The Dreaded First Accident
In two years and 40,000 miles of riding, I had yet to have an accident.
Apparently, all good things must come to an end. I had planned a trip to the mountains
of Arkansas surrounding Hot Springs for a group of about ten people for Memorial Day
weekend 2001. Beth and I could not get off until Friday evening. Because it is just over
a seven hour drive from Huntsville, Tx., to Hot Springs, Ak., we decided to put the
bikes on a trailer and drive the truck. We get into Hot Springs around 1:30 in the
morning and do not get to bed until shortly after 2:00am.
The first ride of the day is scheduled to start at 9:00am. We get our
wakeup call, get ready and head down to the parking lot to unload the bikes. I am not
feeling very good and have some slight nausea. I am not generally a morning person and
this kind of feeling is not that unusual for me when I get up very early (say before
10:00am hehe). Everyone else meets us in the parking lot and before long we are ready to
head out. We stop to get gas on the way out of town. At this point I am feeling worse
than usual. But the weather is superb and I have been planning this trip for so long
that now the time has come, I can't bear the thought of missing it.
I lead the group out of town and into the mountains. The roads are great
with some fantastic curves. I seem to be having trouble concentrating and holding my
lines as steady as I normally would. But I have not had any problems other than just
feeling like I am weaving slightly through the corners.
About eighty miles into the trip, we stop for gas (we have a short range
Yamaha VMax in the group hehe), refreshments and a stretch. I have been yawning nonstop
for the last eighty miles! One of the group and I are talking about how great the roads
are and yet dangerous at the same time because they can deceptively suck you in and get
you in trouble before you know it. We mount back up and head out. My physical condition
has not improved.
Soon after heading North near Magazine Mountain, I get into a downhill
entry to a left hand curve that sweeps back up hill and makes about a 170 degree cutback.
The entry into the curve looks predictable and sucks me right in about 10 mph faster than
I should be going. As I try to look through the turn, I am having trouble keeping my eyes
up the road to see where I need to go. As a result I don't start turning and leaning soon
enough. Then the curve decreases in radius and I am going too fast! I start chanting in
my head, "Look, Lean, Believe!!", over and over. The left side of the bike starts to
drag. First the peg feeler, then the center stand, then the kickstand and finally the
bottom of the left fairing.
At this point, I get a very serene and calm feeling. I realize that I am
not going to make the turn. The bike behind me (Brian) has a communicator and we can
talk to each other. I state that I am going down but I don't think he hears me. I see
the edge of the pavement, look up the road, try to lean some more, and then I slip off
the edge. I am fortunate that the edge did not lead to a cliff, rock face or trees.
Instead it was a gently sloping ditch full of rocks and gravel.
Right before leaving the edge of the pavement, I stand the bike up in an
attempt to ride it out rather than low siding. At this point I am pretty much through
the curve and traveling straight again, right down the very edge of the pavement.
Unfortunately, the pavement edge drops off and has a car tire rut running right with
the edge. Guess where my tires wind up? As I try to control the bike, it starts tank
slapping violently back and forth. I stand up on the pegs and try to let it settle down
under me. This works for a short distance, but as I try to steer the bike onto the road,
it high sides right out from under me and flops onto it's right side and starts sliding.
I land on the left side of the bike, still hanging on and shouting many bad words at the
top of my lungs. This Brian hears.
The bike slides a short way, hits a large rock embedded in the ground,
and then spins around 180 degrees so I am facing the riders coming up behind me. The
crazy thing about this is that during this whole mess, not once am I in fear of bodily
injury or pain. The thought running clear and loud through my head is, "DAMN! this is
gonna be expensive!" And then, as quickly as it started, it is all over. The dust cloud
around me is drifting on the breeze. I turn my head to look back into the turn... just
in time to see Brian, on his Ducati ST-2, low side right into the ditch behind me in a
swirling cloud of dust spitting gravel onto the road as it slides. DAMN!
Brian leaps up instantly and runs towards me as I am sitting next to my
bike, casually reclined with my back against the side of the ditch and both arms spread
wide. "ARE YOU OKAY!!??" I look at him quizzically, thinking to myself, "Me?! What about
you!?" Then I remember that Beth, my wife, is trailing the pack and will be coming around
the corner any second. If she sees me laying here in the ditch and bikes on their sides,
she's likely to flip out! I stand up and turn around right as she comes through the turn.
Fortunately, she was far enough back and around a bend that she did not hear what was
happening on the communicators. Here is the
scene looking back the direction we just came from.
After everyone gets stopped and we ascertain that no grievous bodily harm
has been done, we relax on the roadside and collect our thoughts. We get both bikes
righted to inspect the damage. The Duc looks pretty bad at first glance, but upon closer
inspection, the damage is purely cosmetic. He has the whole
left side of the bike scratched and the
mirror is missing. Other than that, he is good to go. He gets the bike fired up and rides
it a bit right there in front of us. His leathers are scuffed pretty good and his helmet
took a good hit, but he is fine. He gets off with some small bruises and a very sore
My bike is not so fortunate. All of it's damage is on
the right side. The right clip on is
completely bent down. The right signal punched through the front fairing, other than
that, the front fairing is not even scratched! The hand brake lever is bent pretty good
and the Throttlemeister is toast. The right fairing has scratches going every possible
direction. The foot brake pedal has been bent 180 degrees back onto itself. The crankcase
cover is cracked and ground through right below the oil fill hole... and leaking. Game
over for me. The rest of the bike did not receive even a little scratch. The wheels,
rims, forks, and other body work are untouched. I have a small bruise on my right arm
below the shoulder and one above the left knee. Other than that, I did not even get any
dirt on me except for where I sat down in the ditch after getting off the bike. Amazing.
Silent prayers of thanks are offered to the One watching over us.
Beth and I decide to try to get my bike back down the road a few miles to
a convenience store we had just passed. Brian, decides to go with us. But a few hundred
yards down the road, after seeing that his bike is running and handling fine, he decides
to turn around and continue the ride with everyone else. The others finish the remaining
300 miles of the route. My bike fires up and I can ride it but it is pumping oil out of
the crankcase. I go reallll slow back to the store. By the time we get there, the bottom
right side of the bike and the rear tire have oil everywhere. When I explain the
situation to the store owner, he graciously allows me to put the bike in his garage next
to the store so it will be locked up where no one can mess with it. A very nice
After securing the bike, Beth and I two up on her SV650S the hundred miles
back to the hotel in Hot Springs to get the truck and trailer. For the first few miles I
am a bit nervous, especially since I have my wife on the back of the bike. I'm sure she
is pretty nervous as well. But the ride back is uneventful and we have a great time. The
little SV ran great even two up with luggage. We make it to the hotel, get the truck and
trailer and spend the two hours getting back to the store. Once there, we load the VFR,
thank the owner, and start the two hour ride back to the hotel again. By the time we get
back to the hotel, it is only a few minutes later when the rest of the group starts to
trickle into the parking lot after a fantastic day of riding.
It might sound crazy. But even after wrecking my bike, I still had a great
time the rest of the weekend. The company was great, I did not have to go to the
hospital, and the weather continued to be perfect. I did the ride the following day on
the SV650S and Beth elected to go shopping along Bath House Row in Hot Springs.
Lessons learned? You bet. Next time, start the ride later and do the
shorter and less demanding ride the first day. Pay attention to the warning signs. I was
feeling bad, having trouble concentrating, and not on my game. I should have called it
quits and gone back to the hotel until I was feeling better. But being the person that
organized the ride, I felt like I had to go along. Now I know better. My friend Brian now
knows all about the pitfalls of Target Fixation. Good lessons at a minimal cost (unless
you count dollars hehe).
The aftermath? The estimate for the Duc, $7500!! Yikes! The estimate for
my VFR, just a hair over $3000. I told them to fix the foot pedal and the crankcase cover
and to leave the rest for me. We put the OEM Blue bodywork on the bike and are selling
the remaining red bodywork. Beth got the 98 VFR 800. Due to time restraints for an
upcoming major trip, I bought a new 2001 VFR 800. We've since sold the SV650S.