Three weeks after surgery, a ride up Angeles Crest

Dailies, Import -

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On Saturday, September 29, I was knocked out cold, had the old metal pulled out of my left arm and much stronger, more comprehensive titanium installed, repairing “an acute fracture of the mid radial shaft.” That was the least painful in a list of injuries that also include a bruised tailbone, two fractured ribs and some significant road rash on my ass and knee. This Saturday, I zipped up my Roadcrafter, hopped on a Moto Guzzi and headed out for the best road in Southern California.

Healing Fast

I don’t really have time to be injured right now. We’re in the midst of launching a new company, shooting season two of the show and I just moved into a new house and have a list of DIY projects that need doing taking up the entire front of the fridge. I need to be going to meetings, moving bikes around, having adventures while a camera’s pointed at me, wielding power tools and just generally makings stuff happen. In short, there’s no time to lay around feeling sorry for myself.

I’ve also spent the last year and a half of my life learning how to eat well and exercise properly. At 31, just being a naturally skinny guy isn’t enough anymore and a lifestyle that was mostly active a decade ago is now mostly in front of a computer.

Being motivated combined with being in good shape seems to equal quick healing. Saw the doctor yesterday for a checkup and to get my stitches out and even he agreed, “Damn, you’re healing fast!”

Told him I was lifting (light) weights and doing my own PT and he just told me to keep doing whatever it is I was doing since it was clearly working. Can’t tell you how great it is not being in a cast this time.

But healed enough to ride?

Jamie came by on Friday after shooting an episode with Miguel Galluzzi and had a V7 with him. Feeling pretty confident after three days back in the gym, I asked him to leave it with me to see if I could manage a little ride on it. Nik, the cameraman, looked green as he climbed on the back of a Speed Triple R with Jamie. We half joked about starting a video log series in which we documented our emotions a la Blair Witch while riding on the back with Jamie. It’d be a mixture of terror, man tears, little girl screams and the sheer elation of realizing you’re still alive when you’ve arrived some place. I’m not ready to get on the back with him again yet.

The status report on my healing is that the arm is pretty much A OK. The doc keeps reminding me it is actually broken, but it’s not swollen, the bruising has gone mostly away, I have full articulation of my wrist and I can just about straighten the thing out fully. My hand’s a little weak from an impact it took, but there’s not real damage there, so no big deal. Knee’s almost healed, all the road rash has disappeared from my ass, but the tailbone’s still pretty sore and my ribs can still hurt sometimes and still limit my movement. All in all, not bad. Figured I’d hop on the bike and see how it went.

The Bike

Ridden a Moto Guzzi V7? It’s much more than just an Italian Bonneville. To start, it’s 100lbs lighter than the Triumph. 394lbs (wet) versus 495lbs (wet). That makes all the difference in the world, where the Bonnie feels heavy and a bit awkward at low speed as a result, the Guzzi is light and natural. It’s also incredibly, impossibly slim. Combine that with the low seat and this thing’s about as hard to ride as a scooter. The flat bars sit at a neutral height, high enough to keep weight off my injured arm, but low enough to still give good feedback and control.

48bhp may sound a little unimpressive, but along with the 44lb/ft, it’s spread over a broad power band, making for easy, deceptively fast progress. Galluzzi likes to say it’s not meant to be sporty, it’s not meant to be fast, it’s just meant to be a nice, evocative bike to ride around on. Perfect, then, for a guy just hoping he can get back on something and ride.

So, on with the race boots, the Roadcrafter, the armored gauntlets and the $800 full-face, it’s time to toodle about like a n00b.

Angeles Crest in the Rain

It didn’t really occur to me that it might be rainy up in the mountains. I mean there were black clouds hovering over them and, as I got closer, the thermometer was dropping from the mid 70s to the high 50s. But I was mostly concentrating on my riding, the road and traffic, gripping the bars with white knuckles and focusing ahead with wide eyes. Any time it’s driven home that the world is a place that can hurt you, it takes a little while to adapt back into feeling the risks we take every day are simply natural.

So all of a sudden, there I was climbing out of the ‘burbs and into the mountains and it was raining. That’s one of many times it’s nice to have the Roadcrafter. I just pulled over, zipped close the pit vents, velcro’d up the neck and carried on warm and dry.


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I feel like car drivers always have trouble on this road and its endless corners. It must be annoying not to be able to text once they lose their cell phone signal and having to actually apply brain cells to steering around corners will be new and confusing. Doubly so in the wet. Of course, the rain also keeps 99 percent of motorcycle riders away. Typically this place is a crowded mess on weekends, but today I have it largely to myself. Did see one Street Triple that’d eaten shit in a corner, getting a ride back down on a tow truck, but that wasn’t until I reached Newcomb’s.

Up the western side of the mountains, through fog so dense I could barely see the edge of the road, then, over the peak and the sun came out, revealing totally dry, totally clear roads the rest of the way. The upside of getting a little wet was that it made me forget I was supposed to be timid and hurt and just get on with riding. By the time I got to Newcomb’s I actually looked like a motorcycle rider again. Well, one with a limp.

A burger, a hot cup of coffee and a nice, warm break, then it was time to head back down the hill to Hollywood. A black 1198 SP was leaving at the same time as me. Its rider provided incompetent enough that I was able to use my 48bhp to hang with him the whole way down and LA traffic wasn’t half as terrifying on the way back as it was on the way there. It feels good to be back.

  • wwalkersd

    It’s good to see you’re on two wheels again, Wes! Watch out for those oily spots.

  • NewOldSchool

    Next time you’re at Newcomb’s get the Tuna Melt. mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Downside is you’re encased in tuna breath on the ride home. :/

  • 10/10ths

    Bravo!

  • Mu

    Nice to see…that HFL is turning into a personal blog. More, like, magazine. Less, like, me-party.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Right now the vast majority of our resources are devoted to things other than content. In the very near future, you’ll be seeing that change utterly and there’ll be a massive expansion in our content, including many new contributors and many more contributions from existing ones. For the time being, yeah, you have to put up with me. Thanks for bearing with us.

      • valen

        A lot of us enjoy the bloggier posts. Excited for more journalistic content, but would still like to see some of this stuff.

        • Ed Bisdee

          +1 I’m not that bothered by the valve clearances in the the latest yamazuki engine, but i love the articles about riding in general.

          HfL was what tipped the scales on me learning to riding a bike based on great descriptions of how it actually feels to ride, and the bloggier articles are what brings that across to me most. More please!

          • isambard

            +1 I hold Wes personally responsible for my broken collar bone but stuff like this is what I like best about HfL.

          • Tony T.

            100% this.

      • http://www.BrewSmith.com.au dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

        As long as you stop posting pictures of your ass, I don’t mind the personal touch at all.

        • Tom

          This x 1000.

  • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D [EX500]

    Nice to see you back, and glad the post-get-off timidness only lasted one ride! The V7 looks great in those colors; I thought it was a vintage 70s original, at first.

    Its funny you mention cars having trouble on curvy roads. Drove the SO’s Jetta on route 1 the other day, first time doing the twisty bits not on a bike. The crappy autobox had me in 6th gear the whole damn time, riding the brakes hard down hill, chugging uphill, and terminally understeering; it was more a hassle than fun. Finally forced the thing into 3rd and just left it there the whole time. Not a fun experience, reminded me why even the tamest bike is better than 90% of cars.

    • pplassm

      Get a car with a clutch!

  • Adrian_B

    Good stuff! Glad you are back on two wheels.

  • DoctorNine

    Alive with white knuckles, and a healthy fear of rain on dirty mountain asphalt. The cold fog and drizzle contrasts with a warm thrumming from the MG V7. Does it get better than that?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Not really, there’s a reason I do this.

  • johnzero

    “By the time I got to Newcomb’s I actually looked like a motorcycle rider again. Well, one with a limp.”

    I did consulting work at Harley for eight years. Most of those guys limped.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I said “motorcycle.”

      • http://www.BrewSmith.com.au dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

        Hah!

      • contender

        This is funny. Glad you’re back.

  • The Blue Rider

    V7 = same weight as my Ninjette, double the horsepower, ten times the style. I wish I had money for more bikes; I have a persistent case of Guzzi Want.

  • Tommy

    Back on the horse. Good to hear.

  • robotribe

    Damn, bro. Props to giving the finger to “fear” in such short manner. Good on ya.

  • Jim

    A good start to the road back. I like the Guzzi description – a nice evocative bike to ride around on. That feeling seems to get lost in the marketing dept.

  • equ

    Not to knock them (I love guzzi’s as a previous v7 cafe owner) but I thought sub-400 lbs was the dry weight, and wet was in the 430′s somewhere. Still much better than the modern bonnie but not quite insanely light either.

  • Eric

    keep it up WES! I am figuring out how training works for like the last 27 years of my life, as part of life, but there’s always something new to learn ;-)lately for me basically on efficiency.
    this is a whole open question I would like to investigate into: the proper training for the rider.
    I wrote a letter to the people at the Honda security institute in Barcelona about the subject (after taking their course) but have not really got answered back. Like: functional training for average rider dude.

    as a dancer I would have to spend energy on sharpening spacial awareness, balance, bodyperception, the gaze etc.
    this article gives me a taste of how it will be riding again, but i have to be patient for a couple more weeks…some careful wrenching will enhance the rehab.
    am curious what HFL is transforming into!

    • Scott-jay
    • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

      The proper training for a rider? Well every single motorcycle rider deals with the same issues and problems when cornering, whether your name is Rossi, Eric, or Wes.

      The basic issues are common to all riders, so you need to find a training organization that provides quality instruction. I cannot recommend CSS highly enough. Then it is up to the rider to be a good student and put in the effort to continue practicing and improving their skills (if they want to become a better rider).

      The key point there is that just because you went for a 2 hour cruise with your buddies, does not mean you did 2 hours of practice. Practice means focused concentration & effort.

      • Eric

        I agree on that. Also, my experience in the Honda safety institute was very good, they provided sound information and had us apply them on a streetcourse, a dirt track and on Trial bikes. I also believe there is nothing like getting down focused practice hours on the bike. I usually do this on a big abandoned parking space when coming from work, only 20 min but almost every day. My question points to the physical awareness of the body; say the bike directed by the body, it requires a sharpness of all senses. Like a musician with the instrument.
        Wen i last crashed (the first one i got injured in), i guess i was tired and should not have tried the light jump with my 86 Tenere, even though i had done that dozends of times.I even remember that I felt not as closely in contact to the bike as usual, on the trails that lead me to the mudpit where i crashed, also i was somehow going faster for similar reasons.
        So my inquiry i guess would be: what are you guys doing to be sharp when you ride, and with a a responsive body? Anybody training apart from riding? Lifting weights? Walking the tightrope? Any kind of primal workout?
        What are the cracks and pros doing or where to look it up?
        And, next step, how to condense it into something doable and practical for the more average rider (whatever that means)
        Ah, whats the CSS, cant seem to find it…

  • muckluck

    Is that model V7 the “new” small block or does that come in the 2013 models?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      This is a 2012, so not the new motor yet.

    • Campisi

      Judging from the spark plug leads, it’s the old model.

  • carbon

    This is a really nice piece. But stop falling down, man! One of these times you’re gonna lose something irreplaceable and unfixable. And then we might lose a unique voice in the motorcycle world. Keep on keeping on.

  • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

    Feels good to get back in the saddle, congratulations Wes!

  • Fizzy Fox

    Way to get “back on the horse”, man. That’s great ride, rain or shine.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Cool stuff. Great to hear that you’re healing fast and have had your first ride back.

  • yoooks

    This is a nice article. I wish the images from the old HFL site worked.