at bad drivers accomplishes nothing. Expect them to do stupid things; acknowledge; move on. Punching their car only hurts your hand and the reputation of all other riders. 
  13. The overwhelming majority of drivers are not that bad. For every crappy driver you encounter think of the thousands upon thousands that you pass without incident. Often, a friendly wave or nod will pull drivers out of their little zone and they will suddenly become courteous.  
  14. Check the weather of the place you're going. Just because it's not raining where you started out doesn't mean it won't be pissing rain in the place you end up. 
  15. Expect it to rain. Because it will. Even if you checked. The simple act of getting on a bike is a taunt at God, saying: "I dare you, Almighty Universe Creator, to make me wet and miserable." And he will almost always take you up on that challenge. 
  16. Get used to chatting with old guys. Bees are to pollen as old men are to motorcycles. If you ride, you are effectively communicating to every old man within sight that you really want him to come over and tell you every single motorcycle-related experience he can think of. 
  17. You will drop your bike. It's like death and taxes, yo. Accept it. 
  18. Riding will make you hungry. As Sash has already pointed out, riding a motorcycle works up an appetite. Make sure you eat enough; not eating makes you stupid. And being stupid makes you crash. 
  19. Make sure you work out. Not just for the sake of contradicting the negative effects of eating too much, you should try to keep as fit as possible. Your riding will dramatically benefit from the increased strength and stamina that comes from working out regularly.
  20. Everything is an adventure. If you're like I am, you get caught up in the romanticism of great road trips, and somehow this results in your forgetting to appreciate the everyday. So, you'll want to go for a ride but think: "Nah, it's dark and I've got work in the morning." Get on the bike, you idiot. Even if it's just for a few miles.
Did I miss any? What are some of the most important lessons you've learned?

Comments

  1. I have learned that motorcycles are truly an amazing machine to possess. It gives me great content to know that I am in total control of it at great but manageable speed while managing to keep it upright in the midst of congestion on a busy freeway and also the open road. Which is why even if I didn't get to ride for a day, I am happy to open up the garage door and take a glimpse of my baby. Then I go to bed....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very well said. And congrats on 6 months.

    I like to say that a healthy dose of fear helps keep us more alert and alive. Assume all those vehicles waiting to turn left and that may or may not run red lights and stop signs are all out to kill us. Fear heightens the awareness. That is not to say we can't be confident. We can be confident in our abilities and still have that healthy dose of fear.

    Ride on.......

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a riding coach I especially love #11! Practice all the stuff you think is stupid, over and over, it could save your life. Cheers :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. 20 good points. I especially agree about the rain and the fact you will drop your bike. People who say they've never dropped a bike are probably not riding enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 20 000km in my first year on the bike... no drops yet! I still wear all my gear, because I'm pretty sure sooner or later I will miss a car doing a stupid action and BAM. :/

      In the mean time, I get used to the rear squirreling in the wet and practice my emergency braking every month.

      Little kids waving is certainly up there for awesomeness. Makes my day.

      Delete
  5. I would add one other thing. "Listen to your bike." That odd pop or clank or hiss or whine is telling you something. Sometimes it's just "slow down" and sometimes it's "We have a problem." Learning to listen is a important skill to have.

    ReplyDelete
  6. NOW I'm determined to learn to turn my bike around on my kickstand. Never heard of that. Funny the things we miss. I also need to learn to stand my bike up and check my oil when I'm alone. My oil window is very low to the ground and I don't have a center stand. So this won't be easy, given my short arms and lack of arm strength. I usually have some man help me, even if it's not Highway. As a chick you can get away with that.

    "I've always depended upon the kindness of strangers." Blanche Du'Bois

    Also, thanks for the shout out. Yes, I get fricken starving when I ride all day. The beauty is I burn a TON of calories when I ride and build strength. Best workout of my life. Wish I had known sooner.

    If I may be so bold to add something:

    21. A motorcycle rider appreciates the beauty and harmony of life in a way that few people do.

    Thanks Chris for reminding me and challenging me. I love that we are FNG's together!

    Smooches,
    Sash
    www.SashMouth.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Exactly! All that stuff, and one runner up: "No single piece of bargain gear can do everything", with motorcycle gear, you usually get what you pay for.

    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…