The Realities of Riding

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Categories: Frontlines, Skills, Safety, Expert Advice, Real Riders

How many times have you heard the statements below?

There are two kinds of riders: Those who have crashed, and those who will crash.

Motorcycles are dangerous.

All the gear all the time.

I have lived by those statements since I started riding. I've had a few minor falls, which were glaring reminders that this is a dangerous hobby and I should never stop having immense respect for what these machines are capable of. But recently, despite the odds, I was reminded of this again. This isn't a happy story, but hopefully it can remind some people of the risks we take.

In May, I accomplished a major goal that I'd spent two years saving up for: I picked up my new-to-me 2012 Triumph Street Triple in Imperial Purple. It was hands down the most powerful and beautiful machine I'd ever owned. It was my dream bike. I wrote it about it the other week.

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MUST READ:  My New (to me) Street Triple | RideApart

The bike was 500 miles away in Omaha, NE when I bought it, and I rode it home with a stupid grin on my face the entire way. I was so ecstatic to get to know my new machine. My boyfriend and I began dreaming of weekends on twisty backroads so I could get acquainted with it.

Our First Time in the Twisties

A free weekend appeared on our calendar, and we decided to make the most of it by taking a trip to southwest Wisconsin. If you've never been, it is a true gem in the Midwest—there are actually nice twisty roads for cruising around. The county roads are referred to as "alphabet roads" since they are all named as letters "Highway B," "Highway CC," "Highway KR." A good day for us has been getting lost on the alphabet, finding a place to stop for lunch, and then eventually making our way back to whatever rundown motel we decided to stop at for the night. It's pretty magical. It was the perfect destination for me to get used to my new bike.

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For this particular trip, I realized I did not feel like the confident rider that I usually am. I slowed more in the corners, and often times my braking was fairly bumpy. I felt anything but smooth on a bike that is known for being smooth as glass. After some reflection, I realized this should not have been much of a surprise. I'd put 25,000 miles on my Ninja 250, which is a motorcycle that is not known for being anything spectacular (though I loved that bike dearly.) I had taken multiple classes on the machine, learning how to maximize the braking and acceleration on it. The other bikes I owned were even less powerful: a CB175 and a DR200. It was clear that it would take some time to adjust to my much more powerful bike.

My boyfriend even remarked on my uneasiness, noting that I was much quicker and confident with my Ninja 250. I confessed my troubles, and we made a pact to take the first class together that we could find so that I could adjust to the features of my new machine. I was determined to ride the snot out of my new bike, and eventually, I would control it as well as I did my last bike.

Taking Control of the Situation

Finally a time lined up for me to take the MSF Advanced Rider Class, even though my boyfriend would be out of town at a bachelor party. We had plans to go ride the Amalfi Coast two weeks later in Italy, so I figured the class would kill two birds with one stone: I'd get used to my new bike, and I'd have practiced some finer moto skills before my most exciting road trip to date.

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If you've never taken the MSF Advanced Rider Course, I can't say enough good things about it. The first half of the class is talking about techniques and road hazards, and the second is advanced parking lot drills. At lunch, I chatted with one of the instructors (who is also a friend of mine) about my new machine. I confessed that I felt uneasy about the powerful brakes, and we agreed that this would be a great day to get used to them. When the first drill had finished, I was starting to feel like it was going to be a great day.

The ''Breaking'' Drill

The next drill was the braking drill. When my turn came, I tried to focus on doing everything right: I would wait until I passed the cones, I focused on pulling in the brakes progressively, and then I'd put my feet down to catch the bike. But once again my initial squeeze was too much, and the progression only made it worse. The front end immediately locked up, the bike folded into the right, and I was unable to jump off quick enough. In the moment, plenty of expletives popped into my head. My knee and foot hit the ground first, followed by my elbows, and my head never actually hit the ground. As the bike toppled on top of me, I felt the crunch in my foot and knew immediately what had happened. A second later, the instructor was standing over me as I proclaimed, "I just broke my foot."

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