Although most of my motorcycle crashes occurred skylarking around on little trail bikes in grassy paddocks as a teen, there have been three major crashes in my long career.
Charley Boorman was only joking when he told a group about to head off on a Compass Expeditions outback trip that “if you’re not crashing you are not trying hard enough”. It made me realise that most of my motorcycle crashes have been caused by trying too hard or riding outside my talents and abilities.
If you don’t learn anything from crashing, you are bound to make the same mistakes again. Not that I advocate crashing in order to learn, but you can use the advice from others who have crashed to teach yourself not to crash.
If people who have crashed continue to blame someone else for their crash, they will never learn and you won’t learn anything from them, either. Suck it up and take at least some of the blame. Even if someone turns right out in front of you, some of the blame must be apportioned to you. Did you wait until you saw the white’s of the motorist’s eyes? Did you slow down? Did you plan an exit strategy if they suddenly came out in front of you?
I have had three major crashes and have learnt three valuable lessons.
Lesson 1: Never ride tired
I had been out carving through some sandy, loamy trails near home on a Honda XR650 and was headed home, quite fatigued. Suddenly I saw a trail off to the left that I hadn’t explored and although I told myself I was exhausted, I thought I’d go and investigate. After a small jump, I landed in some sand and the front tucked. Rather than gassing it, stamping my foot down and proceeding, I just gave up and dropped the bike, stepping clear. However, I didn’t put in enough effort and my foot got trapped. I broke almost every bone in that foot despite wearing decent MX boots. Lesson learnt. Never ride tired. Know when you have had enough and go home.
Lesson 2: White paint is slippery
I was riding home after work at 1am on my beautiful blue Honda Blackbird and was feeling quite invigorated by the cold night air. As I swung on to the curved highway off-ramp, I gave it a bit of gas and leaned it over. I knew the surface may be a little greasy from trucks slowing down and dropping diesel and oil, but I’d done it heaps of times and never fallen off. However, this time I misjudged the apex and clipped the white paint and the front wheel immediately slipped straight out from under me. Only some skin off, but the bike was written off. Just remember that even in the dry, white paint is slippery. Avoid accelerating, braking or leaning on it.
Lesson 3: Both hands on the bars
While it is legal to ride with only one hand, it makes the bike quite unstable and if you suddenly hit a pothole or a series of corrugations, the bike may go into a tank slapper. I was standing up on a Triumph Tiger 800XC, riding along a dirt road at about 70km/h when I felt the urge to scratch my chin. Instead of slowing, sitting down and then scratching, I removed my left hand from the bars just as I hit a series of small potholes. They were enough to send the bike into a tank slapper which dumped me on my backside. Not a bad crash, but then the rider behind ran over the top of me. Lesson learnt is to stop or slow before taking a hand off the bars.
There are other lessons I’ve learnt from these crashes, but these are the major ones. Hopefully I never teach myself another crash lesson, but can continue to learn from the unfortunate experiences of others.