Well, it finally happened to me. I hear about it all day long. I represent those who have done so. I watch and cheer for it on speed channel. But, I finally had the big one. I crashed (and burned) my Suzuki Hayabusa in the north Georgia mountains on Highway 19 just outside Dahlonega. Ladies and gentleman, this was a good one!! Let me just say that I am physically fine. Walked away with a sore chest, bruised ego, and black and blue knees and palms. I was duly appointed with all the accoutrements of speedy biker travel. Full one-piece racing leathers (Fieldshire), full face helmet (Shoie), back and chest protector, Kevlar laced gloves, knee high racing boots (Alpine Stars), and even the lycra undies to keep all in line. If you have never crashed before, I can now tell you it is a sobering experience. I can recall the crash in all its bitter detail. I would venture a guess that from start to finish, it was five seconds, maybe less. It felt like an hour.
Here is how the crash went. There I was, chasing three middleweight sport bikes (Ducati, BMW “S” and Gixxer) going through a series of “S” turns up in North Georgia on Highway 19 , which is very curvy. I was coming out of a right hand turn into a tight left and traveling no faster than 45 MPH. The Hayabusa is a big liter class bike with whopping horsepower, but very little tight turn agility. As I dragged the bike into the left turn, it naturally fights to stand up and in my effort to lean in, I pulled the left bottom fairing right into the very high crown on the pavement at the apex of the turn. This is known in the business (of crashing that is) as a “low side.” I immediately felt the weight come off the rear wheel and the associated loss of traction. The front tire held firm and the rear came right out from under me and spun the bike away from me leaving me literally hanging in the air. My immediate instinct was to get away from the bike as my track training had taught. Injuries are from fixed objects (pole, guardrail, etc…), oncoming traffic, or your own bike bouncing down the road and landing on you!
As you can imagine, my seating position was fairly aggressive, so being so close to the ground forced my knees to hit pavement first. This caused a whipping motion of my body immediately slamming my thighs, then waist, then upper torso/chest and ultimately my helmeted face into the pavement, in that order. I must note here that I remember thinking: DO NOT LET MY HEAD HIT THE GROUND! I was going down face first and made a strong effort to keep my head up like a ball player sliding into home plate headlong. The thought repeated in my head clearly DO NOT LET MY HEAD HIT THE GROUND. This strategy did not work. My face hit the ground with such force that I felt my eyeballs literally bulge out of the sockets upon impact as if they were going to hit the inside of my face shield. The Shoie helmet held up amazingly well and ruined the chin bar and face shield, rendering the $1,000.00 helmet a nice paperweight. Nicely done Shoie. With a half shell I would have easily lost my bottom jaw to the tarmac. As I slid on the pavement towards the outside of the curve after the contact with the road, I can remember thinking I was going to hit the guard rail. However, I luckily low sided right where a small pull off arched to the right of the shoulder of the road. I slid across the pavement and launched off the pavement edge and into the gravel, where I traveled about another fifty feet before coming to the grass at the edge of a parking space. That lip in the pavement of 1 inch or less is no big deal when pulling onto the shoulder, but feels like a cliff when surfing the pavement on your chest.
My body position remained headlong the entire time affording me a view of what was coming. After a few feet in the grass, the friction of the fall and slide slowed me to perhaps a jogging pace and I was able to roll/jump up and regain my feet. All this time the bike was five or ten feet in front of me in a similar slide with a couple of side to side tumbles mixed in to keep things interesting. I never had contact with the bike nor any fixed objects which is what saved me. The hail of gravel and smoke was still evident in the parking area after I stood up, and I wondered where my bike was. In the woods silly, where else? I had stopped short of the woods.
I do recall thinking my hands were on fire and ripping my gloves off as soon as I up righted myself. My first thought was that maybe gas escaped the tank and ignited in a flash of sparks, burning my hands, Ricky Bobby style! Funny thing is that what was causing the heat in my palms was the extreme friction of contact with the pavement heating up the palms in the glove lining and burning my hands with the transfer of friction heat to my skin. Non leather would have worn through and my hands would now be mush. I hadn’t a scratch. I did have some bruising and bumps, knees, chest, elbows, etc … Can’t say as much for the bike. Oh well, bikes are replaceable. Body parts are harder to come by.
I stayed off bikes for about a week, then took the BMW to “Americade” in upstate New York, for a 2,500 mile uneventful weekend. By “uneventful” I mean safe. A great time was had by all. That was the excuse to off the Hyabusa. My mechanic wanted one anyway. Cosmetic damage mostly, but even if fixed, I must now admit the bike exceeds my needs in terms of horsepower and weighs much more than a ‘sport’ bike should. Not my cup of tea, anymore.
The lesson here is what former racer and good friend Daniel Kane has said to me for years: “Don’t dress for the ride man, dress for the crash.” True my man, true!
Well, signing off for now. Remember, ride strong, ride safe, and in the end, make sure you ride home.
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