How I Shredded My Gear, But Saved My Hide


Category: HFL

I'm the first to admit that I've been very lucky. Over thirty years riding on the street, and not a single crash to my name. Oh, sure, I've had a couple of parking lot tip-overs — but nothing with an injury, and nothing that would qualify as a crash. Until last month...

I picked up a 2013 Ural Patrol on a Thursday afternoon from the dealership in Harbor City, California. It was my first time at the controls of a hack. I took surface streets most of the way from Harbor City to downtown LA, where I had a meeting at the LA Convention Center. Once I felt like I had the dynamics of sidecar control down pretty well, I ventured on to the freeway for a stretch. I made it to my meeting without incident, and then geared up again for the ride home.

I am an ATGATT guy — All The Gear, All The Time. I made a promise to myself years ago that I would not compromise, no matter what the weather, no matter how short the ride. I've always kept that promise. I always wear a full-face helmet, riding jacket, gloves, riding pants and boots. That day was no exception.

I started up the Ural, confident that my gear was in place. It was 10:00 pm. I needed to get from the LA Convention Center to North Hollywood, a distance of about 15 miles. The only route I could think of was via the Harbor Freeway (US-110) and the Hollywood Freeway (US-101). I briefly considered taking surface streets, but decided that the Freeway was the safer route at this time of night.

I entered the freeway and merged with the steady traffic. I took the interchange, switching from the 110 to the 101, riding confidently at about 50 miles per hour. Just a few exits up the road, everything changed in a heartbeat.

Just north of the Alvarado exit, approaching Rampart Boulevard, I was riding in the number two lane. Suddenly, I realized that I was tumbling down the freeway. I caught glimpses of the Ural sliding down the number two lane ahead of me, sending a shower of sparks and tufts of flame into the night air. I ragdolled down the pavement, conscious of the experience, but unable to affect my trajectory. I wasn't scared, I wasn't hurt — yet, I remember thinking, "This sucks."

After about a hundred yards of tumbling, I came to a rest on my face. I jumped to my feet, looked around, and quickly made my way to the center median to assess the damage.

The Arai Signet-Q face shield
The Arai Signet-Q face shield

A young couple pulled up behind my bike in their Jeep Commander, and put their hazard lights on to keep anyone from hitting the Ural, which came to rest in the number two lane with its sidecar in the air.

"We thought you were dead for sure," the young woman said.

"We called 9-1-1 for you, man," said her boyfriend.

I thanked them for their kindness. The boyfriend wanted to leave right away. The young woman wanted to make sure I was okay. I took off my helmet, and took a closer look at myself. My ankle hurt; my left thigh hurt and my right hip hurt. But I could tell that nothing was broken. There was no blood. I realized that I was going to be okay, and my mind cleared.

The young woman wanted to tell me about her grandfather, who had died the day before. I didn't really understand — but I listened. The young woman was convinced that her grandfather's spirit had saved me. I was grateful.

The boyfriend convinced the young woman that it was time to go, and the couple drove away.

Another SUV had stopped in front of the Ural. Two big guys, obviously bikers, called me over. They tipped the bike back up onto its wheels, and waved off traffic as we pushed it across three lanes to the right shoulder. The guys told me that they'd witnessed the accident, and gave me contact information in case I needed it. They said that a pickup truck had come up behind me, and swung around to the left to pass. His back bumper clipped my rear wheel, and that's what put me on the pavement.

Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket
Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket

I thanked the bikers for stopping. They hopped back in their Tahoe and drove off, just as the California Highway Patrol car arrived. The CHP officer took my report, and took the information about the witnesses. I pulled out my American Motorcyclist Association card, and called the roadside assistance number on the back. By the time I had finished filling out the accident report with the officer, a flatbed truck had arrived, the bike was loaded, and I was ready to head home. By 11:00 pm, I was in my living room, the bike was secured in my back yard.

After hugging my wife and petting my animals, I inspected my gear.

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The Gear I Was Wearing:

Helmet: Arai Signet-Q size XXL - $619.99
Jacket: Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket - $575.00
Armor: Optional CE approved Back Armor - $25.00
Jeans: Harley-Davidson Guardian Kevlar-Lined Jeans (no longer manufactured)
Gloves: Road Gear Carbon Maxx Gloves - $69.00
Boots: Harley-Davidson FXRG-3 Performance Boots - $250.00

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