A lot of people have been asking me recently “what happened” because this past weekend I crashed my motorcycle and got pretty banged up. I wanted to write a post to both explain how it happened, and more importantly share some lessons learned to prevent this in the future and reiterate some points that probably saved my life.
How It Happened
I was riding home at about 5:30PM on a Friday. The weather was fantastic. It was a really enjoyable low traffic ride up Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. I was going to my sisters for some beers and to have a relaxing evening. My route brought me up out of the park on Adams Mill road, where I would turn around south on to Irving Street and shoot over to Columbia heights. This was a bit of a hair pin turn, coming up hill and around a little. See this map:
I took the turn a little wide so I could get the bike around and I’m guessing the back wheel caught this big gravelly patch I only noticed later and started to skid as I powered out of the turn. It also just occurred to me the bike could have been slightly upset by coming up the hill a little. I’m not sure. So my best estimate is that the rear wheel continued to skid around the front and the bike got squirrelly. When the traction resumed the bike flipped forward tossing me off of it. See this sketch:
I was tossed from the bike, landed, then slid for a bit. It was very slow motion as these things seem to be, with a scary internal dialog like this:
Oh shit I am flying through the air.
I’m not wearing my jacket and my arm is about to hit the ground.
My skin is going to be torn off to the bone.
CRACK (Helmet hits ground.)
WOOOSH BUBMBUBDFAFUOIELealre235800s8df023 (Body slides along ground into curb.)
Lots of cursing and catching of breath. Looks at arm.
Oh thank goodness. Big scrape. But no bone.
See this annotated picture:
A variety of very nice locals helped me get my bearings, righted the bike, and called the ambulance. I landed on my face/right shoulder and right forearm. The helmet took a lot of abuse:
As did my arm:
And I was lucky not to break any bones in my shoulder, but for a time it felt and seemed like it might have been dislocated as I could not lower it once I had raised it for a while. It hurt like hell for maybe then next 24 hours, but as I write this it is getting back to normal.
I consider myself very lucky to have come out of this with a bunch of scrapes and bruises but no broken bones or major internal damage. I’d want to publicly thank all the unknown pedestrians who helped me and the EMTs and Trauma staff at George Washington University Hospital.
I have no one to blame for this accident other than myself. So I did a lot of reflection on it and came up with these lessons that I’m always going to remember:
- Wear your mother fucking jacket. - I have a rather nice and expensive Alpinestars riding jacket similar to this. It has massive armor plates in the shoulders and on the arms. It is really thick leather. Did I wear it? No. Why? Maybe cause I liked the wind over my t-shirt. The real reason is because I’m and idiot. I probably could have walked away from this if I had the jacket on. So I will always wear my jacket regardless of the conditions or length of ride.
- Go easier in turns you don’t know. - I really had not taken this turn on a bike before. I was overconfident and made assumptions on how the bike would handle, and gave it too much gas on the way out. Had I taken it much slower I could have corrected or stopped a skid. Or at the worst would have had less injuries. I also could have noticed the gravel which brings me to:
- Watch out for gravel! - Gravel, dirt, oil, wet leaves; all of this could cause your bike to slide even at very low speeds. Keep an eye out. Always scope out the turns for any of this, and if you see even a little, really slow down, maybe even just power walk through the turn even. If you see any of this there could be a lot more that you don’t see. In my particular case the bank of the road and the incline of the hill made it tricky to see the big patch until it was too late.
Finally it’s worth reiterating some general tips and things that I did do well.
- Get a VERY good, full face helmet, wear it. Every. Single. Time. - I’m gonna say it. My HJC AC-12 probably saved my life. I can almost guarantee without it I would have had a broken nose, concussion, probably broken cheek bone, skin torn off of face, at a minimum. Could have just died. Never, ever, ever. EVER skip the helmet. I won’t judge those that ride without, if and only if, there is no one else that cares about you, which I doubt.
- All gear, all the time - With the exception of my jacket (see above) I had on a sturdy pair of jeans, great gloves, and ankle high leather boots. All that really helped cut down on the abrasions. I was surprised after inspecting my jeans which were cut off of me at the hospital:
That there were no major cuts or scuffs on it and my legs were in great shape. You never plan to crash your bike. So wear all your gear no matter how not it is. A little sweat is better than a blown weekend, road rash, a busted bike, etc.
So the bike is beat up, I still have to pick it up. Fortunately I was gonna replace most of the parts that were damaged anyway. I’m glad to be alive and well. I still love motorcycles and will get back in the saddle with some new found appreciation soon. If this post or my experience prevents even one accident then it was all worth it.