A Hard Lesson: What Crashing Taught MeA few weeks ago, I experienced an unfortunate and not very epic accident on a motorcycle: I was in a safety...
A few weeks ago, I experienced an unfortunate and not very epic accident on a motorcycle: I was in a safety class, washed out the front end of my bike, and broke my foot despite wearing full gear. I wrote it about it the other week. This incident has meant that I'm not doing too much this summer. I've had plenty of time to think about what happened.
I believe that very few accidents are actually accidents as most of them are completely preventable. It's pretty obvious what I needed to do in retrospect— being a little lighter on the brakes—would've been great. However, I now find my mind drifts to other issues about this incident. I've found myself questioning the nature of accidents, the usefulness of gear, my own passion to ride, and what makes me comfortable on a motorcycle. I hope that you can find these thoughts useful if you ever question your own riding.
First Off, How's The Bike?
In my last article, several people asked in the comment section how my bike is, like any true motorcyclists would. My Street Triple is completely fine. At such a slow speed and coming to a stop, it was more like the bike fell over as opposed to crashed. It didn't slide, it just landed right on top of my foot. Luckily for my bike, I think my crushed foot helped protect it even more. There's a little scuff on the handlebar end, the foot peg, and the mirror. Otherwise, the bike is fine.
I'd say the lack of damage is due to the awesome bike protection I put on it. This is the first bike I've owned that I bothered to put crash protection on. I used an SW Motech Crash Bar and a R&G Rear Axle Slider. I also just bought some bar end sliders, but I didn't take a minute to put them on before the class (argh). Previously, I've beaten the snot out of my Ninja 250, so I decided to make more of an effort towards keeping my pretty bike looking pretty.
The lack of damage to my bike has made me an SW Motech customer for life. The product did exactly what it was supposed to and took all the damage. Many people think a crash bar is going to look clunky, but you can see in the photo below that my crash protection does not really look that obvious.
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Can you spot the crash bar and rear slider?
Triumph parts are notoriously not cheap. The crash protection was similarly not the cheapest, but it was cheaper than replacing many of the Triumph parts. I will be putting protection on all of my bikes going forward. Now, let's discuss what crashing actually taught me ...
You Can Get Hurt Pretty Easily
I dropped my bike in a parking lot at a slow speed in a safety class in full gear, and I broke my foot in multiple places. When this first happened, I spent a lot of time whining about how unfair this was. I always figured that if I got hurt, I would be doing something to truly deserve it—like low-siding on the track or something. Yet, at the end of the day, I experienced the reality of riding. Motorcycles are heavy powerful machines, and even a simple drop at parking lot speeds in full gear can cause serious damage.
These are my new wheels for the summer - it's actually kinda fun
I would hope that others would keep this in mind when they ride. Even if you've never dropped your bike, it's always a possibility and you should be okay that you might get hurt. You can do a lot of things to mitigate your risk, but you can still get hurt. My Dad always told me, "The day you get 100% comfortable riding a motorcycle is the day you shouldn't ride it." If you aren't willing to respect the machine and acknowledge there is serious risk even at low speeds in a parking lot, then you might want to reconsider riding.
All The Gear All The Time
It's ironic, but I was just arguing with my younger cousin about wearing gear the day before my fall happened. I was preaching to him from my high soapbox that street shoes would not protect him if he were to dump his bike. Yet one day later, I broke my foot despite this. There have been plenty of times I've heard non-gear believers say, "It's cute that you think that will protect you a in crash"—so now what do I think?
In all honesty, I think I'm lucky that I didn't end up with worse damage to my foot. Think about it: A 420 pound bike fell on a body part that probably weighs about 2.5 pounds. I'm thankful that my ankle didn't roll and the rest of my foot didn't shatter. My Gaerne Black Rose boot absolutely saved my ankle from rolling. Would a different boot held up better? I have compared the Black Rose boots to my Sidi Vertigo Leis, which offer more protection in the ankle and toes. In my particular fall, I don't think it would've mattered. My entire mid-foot shattered, and both boots only have leather over that area of the foot. With the way that my bike struck my foot, I'm certain that I would've had significant damage in either boot.
Besides my foot, the rest of my body was fine. The only other damage I had was one epic bruise on my butt (sorry, no photos to share there). The reason the rest of my body was fine was because I was geared up in my Joe Rocket jacket and pants. While Joe Rocket is not the highest quality of gear that one can buy, it's definitely good enough to hold up in a parking lot fall. My gear has armor in the knees, hips, elbows, and shoulder. The textile definitely holds up better than blue jeans, and I'm pretty confident that a similar fall in blue jeans would've meant a sore knee and perhaps some bleeding. My textile gear was fine after the fall, and I will continue to wear it when I take parking lot classes. After this experience, I don't think I could ever wear jeans to even a parking lot class. Accidents can happen at any time, and good gear usually means you'll get up and walk away.
Always geared up
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The Risk is Still Worth it
I've fallen off bikes before, only to get right back on them without a second thought. Breaking a bone (the doctor actually rattled off nine places where I fractured something in my foot) has been a very different experience from previous falls. For one thing, the initial pain was very intense. It has been six weeks since I put any weight on my right foot. In another week and a half, I will finally get to start slowly putting weight on my foot, and I will eventually begin physical therapy. It will probably be another two months before I can walk on my own without any help.
My doctor has also reiterated that I will probably always experience a little pain in this foot to remind me of this incident. I won't be permanently crippled, but I'll probably remember this every time it rains. This type of experience gives you plenty of time to consider the risks of riding, and if riding a motorcycle is worth these risks.
first track day in the rain - a place I was thankful not to crash
The risk of riding is really different for everyone. I have talked to many people who got hurt, and they decided they were going to give up riding. Quite honestly, there is nothing wrong with that decision. You can get very hurt very easily in this hobby. If you don't like that risk and the possibilities of what can happen on a bike, then there are many other hobbies to keep your life safe and satisfied (and probably won't cost as much).
For me, time has shown that this is something I'm very passionate about. I have longed to explore all summer, and I love the connection I have with the road and my motorcycle. I want to get back on a bike as soon as possible. I see photos of my friends riding everywhere from beautiful far off destinations to the local bike night, and I'm just jealous. There's a pain in my heart that I'm not out there enjoying summer, so I've started to plan my return to riding. However, I have reconsidered the risks I'm taking with my current collection of bikes.
Comfort is Important
I've established that I still want to ride, but I have a confession: I'm pretty uneasy about getting back on my Street Triple. I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I'm going to do about this. When I dream of getting back on a bike, my thoughts go back to small motorcycles. When I do start riding again, I'm probably going to ride my Ninja 250 at first. I've even started dreaming about owning a Ninja 300 like the one I rented in Germany.
The little ninja that could … a thousand miles from home, somewhere in Canada
In a previous article, I discussed what it means to be comfortable on a motorcycle. If you're in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, you should get out of that situation. This is simple advice that applies to many scenarios. For instance, if the people you're riding with are riding too aggressively, then don't ride with them. If riding in the rain makes you uneasy, then pull over. If the thought of riding a very sexy Street Triple makes you incredibly uneasy, don't ride it. I'm going to actually take this a step further and sell the bike.
This isn't an easy decision, but there are a few reasons that I want to do this. For one thing, I can't foresee myself wanting to ride the bike in the next year—I probably won't get to ride on the street at all this year. When I do start riding, I will want to ride my Ninja 250 for awhile to get confident again. I don't want to keep my Street Triple in my garage just to be unloved and unridden.
Another reason I'd rather sell the bike is to shore up funds to buy a different bike to help build up my confidence. It's very likely that I will be healed in time to ice ride, and I've never had a great ice bike. Since I'm not going to have an epic summer of riding, I'd like to make the most out of ice riding season by getting an awesome bike to enjoy. I'm going to buy a CRF150, put awesome ice tires on it, and build up my confidence by beating the snot out of the bike in winter. When the ice season is over, I can re-evaluate what I want to do. Hopefully, I don't break anything in the process, ha!
Ice riding! Except I don't look this cool doing it
It's been difficult for me to make this decision because I feel quite a bit of social pressure to keep my Street Triple. Yet if I'm honest with myself, I'm not excited to ride it anymore since I don't feel comfortable with it. I have realized that what you are comfortable with is actually a constantly evolving thing, and so it's important to stay honest with yourself and do what is best for you at the time.
Motorcyclists will always be quick to dish out their opinions, but ultimately I'm riding because I like it. I don't ride to look cool or to get someone's approval. Eventually, I might buy another beautiful purple Street Triple, or I might buy one with ABS, or I might just stick with small bikes. All of those decisions are okay as long as I feel confident, comfortable, and excited about what I'm riding.
It's not easy saying goodbye to this one
Some of you may have never crashed before, but you may find yourself questioning some of the same things I have questioned in my journey back to a working foot. The decisions I've made might not be the same decisions another person would make, and that's okay. Understand the risks, do your best to mitigate them, and stay in your comfort zone. Most of all remember that you should be having fun riding. If you aren't, then take some time and evaluate how you can change that. Life is too short to not enjoy it.
Jen Tekawitha is a gimpy contributor to RideApart. You can follow her adventures on instragram @Jen_Tekawitha.
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