Sunday, March 22, 2009

Art and Science of Crashing

This picture is the only souvenir I have from my motorcycle racing career, which was no less mediocre than my bicycling career. The orange tee shirt I had on over my leathers was required for beginner racers, to warn everyone to stay out of our way.

This weekend was spent driving the kids back and forth between birthday parties, so many parties that I paused and counted back 9 months to try and figure out why so many kids have birthdays in March. Saturday, after I picked up Allison, and with 2 hrs before I had to get Em, I passed our church and realized I could make the Saturday evening service. I normally go on Sunday mornings but if Allie and I went to church on Saturday, I could sneak in a 4 hr ride Sunday morning before other birthday parties and salvage what has been a lack luster training week.

I was talking to someone about crashing on mountain bikes yesterday and I mentioned I very rarely fall. I went on to explain it was probably because I didn't try hard enough to which the other person was suppose to counter with a suggestion that I don't crash because I am experienced and fully understand my limits. They replied: "yeah, your right, you don't try hard enough".

Actually I just don't like to go down. I haven't always been so conservative, drive like a PTA mom, and brush and floss after every meal; I just got old. When I was young and raced motorcycles I didn't worry about crashing, as long as I didn't crash at the start. Motorcycle races start from a stand still. A person pulls out a start sign and holds it horizontal and we get ready, then he turns it vertical and we take off. You don't want to stall and get plowed into in front of the grand stands. Launching a race bike isn't that easy. I raced a 2 stroke which was hard to launch smoothly. It was jetted and ported to make almost no power until 6,000 RPM, and the Benard competition clutch was very grabby. To prevent glass from falling on the track during an accident, the tachometer was taped off except a little window at red-line. You couldn't use the tach to see if the engine was idling and the other motorcycles made so much noise at the start that you couldn't hear if your bike was running, or even feel the vibration from the engine. Nothing was more embarrassing than getting rear ended in front of a crowd.

Crashing away from the grand stand wasn't so bad. Your adrenalin would be so high when you went down that you wouldn't feel any pain, the whole thing would unfold like a surreal slow motion movie. It is funny the things you think of when sliding across the track. I remember sliding on my back and not realizing the road burnt through my leathers until I could smell my skin, and I thought of that one Warner Brother's cartoon where Bugs Bunny lit this Mohegan Indian on fire and the Indian didn't notice it until he smelled himself burning: "me smell Mohegan burning, me last Mohegan, must be me!" And I laughed to myself. I remember trying to pick between two fairings earlier in the year. One cost a little more than the other but it was designed so the windscreen would break away in the event of an accident. I saw my bike slide past me and sure enough, the windscreen separated from the fairing and I though: "it worked just as it was suppose to, go figure." No pain until the adrenalin wares off.

To be 20 again, or at least have that attitude. Today's lesson to myself is I need to push myself a little harder on the technical single track.


  1. As far as crashing on the MTB. I have gone down twice in the past 4 years. I don't buy into the idiotic you have to crash to find your limits, crap. Crashing on the MTB means broken bones, torn tendons, thrashed ligaments. My one crash last year has left me with a weak thumb (missing a ligament), a shoulder that will need surgery someday, and ruined 2 months of riding. An identical crash a week later left my friend with 2 broken ribs..out for the season. Within the next 3 months, 3 of our teammates were out for the year with broken wrists. I'll stick with the rubber side down.

    Your story above reminds me of my one moto wreck on the track. I remember the slo-mo of my R6 sliding next to me. It caught a little hole in the pavement and flipped up in the air. I watched it spin end over end about three times and land right on the windshield upside down. That darn windshield sprun the bike back over onto it's wheels without scraping the tank or anything on top. As I was sliding, I remember thinking these leathers are too new for this, and I hopped back up on my pucks and slid on my knees at 50 mph trying to catch back up with the bike....strange.

  2. I'll go with Sandblogger, and at the same time admit that maybe I'm getting old, but layin' down the MTB isn't how I gauge my enjoyment as much as being able to go out the next day again and then the next day and so forth!

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