Mishap in Manitoba

I was feeling a little restless on the Monday evening of August long weekend, so I decided to go for a ride, just a few clicks down a couple of gravel roads to my friend Ed’s house. He’s been working on an old Honda CB550. His plan is to convert it into an adventure bike and I wanted to see what progress he’d made.

Ed and I are old friends and conversation flows easily. We work well together and although he did most of the work that night, I did manage to get my hands a little dirty. Ed looked at my bike on his driveway as I suited up for the short ride home. “This bike is cool, but it’s so big,” he said, sizing up my Road King, “I’d prefer a Harley Dyna.” He patted me on the back as I rode away.

Road King before
Isn’t she lovely? Well, Willy thought so anyway. She’s clean too, and well maintained.

A few minutes later and things were going perfect right up until they weren’t. As I chugged down Spruce Road, a sloppy mess of gravel that intersects with the equally shitty road we live on, I must have been thinking about the upcoming week, or Ed’s project bike, or what I was going to eat when I got home.

There was no time to react. In an instant, an angry deer clearly bent on killing me was basically sitting on the gas tank of my motorcycle. With a swift kick to my chest, she sprung in front of me and made hard contact with the front wheel.  I was about to go down and there was only one option: I hammered on the back brake with all my might and unceremoniously laid down the 800-pound bike. I let it go just as it began to slide.

As I rolled down the gravel and my helmet hit the road, the visor was torn to pieces and my face was showered with sand and rocks. The engine let out a tremendous roar as the bike slid along, then it hit a groove in the side of the road and flipped upside down in the ditch. The engine quit, but the lights were still burning brightly.

Jeans aren't good enough as protection against the road.
Jeans aren’t good enough as protection against the road.

So, there I was, sitting on my ass in the middle of the dark road. I climbed to my feet and did a quick inventory of body parts: Both legs and arms worked, all fingers and thumbs were fine. I could feel an odd wetness on my left leg, and when I walked down into the ditch to survey the damage I stopped in front of the upside-down bike and let the light shine on me. My jeans were basically shredded and my left knee looked like hamburger. Raw, bloody hamburger.

The pain was starting to set in, but I had to get the bike turned over so I could turn off the ignition and get my phone out of the saddlebag. The first push was useless. The bike, sitting upside down the way your bicycle looks when you flip it over to oil the chain, was stuck in the mucky ditch. Not ready to give up, I dug in my heels and leaned my shoulder into the side of the bike with all my might. It sprang over and came to rest on the crash bar with a thud. At that moment, I actually considered starting it up and riding it out of the ditch — until I realized the handlebars were bent almost flat and the smell of leaking gasoline filled the air.

I got my phone from the busted saddlebag, pulled off my helmet and called my wife, Melanie, and told her I’d just hit a deer on Spruce Road and could she please come and pick me up. Melanie and I have been an item for more than 25 years, and I’m not proud to admit this isn’t the first time she’s picked me up on the side of the road next to a broken motorcycle, snowmobile, ATV or smashed vehicle. Last year I slid hard avoiding another deer, and although I avoided a collision, I still managed to break my right ankle. Just like that time, she arrived in minutes. When I showed her my leg, she shrieked. Then she asked me where my bike was, so I pointed down in the ditch. A tow truck was called.

Willy doesn’t have to go to Route 66 to get his kicks.

As if this wasn’t enough, when we finally made the short trip home, another deer sprang out in front of Melanie’s Chevy Trax and she missed it only narrowly.

Once home, Melanie washed my bloody leg in the shower. As she scrubbed away the gravel and sand I gritted my teeth and did my best not to cry. I was really glad nothing was broken, but my leg hurt. In addition to the road rash on my leg, I also banged my shin and calf hard and it was already swelling up. Despite wearing a leather jacket I also had some road rash on my left arm. The next morning a sizeable bruise began to appear on my chest — right where Bambi hoofed me. I never did see the deer again, but I’m sure it was much better off than me.

That was 18 days ago and I’m still on the mend. Because the road rash is on my knee, the healing process is an uphill battle. My shin is still sore too, but I’m getting better every day. It turns out my motorcycle was a total loss. Manitoba Public Insurance was great to deal with and settled quickly — they even replaced my leather jacket and my badly-scraped Arai helmet. I wish I had photographed the trashed helmet before I turned it over to the insurance adjustor. It may have saved my life, and it certainly saved me from being nicknamed Scarface.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by many great friends and family and the reaction to my crash on Facebook was amazing. It really warmed my heart to know so many people care about me. I’ve contemplated long and hard what I could have done differently. I know the risks involved in riding a motorcycle in our rural area, which basically borders a provincial park. Collisions with wildlife are common and pose a real threat to drivers and riders.

I was wearing full gear, including a full-face helmet, and was paying close attention to my surroundings. I should have had my chaps on and will wear them from now on. Perhaps the only solution to avoiding another collision with wildlife is to dramatically reduce night riding. If I can offer one sound piece of advice it is to get away from a crashing motorcycle as quickly as possible. Had I opted to try and ride it out, I’d have likely wound up underneath that 800-pound motorcycle — dead in the ditch. If you can’t avoid the collision, lay it down and let it go.

I’m not going to let this crash ruin my lifelong love affair with motorcycles. Some may think I’m crazy to still ride after an incident like this — but I can’t be a biker without a bike.

Not so big and not so heavy – Willy’s new-to-him Dyna Super Glide.

Yesterday I picked up a new/old bike from Harley-Davidson Winnipeg. It’s a 2001 Dyna Super Glide with 18,000 kilometres on the clock and a nice assortment of genuine Harley accessories and a Vance & Hines Pro Pipe. It isn’t the same bike as the Road King, which was a 2011 model, but my new Glide is considerably lighter and the perfect platform for some future customization. Ed hasn’t seen the bike yet, but I’m sure he will approve.


  1. Thanks for sharing–Given how quickly these unexpected events happen I often wonder whether we’re responding deliberately or by instinct when we’re reacting. Good to see that you came out of that collision relatively unscathed–we all know these sorts of things could always be much worse.

    I’ve had deer cross my path (fortunately it was running across the road and not at me) and avoided it. Not so when I hit (and stayed upright) a large dog that came bounding across the highway at me. Other than a badly bent cross bar (I too was on a Road King),that dog was much worse off than me!

    I’m riding my second Road King–an ’06 I picked up the Friday before Labour Day ’05 and previously rode a ’97 Road King until 2005.

    It seems to me that there is only one really unfortunate consequence of what occurred–you’re no longer on a Road King!!

    bbb (aka Harry)

  2. Glad you are in one, albeit rashed, piece. My only Harley riding friend always wears a full face helmet; it saved his face and likely his life, glad you have the sense not to wear a beanie.

  3. Really appreciate reading your story. Very eye-opening in terms of how fast it can happen, and all the variables that play into the outcome. I’m happy to hear you are on the mend.

  4. Wow glad its only minor injuries. I have heard this exact same story from other bikers…usually the deer part is invented later when they realize drinking beer before crashing wont get MPI coverage. ..LOL.

  5. Good article except for the ” if you can’t avoid the collision lay it down and let it go”….. we need to stop the ” I had to lay it down” philosophy. I think what was meant was don’t slide with the bike but it sounds like crashing instead of braking is the better option.

      • Right, but I would rather stay on the rubber and use the brakes to stop than slide fore ever hitting the object and if you don’t understand that you have no business posting on a motorcycle web site perpetuating myths.

        • Believe me, if that had been an option I would have taken it. My point is once a crash is imminent controlling how that crash occurs by locking the rear wheel, laying the bike down and letting it go is a better option than trying to ride it out and winding up tangled in the motorcycle or thrown from it.

  6. Man you got off lucky, when the deer hit me on the left side I got to spend all summer/fall/winter in a bed with a whole bunch of TI in me, new hip, fused ankle etc. But I am walking again with a cane I hope to be rid of soon. I rebuilt my 79 GL1000 and road it the anniversary of my crash on the Cabot trail with 14 Harlleys July 9th 2016. Nice new to you bike and I look forward to reading about the customizations. Deer are the single worst thing to have around you but what can we do but try and avoid them as best we can. The one that hit me bolted straight into the side of the bike, I was 1.5 KM from my house and the witnesses said there was nothing I could have done different. Cheers


      • thanks, I was worried when I read the title you might have been worse off, but like me you won’t let a stupid deer ruin your riding. I’ll ride till I physically can’t, which means I’ll be dead.


  7. “He’s been working on an old Honda CB550. His plan is to convert it into an adventure bike and I wanted to see what progress he’d made.” – Seriously ???
    Sorry to hear about your get off, heal up soon.

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