It was a day like any other, until it wasn’t. The days blend into one another and become indistinguishable from each other over the long term. “What’d you do Monday?” “Went to work, came home, did some chores, went to sleep.” Right? I could exchange ‘Monday’ for any other day and the short version of the day would be exactly the same. Well, I had a day like any other, until it wasn’t. A day like any other until I found myself face down on the grooved pavement, #1 lane of a state highway, with kind strangers rushing to make sure I was OK.
This probably won’t be like most other posts on here, as I’m missing a lot of pictures and I kind of pride myself on my posts being very visual with lots of pictures. I suppose this post isn’t like any other, so please bear with me.
This happened back in March. Why I haven’t posted about it, I’m not sure. First I didn’t want make it out like I was proud of crashing. That’s the vibe I get from a lot of guys- kind of bragging about it. That’s just dumb, to me, since most crashes are just a collection of bad decisions compounding each other until their ultimate conclusion. Second I was honestly embarrassed. Yeah, I know, there’s that dumb saying about two kinds of riders. That’s whatever- I’ve racked up over 90,000 miles since my last (first) crash so it is possible to ride for a long time without crashing. So yeah… here we are. Maybe you learn something from this, maybe you don’t, maybe you shake your head about all the mistakes I made. Maybe you nod your head and understand how I ended up staring at the rain grooves. Here we go…
I was off to work on my bike. Same as I’ve done for the last 8 years. Same route, same procedure. I entered the highway using the carpool lane, and merged into the slow lane with my blinker on. Traffic is a little heavier today than normal, but not so abnormal that my spidey-sense is tingling. Blinker on, I start moving to the left to get to the carpool lane and shoot South to work.
This section of highway is four lanes, plus the HOV/carpool. I’m in the #4 (the slowest lane), and I move over, one by one, lane sharing here and there, but nothing crazy. Traffic is so slow I’m only going about 20-25 mph. I’m moving to the left, #3, #2.
The #2 and #1 lane are really slow, so I’m lane sharing a little bit, just to keep my speed up, but still around 20 mph. I remember finding a gap in the #1 between a white pickup and a white panel van. I’m lane sharing between #1 and #2, and set myself up in the gap between these two vehicles still with my blinker on. Traffic is moving, but slowly. I look over my left shoulder to check the white truck behind me, and there’s plenty of space, so I move over.
And then I look forward and the white van is completely dead stopped in the lane. This is where time slowed down. I still remember all these tiny little discrete thoughts, but I’m sure they only happened over a second or two. Like my brain suddenly went into overclocking mode and processed everything much faster than normal.
The van is stopped, so I hit the front brakes, and I know I’m not going to stop in time. My eyes dart to the bumper to gauge the distance and I know I’m going to hit it. Training takes over and my brain screams “Aim for the gap!” So I point my eyes and the front wheel to the back-left corner of the van, which will put me into the space behind the van. I can’t go for the next lane, because it’s the HOV and cars aren’t stop-and-go. I know if I just go straight for that lane I risk getting hitting by a fast moving car. I’d rather rear-end the van and destroy my bike than get t-boned at 50mph.
I know I’m not going to make the stop, so my foot hits the rear brake. Now for those who don’t know Ducatis, the rear brakes are generally binary. With such a light bike in general, with full front brake loading, the rear tire loses traction almost instantly and I can feel it fishtail. But I just keep aiming for for the gap behind the van’s bumper which is coming closer and closer.
In my head I’m saying “come on come on come on.” The back tire is sliding, I’m keeping the bike upright and still steering, and I’m watching the space to the bumper shrink. Getting closer and closer, finally the van pulls forward a little, and I miss it. “I made it!” I quickly think. Phew! “Fuck you, Fate!”
Fate, or maybe it was Physics, says “No, Andy, fuck you.” The back tire stopped sliding and HELLO HIGHSIDE! That’s right, a 2 mph highside. All that sliding tire energy finally gripped the road and threw me off the bike to the right. I remember holding the bars as my body was flung to the right, towards the van. I somehow missed hitting the van’s bumper, that’s how close I was, and I see the pavement rushing up to plant a big ol’ kiss on my forehead. BLAM. The SoCal pavement 10-rings me right on the forehead, at the top of my visor.
I see the rain grooves in the pavement, for the first time that close. My brain again screams “DON’T GET RUN OVER!” so I roll over so I can see traffic coming and thankfully everyone behind me is stopped. One good thing about slow traffic I guess.
I start doing the quick self assessment, figuring out what hurts. My right knee and elbow took all the force my head didn’t absorb. I start rolling ankles and bending my knees to see if anything is damaged. That all seems OK. Flex all my fingers, rotate my wrists, elbows, shoulders, that all seems OK. Nothing seems damaged. I start to sit up and that’s when the bystanders show up and one guy says “whoa whoa, just stay there, you’re OK,” and basically keeps me from sitting up.
They won’t let me sit up, so I lay there on the cold pavement while 911 is called. I start shaking from the adrenaline and the cold, so one of the guys threw a blanket over me. I can see my bike pretty well. My bar end and frame slider take most of the damage for the bike, but it doesn’t look too bad. Tank ding for sure. Exhaust probably took a beating. Couple of the guys are talking to me, asking me if I’m OK, what hurts, if I know what day it is. Everyone was very kind. Honestly I’m surprised they stopped at all, that’s not normally the case.
The firestation is very close so within minutes I can hear the sirens coming. While they’re on their way, I wave over the guy who was behind me in the white truck and I ask “Was I driving like an asshole?” “No man, you’re good.” OK, well, sounds like he’s not going to fuck me when the CHP shows up. I can hear a couple of the guys talking, “what’d you see?” “looked like his rear tire locked up.” So they all seem completely reasonable, because that’s pretty much what happened.
Firefighters show up, start asking me questions about what happened, feeling my limbs and my neck and back. With the head hit, that’s mostly what I was concerned with. All seems OK, so they sit me up and we carefully remove my jacket and helmet. Start feeling me some more, checking my pupils, my range of motion on my arms and legs. One of the firefighters asks if I want to go to the hospital. “I don’t really want to go, but since I hit my head I probably should.” “Yeah, that’s a good idea” he says.
They help me stand up and everything still seems OK, little dizzy. I can see the traffic backed up for miles, so I’m sorry to all the commuters whose morning I screwed. The CHP finally shows up and starts asking me what happened. I start explaining it all and say “I shoulder checked, and when I looked back…” “What do you mean, ‘shoulder check?'” the CHP asks. The firemen and I look at each other, and then I demonstrate “I looked over my shoulder” “Oh! OK. Where’s the car you hit?” “I didn’t hit the van.” “Oh,” looking at the firemen “single vehicle?” Firemen nodding. I’m sure I just made the officer’s paperwork much easier.
They guide me over to the ambulance which has also arrived, and then I learn they’re going to impound my bike. Fuck no, just tow it to my house, it’s 2 miles away. “No, sorry,” says Mr CHP, “our policy is to impound if you are transported.” God damnit. I didn’t really want to deal with impound and the outrageous extortion rates they change, but I guess it’s that or I say ‘fuck this’ and I ride away on it.
An agonizingly slow ride to the local ER to get checked out follows. Lots of standing around by the ambulance techs who I asked “Is this pretty normal, a lot of standing around?” “yeah, pretty much.” I get a CT scan on my melon, x-rays of my knee, wrist, elbow and my neck/skull. Everything comes back OK but I do get diagnosed with a mild concussion. Prescribe rest, no work, no electronics, no TV, etc etc. Yeah right.
Once we get home I make some calls to figure out where my bike is so we can get it home. That was a whole different nightmare, not to mention the $200 to get my bike out of storage after only being there for 4 hours. I’m in the wrong effing business man. The damage isn’t terrible, and I could actually probably ride it home – bent rear brake, bent handlebar, tank ding, bent bar-end mirror, some rash on the slider and exhaust. I repaired it all in the garage with an OEM handlebar I had in a box, and put on some old Napoleon bar-end mirrors.
And that’s it. The main cause, I think, was changing lanes before I knew it was clear in front. The van moved forward, I looked back, and before I looked forward it had stopped. So that’s the lesson here: Make sure the moving traffic is actually moving.
On a plus note, I’m looking for a new bike. Monster still runs great, but I think it’s time to move on to something else. Let me know what you think.