If I did one thing right the day of my crash it was staying calm. Almost immediately after going down an overwhelming sense of dread came over me. I was in an unfamiliar place, it was over 100 degrees, I had half a water bottle in my bag, my bike was on its side in a small ditch and my cell phone had absolutely no service. Something in my brain clicked and I went into what I can only describe as survival mode, or as Wes called it in his article 10 Things I’ve Learned From 10 Motorcycle Crashes, The 15 Minute Superman. The only thought running through my mind was that I had to get down the canyon and onto PCH. I summoned the strength to get my bike upright, out of the ditch and back onto the asphalt. Once this task was complete I assessed the damage to my bike and my body. Luckily I was fine, nothing broken, nothing bleeding. I couldn’t say the same for my bike. The clutch lever was broken clean off except for about an inch, my shift lever was broken in half and when my bars were at 12 o’clock my front wheel pointed towards 1:30. I checked my phone one more time, made sure there were no fuel or oil leaks and then started my bike up. Luckily it came to life almost immediately, I put the bike in gear with my hand and headed down the canyon in first at a snails pace.
I got lucky in the sense that my bike was still operational and I was not hurt. Obviously this is not always the case with accidents and we must use our best judgment in those situations. If you are injured or your bike is not safe to operate, do not try to ride away from the accident. Walk away and leave the bike where it is—if you are able to walk, that is.
Lesson Learned: When it comes down to it we are all capable of handling high-pressure situations. Just remember to stay calm and the clear thoughts will usually follow.
The Take Away:
“Learning from your first wreck can be really liberating, and provide some catharsis if you've had a particularly bad one,” says Braden. “Better to go over every little nuance you remember to fully understand what happened rather than staying in confusion and never really improving your skill.”
Before my first crash, if you asked me about preparation, trusting your gut, knowing your limits and staying calm, I would have been able to give you all the right answers, but it took crashing my motorcycle for the first time for me to internalize those lessons.
Admittedly I got very lucky, I escaped with nothing more than a damaged motorcycle and a bruised ego. Looking back my ego needed some bruising. Not to say I was an overconfident maniac terrorizing the streets of Los Angeles but rather I was a newer rider who needed to be brought back down to earth and reminded that riding a motorcycle is a dangerous, skill-based activity. And skills are developed over time. In my opinion, there is nothing more dangerous than someone who believes they have nothing more to learn. It is certainly a shame that at one point or another we all have to learn new lessons by going down but we all know it comes with the territory. The only thing left to do is get back on our bikes, acknowledge what went wrong and keep doing what we love, albeit maybe a little bit differently than before.
The gear that saved my bacon:
Roland Sands Ronin Jacket - My jacket took most of the impact and performed beautifully. I slid a number of feet on the roadway and it prevented me from sustaining any road rash or open wounds. After the accident I inspected the jacket for any rips or tears, much to my amazement the leather was barely scratched.
Biltwell Gringo Helmet with Biltwell Bubble Shield - I did not hit my head during my wreck but what I can say is that my helmet stayed securely in place, even as I jostled around.
JRC Maverick CS Gloves - These gloves protected my hands from road rash during my accident. However, they have no padding, so if my hands had received a more direct impact it is quite likely I would have experienced bruising or much worse.
What did your first wreck teach you? What piece of gear saved your bacon when you went down?