Crashing Sucks: Ask Me How I Know

Collarbone-XRay

Broken Clavicle

I crashed. In the scheme of things, the mishap wasn’t a huge affair. I was only traveling about 15 mph when I tucked the front tire of a brand new Ducati Multistrada, but the vertical force was enough to pop my collarbone.

Dirt bike riding and road racing aside, it’s been quite a while since I last found myself on the ground next to or underneath a motorcycle.

My last road mishap was in 1978 when I fell victim to a dreaded left-hand turner at an intersection. I took a ride in the blinky bus (aka ambulance) but was promptly treated and released. My 1973 Yamaha TX650 didn’t fare as well and was sold for parts.

This most recent crash involved a street bike, but didn’t happen on the street, rather it occurred during a joint Bosch/Ducati press event in Detroit Michigan on the gravel test track at the Bosch proving grounds. You see, I was invited to test the most-awesome safety electronics found on the newest Ducati Multistrada. FYI, the cornering ABS is truly amazing.

Racing Crashes Don’t Count, Do They?

Racetrack crashes have also been relatively rare but do occur a bit more frequently, which is the result of pushing the limits or vying for a podium finish.

My previous track crash happened about 3 years ago when I pushed the front tire of the Twisted Throttle BMW S1000RR a bit too hard (I sense a theme) into a cold and slightly damp turn 11 at Loudon trying to get a good knee down photo. No injury, but a truckload of embarrassment.

A few years earlier I fell in turn 5 at New Jersey’s Thunderbolt Raceway when an old and cold front tire finally gave up and lowsided me onto the pavement. No injury to me, but the bike flipped and stuff broke. Despite the bike looking bad, both the ZX6R and I were back on track within two hours time.

A few racing crashes between those two mishaps round out my thankfully brief crashing resume. That’s really not too bad considering I have ridden a lot of street and track miles over almost 40 years with many of those miles dragging knee on the racetrack.

Crashed_Multi

Not too bad, really. Photo: Steve Kamrad

Crashing the “Uncrashable” Bike

Like I said, the crash that involved the new Ducati Multistrada, and resultant fractured clavicle, wasn’t a particularly big one.

I simply countersteered the bike a bit too hard while entering a turn on the gravel test track and lost grip at the front tire. I fared worse than the bike with the Multi suffering some cosmetic rash and a broken hand guard.

Before anyone blames the technology, this crash was not the bike’s fault! The Bosch electronics are designed to prevent braking and accelerating miscues, not manage the effects of pushing a front tire too hard into a turn. And since I was not on the brakes when I tucked the front tire, the bike is not to blame. These systems only manage available traction (when braking and accelerating); they do not create more traction! Read More about the Truths About Electronic Stability Control.

Why?

You may be asking why I would do such a silly thing. Surely I know enough not to push a 500+ pound street bike with quasi-dual sport tires on gravel, right? Yes, normally I would have never pushed the bike this hard, but what caused me to do this admittedly dumb thing stems from four factors:

  1. I was fooled into a false confidence: I had just performed mind-blowing feats of daring on wet pavement that warped my basic understanding of physics. This was possible because of the absolutely awesome Bosch electronics package that is integrated into the Multi. Traction control that allows hamfisted throttle inputs while dragging footpegs in the rain! Maximum braking on wet pavement while leaned at 37 degrees! Unbelievable.
  2. I was tired: Testing the TC and Corner ABS for like 20 minutes made me a bit woozy and I had barely recovered when I took to the gravel track. “Just one more run” was one run too many.
  3. A photographer was pointing his evil lens at me: This isn’t the first time I’ve pushed harder knowing that a camera is pointed my way. Most times, I simply drop a little deeper into a corner and turn my head a little farther to ensure my body position and general awesomeness is captured. This time, I was trying for the best action shot that would accompany the magazine article.
  4. I have just enough off-road confidence to get myself in trouble: I had already done 5 runs on the gravel course and was impressed with the way the Pirelli Trail II tires worked as I drifted the bike out of the corners using the limited traction control setting in “enduro” mode. But, when push came to shove, I wasn’t in quite the right position and was too slow on the throttle to keep the front tire from plowing through the gravel.
  5. I didn’t heed warnings coming from my inner voice: In hindsight, my inner voice told me to call it a day. I had acknowledged to myself that I was tired. But, just before I fell I made a few mistakes that indicated that I was pushing beyond my ability at that particular moment. My voice of warning was speaking, but did I listen? No.

Being “that guy”

As I got to my feet and shut off the engine I was in utter disbelief. Had I really just dropped a brand new Ducati? With shock wearing off, my inner voice began tormenting me with doubts about my professionalism, competence and judgment. Not surprisingly, the Ducati and Bosch folks were gracious about the whole thing (apparently this happens more than people think).

I ride motorcycles, and I ride them hard. So, I should expect an occasional mishap. However, part of me actually thought I had somehow trained myself out of being human, insulating myself from simple mistakes. While I have worked hard to be the best rider I can be, I am not (yet) perfect.

Getting Over It

My collarbone is healed after 8 weeks and I’m back on the racetrack and street. As expected, part of me is a bit spooked about gravel surfaces, but not enough to matter. I’m back to riding hard and feeling good again. A big reason why I bounced back quickly is because I know why the crash happened and how to avoid it in the future. It’s a lot tougher when you don’t know what happened and don’t know how to avoid a future crash…that can get into your head and under your skin.

To avoid a similar crash in the future I’ll be more mindful about my limits at any given moment.


Please Donate to Keep the Articles Coming

If you liked this article and the many other articles on this site, please toss a buck or five into the hat. It’s greatly appreciated!

    • Click the PayPal “Pay Now” button.
    • Then indicate quantity in $2.00 increments. Example: put “2” in “QUANTITY” field to donate $4.00, “3” for a $6.00 donation, etc.

Why $2.00? Due to the PayPal fee structure, a $2.00 donation is significantly more beneficial compared to a $1.00 donation.

Thank You!





Check out these related posts:


Stay Informed: Subscribe NOW!
Be a Better Rider: Sign Up for Personal Training with Ken
Support Riding in the Zone: Buy a book
Support Riding in the Zone: Buy products from Twisted Throttle & Amazon
Twisted_Affiliate-Interphone-widget
Twisted_Affiliate-Interphone-widget

Ken is author of "Motorcycling the Right Way” and "Riding in the Zone" (book and blog). He is also the "Street Savvy" columnist for Motorcyclist Magazine, and former longtime author of the Proficient Motorcycling and Street Strategies columns for Motorcycle Consumer News. Ken is Lead Instructor for Tony's Track Days, a 20 year Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, and owner of Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training.

Posted in All Things Motorcycle, Motorcycle Musings, Motorcycle Safety, Riding Technique & Tips Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
7 comments on “Crashing Sucks: Ask Me How I Know
  1. Crashing sucks. Crashing the new “uncrashable” Multi sucks even more (sort of like the Titanic, wasn’t it “unsinkable”?) But hey, you were test riding the motorcycle. That’s almost admirable…”Ahem, I was the guy able to crash the uncrashable”.

    Think that’s rough, try dropping your motorcycle in front of students that just paid $300 to take your course!

    Last July, 20 minutes before teaching my school’s first track course at the New York Safety Track is when I decided to drop my bike…with nine students, two NYST instructors, track photog Bryan Finch, my son and father watching.

    With literally everything ready to go (I’d planned this course for months), all that was left to do was test my radios on a few laps. With a student named Chip on his 1970’s era vintage BMW ready to follow, I looked down to see my key wasn’t in the ignition. MY KEY IS ALWAYS IN THE IGNITION! Or my right side jacket pocket, without fail.

    Remembering that for some odd reason, I had left the key on a picnic table, I rushed to go get it. You can lean a VStrom 650 left just so far before it should rest on the side stand. Well, I made it slightly past that point before realizing…it’s going over. Rookie mistake, side stand still up, I’d seen newbies make the same move in the BRC many times. Experienced riders aren’t suppose to forget the side stand, right?

    The bike goes down. People rush to help “the instructor” pick up his bike. Turn signal broken. Hand guard cracked. All eyes on me. They must have thought, “What’s his next trick, he gonna low side in turn 1?”

    In the end, I was too focused on the course that I just forged ahead and the day was a huge success. My pops moved all my teacher gear from the VStrom to my Griso while I started the classroom session.

    Fun stuff!

  2. Pete Tamblyn says:

    When I broke my collarbone two years ago, it was while giving one-on-one off-road instruction to a newbie. I was so focused on reaching a point a half-mile ahead that would be the perfect example for my next point (“This is where you know it’s the place to go no further because the road is deterioriating….”), I failed to recognize I was already treading into unadvisable territory; the surface was thawed clay mud on top of frozen soil below, and getting quite rutted. When the front of my Transalp went, it went really suddenly, and dumped me down-grade of the bike, landing me very hard on my right shoulder. Nature’s “crumple zone” sacrificed itself, leaving us with the problem of getting a one-armed instructor’s bike righted and headed back to civilization. We did ride out and even continue the lesson a while, but a couple of hours later found ourselves at the emergency ortho clinic, doing the responsible thing. Lesson learned? Don’t be too engrossed with a future scenario to pay attention to the immediate present (and maybe don’t take any current road for granted based on how it was the last time you rode it).

  3. Cassie says:

    Great post Ken.

  4. Woody says:

    Great stuff as usual Ken. I am a bit more experienced than you in the crash department. According to your logic they don’t apply because they are all at the racetrack!

    The one thing I did take from the article is 100% true for me. Understanding what made you crash makes it so much easier to get over it and move on. Every crash I have had since becoming a more aware rider (thanks to you for all that knowledge by the way…) I can explain what happened to cause the crash, and more importantly, what to do to try to avoid it in the future. I like to think of it as many things in life. We all are trying to get better and learn from our mistakes. You learn the most when you know what the mistake was and how to avoid it in the future.

    I did notice the lack of mention of the S1000RR in the article… 😉

  5. Jeffrey Meyers says:

    Thanks for sharing, Ken. Not only is this a great technical piece, but it is also a wonderful effort at introspection and humility. Of course, we can all learn from both! Glad you are better and back on track and street. You are even more my Track Guru now!

  6. Dan Carter says:

    Welcome to the Clavicle Club, Ken. Check Facebook for local chapter meeting times ;).

    Seriously, I’m glad you’re well and back on the bike. And on the positive side, this sounds like a great column topic!

    The fifth factor you cite, “I didn’t heed warnings coming from my inner voice,” reminds me of one of my favorite essays on riding attitude, “Degrees of Control” by Jeff Hughes in Sport Rider, October 2003. His idea is that those “moments” are warning signs we must pay attention to:

    We’ve all been there. We instantly know we’re in a new place because it’s suddenly different. Our lines are no longer quite so clean. We’re on the brakes more, and we’re making little mistakes in our timing. And instead of that Zen-like rush through the corners we enjoyed just moments ago–the state of grace that is the prize of this sport–we’re now caught up in the brief slivers of time between corners trying to fix those mistakes.

    Cheers.

Leave a Reply to Jeffrey Meyers Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

On-Street Training

Donate to the Blog

Donate to keep articles coming

NEW Book! “Motorcycling the Right Way”

NEW Book! “Motorcycling the Right Way”

Buy from here and Ken will get an autographed copy of his NEW book, "Motorcycling the Right Way" to you right away.

“Riding in the Zone”

“Riding in the Zone”

Buy from here and Ken will get an autographed copy of "Riding in the Zone" out to you right away.

Products

Racetrack Training

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format

Categories

Ken uses R&G Protection

Ken uses R&G Protection

Buy RITZ SWAG

Buy RITZ SWAG

GREAT GIFT IDEA! Choose from one of the 3 t-shirt designs. Or, how about a coffee mug to keep your coffee warm this winter? A great way to support RITZ.