If you’ve ridden motorcycles for any amount of time then you’re likely familiar with the crash experience. Be it a relatively common simple low speed spill on a patch of gravel or a high-speed, motorcycle-destroying, spectacular, the crash is part of the motorcycle experience for most of us (though hopefully a rare one).
From my experience, crashes occur due to the following:
1) Unfamiliarity with the bike
2) Lack of skill
4) Bad luck
To be honest I’m not much of a crasher. I’ve been around a few but it does occasionally happen to me and such was the case at the end of last week during a scout for the Fundy Adventure Rally.
It was only my second ride in the dirt on the BMW F800GSA long-termer; I was still getting used to its idiosyncrasies, so unfamiliarity could have been a factor but I’m thinking it was more just plain old bad luck.
Conditions were good, but the trails had been battered by some spring runoff, with some spectacular washouts and unexpected ruts and rough patches. But it wasn’t any of these that tripped me up.
As has happened once before (on a Honda XR650 about 10 years ago), it was a head-sized rock that I managed to glance off at about 80 km/h that set off the chain of events. That bump was enough to upset the steering and push the bars to a sharp right.
This is the moment when a motorcycle turns from being an obedient partner to an angry muscular, and overpowering beast. You simply cannot overcome the forces at play and a death grip on the bars only serves to pull them to an opposite lock once the initial forces have played themselves out.
At 80 km/h on a gravel road the bike half steers, half pushes the front wheel forward as the handlebars slap from left to right to left, in movements too fast for the brain to absorb and react to. Then comes the last slap and the realization that the bike is now sideways and on an inevitable downwards trajectory.
You are no longer a rider but a mere spectator in these unfolding events.
I don’t know why riders try and save a bike long after it’s already done for, but I am no different, especially when it’s not my bike. Trying to stay on board meant my legs acted as the padding between bike and gravel, but the large aluminum bag took the most impact as the process played itself out, ending with me lying on the ground, viewing its contents strewn around a crashed GSA.
I pulled myself up and apart from some hobble-inducing dents in my legs, all seemed pretty good. There’s a reason I like riding trails in my middle age; apart from the fact that you see such wonderful parts of the country, a get-off is usually limited to a bruise fest as there’s no other traffic to aid in the event or take you out once you’re down.
But the worry now was the bike. The bag would best be described as lozenged. The lid no longer fit very well, but it was structurally sound and later I straightened it out with a bit of hammering and brute force. But the bike itself was fine.
That’s a big bike to go down but to not show a single sign of anything untoward (well, save for the bag, but even that it still very usable) is a remarkable testament to good design – or a stupid rider willing to throw themselves under the thing.
Either way, the next day I met up with the BMW Motorrad Canada crew who were out east as part of their test ride tour. Their tut-tut at the ding in the front wheel I inflicted the previous ride thanks to an unexpected wash-out enforced the fact that my get-off was a mere irritant to the GSA.
Wish my legs could say the same thing.