I like to think that crashing is a tradition as old as riding. The first poet Homer was writing about heroes falling off their ride back when democracy was still a good idea. Imagine a horse drawn chariot carrying Trojans and Spartans into battle as spears and arrows whiz by, careening off rocks and splattering their brains over the fields of Troy. Even the Egyptian boy King Tutankhamen was thought to be crushed by his chariot way back when Eagle looked at Eyeball on the walls of the pyramids.
And when the first bicycle was invented and some poor inventor’s apprentice was told to sit on the cross bar and go for a ride they must have been mortified. For a time bicycles were thought so dangerous they were illegal to ride in the city. Hell they even called them Boneshakers because they were made of solid wood and iron.
And so what happens when you add a motor to an already dangerous device? It gets twice as fun and twice as dangerous. In the 1910’s and 1920’s motorcycle racers on wooden race courses were being impaled by splinters from the track and spectators died from motorcycles launching off the top of the 45 degree banked walls earning the motordromes the nickname “Murderdromes."
T.E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia died from a motorcycle crash in 1935 even after surviving a sleepless 49 hour camel ride across the Sinai Peninsula. Bob Dylan almost ended his career in a crash driving a Triumph too fast through upstate New York hell-bent on quitting either his tour schedule or this mortal coil, and today you can watch so many dash cam videos of motorcyclists eating it on Live Leak it’ll make you question your humanity.
So when I went down a month ago and broke my collarbone I wasn’t surprised. Everybody crashes; it’s something that you just have to deal with. By getting on two wheels you are assuming that you will fall off. But a crash isn’t the end and falling off isn’t really that bad, it’s just a part of life.
I started reading about motorcycle crashes before I had even ridden my first bike, a compact V-twin Yamaha barely big enough to squeeze my 6’4” frame into. Out of morbid curiosity I wanted to hear about people’s horrible mistakes and the life altering consequences of high velocity impact. I figured if I could scare myself enough then I would either learn from their mistakes or just never ride a motorcycle and take up something safer like juggling.
But no amount of scared-straight reading could keep me from crashing. My first accident was caused by my bike stalling on a hairpin curve in fourth gear. The bike lurched halfway through the turn and I was ejected to the side and the bike nearly went off the cliff. Second time was low-sliding through a mossy water crossing. Third time was hitting loose boulders on a trail in the desert. I’ve gone down in marvelous places.
In an accident everybody wants to blame somebody else. The other driver did this or that or the road conditions were shit or something was wrong with the bike. There’s a million excuses for every incident, but you need to think about what you did wrong when you crash. Awareness of your environment could save your life. If I had better anticipated that car turning in front of me last month I wouldn’t have accelerated towards a green light, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have hit the front brake on a wet road.
Even if you don’t completely avoid the incident you at least want the best possible outcome. Low-siding versus high-siding, a broken collarbone versus a broken neck, etc. Minimizing your injuries is key but don’t let a crash get you down. After the crash you get up, you keep riding, and you change your ways. Riding a motorcycle is a beautiful thing and the freedom experienced from two wheels should not be given up for anything.