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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Background

I am 21 years old, a fairly new rider, a diesel mechanic by trade, and I have a family. For as far back as I can remember, I have been interested in semis and (specifically) Harleys. It wasn’t until here recently that I started riding bikes. Safety was always a big thing for me when I decided I wanted to ride, and taking the MSF course was top priority. Around here there are only a few testing sites and I had to wait a full year to get in. I took the first class of the year this year and passed it only loosing points on the emergency stop by going 1 foot over standard, and actually getting a better grade than those in the class who were already riders (I had written a few miles before taking the class, but I still considered myself to really have never touched a bike). Our instructor was a motorcross racer and IMO was excessively hard on everyone. However, when it comes to riding, I don’t think that was a bad thing. I left there knowing that emergency stopping needed work. I have my own comments about the MSF course, but I will keep those for a different time…

I picked up a beautiful 1981 Suzuki GS250 (GSX250) that was in near perfect condition. We were riding GN125’s in the msf class, and the 250 was nearly identical to those bikes, just with a slightly bigger engine. I am 6’2”, and the GS250 is physically small for me. I feel pretty crunched up on the bike and my knees can hit the bars if I am not careful at full lock. To say I can put both feet on the ground would be a serious understatement. However, for some reason I love this bike. I feel really comfortable with its 380 pound weight, its 29HP isn’t scary at all, and I feel it is pretty nimble. It will also cruise at 55-60mph with no problems. Most everyone thinks it is much bigger than a 250 (considering I can take it on the highway with no problems and not hold back traffic), and I have had a lot of people think it is a new bike. They are quite surprised to find out it is older than me.

Up to the fateful day, I had put about 600 miles on the GS and was getting pretty comfortable with the clutch, brakes, and handling. I had practiced braking, clutch control, and swerving on this specific bike and was pretty comfortable with it. I did realize that I was still new and I did not have a massive ego. That itself could have saved my life.

The Ride

It was 80 degrees (15 degrees over average temp for the day), and the last nice day before a solid week of storms. I got off work from 3rd shift and had plans to ride about half the day and catch a couple hours sleep before going back into work that night. I had a 140 mile trip planned all through the back roads (60 mile trip on the highway). I love riding through the country much more than on the highway. I grew up on a farm and you miss a lot of the country side on the highway. The trip was down unfamiliar roads

With the bike ready to go, directions attached to the tank, and my sissy bar bag packed, the bike was ready. I had on a DOT ¾ helmet with face shield, glasses, steel toe leather work boots that covered the ankle, gloves, new pair of jeans, and a real heavy denim jacket. I had meant many times to go get riding leather, but I never got around to it. I knew that jeans didn’t hold up to spills that great, but I had read many times that many riders feel safe enough in jeans, and I knew my top speed would be only 40mph, so I felt like I would be OK at that low of a speed. Although I had ridden on the highway, I intentionally avoided that until I had good leather.

I reached my destination town 70 miles away about 2 hours 15 minutes after I left and filled up with fuel. I had seen some real beautiful country side, and had the best ride to date yet. It was so awesome that I knew I was going to go down this route again in the future. My trip back home took me down a different route, although still all through the countryside. After a short break, I was off.

About 10 miles into my trip back home, I met this guy on a Harley on a back road. I don’t know what I did to piss him off…maybe my Suzuki had more chrome than his bike…who knows. We were the only two on the road and he started screwing with me, cutting me off intentionally, ect. I was getting pretty uneasy and I did stupid things such as locking up the brakes and target fixating. Since he had no helmet and a wife beater on, I could see him sitting there and laughing. This went on for 7 miles until I shot down a side road and finally lost him. I was now completely lost and still pretty shaken up. It took me about half an hour to find out where I was and get back on my route, including missing my turn twice and coming within about two feet from sideswiping a dodge truck since I wasn’t paying much attention as I was still really shaken up. Once I got back on my route and got settled down, things got back to normal. I had calmed down and was once again enjoying the ride.

I was about 40 miles from home going down a nicely paved section of road in an area that was being developed into a housing district from the way it appeared. Speed limit was 40mph with no traffic at all, and I was traveling about 30mph. The road was mostly straight, but had a few long sweeping curves.

As I came out of a long sweeping curve (a 60mph corner), I seen another corner straight ahead that was obviously a little tighter. As I started into it, I quickly noticed that it was a decreasing radius corner that never seemed to end (about 120 degrees). I held steady throttle at 30mph and was doing fine looking deep into the corner. It would have been a 40mph corner without tryng, but I was riding slow enjoying the sights.

The rest of it is pretty fuzzy. I do remember being about ¾ of the way through the corner when I seen that the road suddenly turned gravel. Yes, the nicely paved road turned gravel right in the middle of a decreasing radius turn with no warning signs at all. All I remember is saying “oh ****” as soon as I seen it, and I remember hitting the ground before I got **** out. I remember being in front of the bike with the bike pushing me and I frantically trying to get out of its way. The next thing I remember is leaning against the guard rail with my bike on the ground. I don’t know if I high sided or what, but somehow I got in front of the bike. The neighbors were outside about a ¼ mile away and came rushing over. They said they heard me go by and then all of a sudden things went quiet and thought something happened. I just leaned against the guard rail until they got there. I looked myself over and I looked OK. Nothing was hurting. My jeans were shredded and I could see that my legs were bloody, but I thought I had just got scratched. They helped me get my bike back up and look it over, just minor damage and nothing that prevented it from being rode. I stayed leaned against the guard rail for 30 minutes before I even thought about going home. During this time, the neighbors told me a few stories.

They said that this happens 2 or 3 times a year to bikers. Myself, I don’t see much how I could have prevented or saved this (with my experience level, more experience might say otherwise). I was looking as deep into the corner as possible, was going 10mph under the posted speed limit, and by the time I became conscious of the gravel it was all over. Even if I was able to straighten it up, I am not sure the outcome of that would have been much better as the neighbors informed me. You see, this section of road was built pretty much like a bridge. On the outside edge of the corner, the dirt has been washing away. On the other side of the guard rail is a 25 foot drop off nearly straight down into a rocky, dry creek bed. The guard rail is about 4 foot tall. The bike stopped about 2 feet from the guard rail, and since I was in front of the bike my head was over or nearly over the ledge. Being such a tall guard rail, both me and the bike could have easily slid under it. The neighbors informed me that has happened to riders in the past with fatal results. If I was going any faster, or had a bigger bike (inertia), I may not being writing this right now.

I had the road blocked, and when cars started backing up, I decided it was time to leave. I thanked them for all of their help, mounted, and hit the key. It fired right up like nothing happened. I wiped the dust off of the unbroken mirror and readjusted the headlight and was off. At this point, I wanted nothing more than to just go home, but I was still 40 miles away. I got about 2 miles down the road and got a bee into my shirt. Yes, I bee somehow went down my shirt and started stinging me. He got me quite a few times before I got the bike to a stop and got it out. At this point, I was thinking what else was going to happen. I was then watching out for tornadoes and lightning despite there being no clouds.

I arrived at home, put the bike in the garage, and went inside. The blood had dried in the wind and my jeans were stuck to my legs. After not so pleasantly prying the jeans off I noticed the extent of the damage. I had really bad road rash all over both knees and shins and had two chunks of flesh missing from my right knee (I fell to the left side, I am not sure how this happened). I doctored it up myself and then went to the hospital. They cleaned out the wounds (also not so pleasantly), dressed it up and sent me home. Since most of the damage happened to my knees, they made it so that I can just barely bend my knees. It didn’t hurt much then.

Now it hurts pretty bad to walk. I can just do a duck waddle and can’t stand for very long at all. I am going into work tonight and I am not sure how I am going to do my job. I have to be on my feet all night and sometimes man handle 3500 pound engines. I can barely walk to the bathroom. I am not sure how this is going to work out, but I know it won’t be good. There isn't much "light duty" work for diesel mechanics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Conclusion
My injuries are not nearly as severe as someone wearing shorts and a t-shirt eating pavement at 55mph, but they are bad enough to screw up my life for the next couple months; being at an important joint makes it that much worse. I went down at 30mph. 30mph. I may have not been wearing proper gear (everything held up fine except for the jeans and despite minor cuts and scrapes elsewhere, everything else is unhurt), but I at least didn’t have any skin showing. I knew that those shorts and a t-shirt people had a few screws loose before, but now I can see first hand how dumb riding without proper gear really is. If that guy in the Harley did the same thing I did, he would easily be hospitalized getting prepared for skin graphs...even at 30mph. Wear protective gear all of the time. I thought I could get away from it by just going at slow speeds. I was wrong. If I had just had a pair of $60 chaps on, I would not be writing this. If I didn’t have my helmet on or was even going the speed limit, I may not be writing this either.

The bike came out mostly unhurt. Bent the left side foot peg, broke out the mirror, busted the plastic around the gauge cluster, and scratched the headlight and clutch lever. It didn’t even put a single scratch on the paint. Ebay saved the day with all replacement parts for about $70, although I can’t install them yet. The bike will look like new again, although I will be left with permanent scars.

My family wants me to give up riding, but I will ride again once I heal up. This time it will be in full leather, even just to go down the street. All the gear all the time. That is a good motto for a reason. It was entirely my fault for not getting and wearing the right gear, even though safety was a big priority for me. I thought I could cheat the system by riding slow. You can’t.
 

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Excellent write-up, thank you for sharing your experience. You got lucky, well maybe not, but at least you made it through that and can hopefully move on without lasting problems.

This demonstrates that even when you do everything right you can still get hurt. You did everything right- took the MSF course, started on a bike well within your control, were taking it slow and easy... it's just unfortunate that you didn't have the pants to match the rest of your gear.

Actually I too took a leisure ride today through about 40 miles of country road and while the majority of it was flat and smooth there was one section, in a heavily wooded area, where the road curved and descended sharply while at the same time the road surface became rough, then curved the other way and ascended again. What makes it really bad is that traffic routinely travels this section while still traveling at 50+mph.
 

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Any chance of posting a pic of that location?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I believe I did get lucky. It could have been much worse...especially for the bike. I would like to add that the knee pain I had didn't go away and kept getting worse. It didn't take long until I couldn't even stand up. I went to the doctor and found that I had ruptured the fluid sac under my knee cap. Although my road rash still hasn't healed up completely, I can now walk again, and that is a major improvement. I am waiting on 1 more part and the bike is now fixed as well.

All of my vehicles are manuals, and I am having a horrendous time pushing the clutch in. When I am able to drive again I am going back to that spot and take pictures (and to see if what I think happened really did). A fellow co-worker used to be a state cop and he told me that I have a really good case against the county for my damages. I doubt I will sue them, but a sign would be nice, really, really nice.
 

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Brad, glad you are healing, but man, send the board of supervisors of the county that you had your accident in a “certified mail receipt required” letter of your story and politely ask them to post a sign warning of the road conditions so this doesn’t happened again. All legal action is done via “certified mail receipt required” so once they receive that letter they will know that they are on notice and on the hook for future liability. Most local governments cannot put up street signs; however, they do request street sign installation via State DOT. I’ve been down three times because of gravel in a turn and it sucks. Also, the ******* on the HD (not bashing HD’s just the rider so don’t anyone get their knickers in a twist) was the catalyst that brought this whole thing on, sadly I saw something very similar while traveling to Cape Hatteras over this last week, several Bikers messing with a guy on a Beamer, I was in the family pickup and pulled between them to give the poor sod some room, the beamer took off and hopefully maid the ferry before the knuckleheads caught up with him. Sad as we are all motorcyclist.
 

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Excellent write-up. Really makes the point for appropriate gear. I, too, am a young beginner rider. 22 years old and have a 1983 Yamaha Maxim 400cc bike. I'm 6' even and 145 pounds with my jacket and helmet.

I am now in the quest for reasonably priced safety gear. I've been riding in jeans and a t-shirt with a winter jacket over it. Plus my full-face helmet, and leather riding gloves, of course. Problem is, now it's getting warm here and the winter jacket is too much for hot, humid days. I tried to order a FirstGear jacket from bikebandit that was on sale, but after I placed the order it became backordered.

As for the guy on the Harley... it's something you see all too much from "biker guys". I'm not saying all HD riders are arseholes... but they're the most common rider that won't wave to anyone but other HD riders, and like to go roaring around town drawing as much attention as possible.

I was out on a ride on Memorial Day, on a 2 lane country road, speed limit 45. I was doing about 50, with open road in front of me. A guy on a HD in jeans, tshirt, and no helmet passed me in a no-passing zone, doing about 60 or so. I just let him go by and we both caught up to some traffic later on. Sure enough, he had to blast those cars in no-passing zones as well. I figure he'll remove himself from this world a while before I do, anyway... One can only hope, anyway.
 

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You ride without pants? :D Kinky! :eek:
 
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