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 Five Years Crash-Free
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6950 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, ID
USA

Honda

XR650L, 790 Adv R
Peer Review: 4

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  9:39 AM                       Like
Five years ago today I crashed. At the time, I was leading a group ride on Mines Road that had come from Livermore. We had made it to The Junction where Mines Road ends and splits off, gone 26 miles down into Patterson for gas, and were almost back to our lunch stop at The Junction once gain. We had ridden about 100 miles at this point and had plans for at least 50 or 60 more.

The 1997 Ducati Monster was working excellent, having recently had the forks revalved. All my lines through the corners felt good and I was having a great ride. But I must have been thinking about lunch a few minutes further up the road or something, because when I came to the cattle guard crossing I hadn't even considered it to be even a minor hazard. The road is almost straight there, but not quite. This particular cattle guard has a bump on the far side that is maybe in inch or inch and a half in height. The bike was turning just a tiny bit and I'm sure I didn't have a real firm grip on the bars.

In any case, my speculation on what exactly happened is that when I went over the cattle guard, my speed was enough that the small bump bounced the front tire off of the ground a little bit and because I was in a slight turn, the countersteering pressure cause the front wheel to turn a slight amount while it was still in the air. When it touched back down, it was no longer perfectly lined up with the direction of travel and tried to quickly correct itself, overshooting and turning into a violent tankslapper.

If you don't know what a tankslapper is, watch this video. Mine was exactly like that, except that there was no gradual starting point like the rider of the black bike, my bars were going full lock back and forth from the beginning. It is a very violent thing.

Tank Slapper Movie


What I experienced as a rider was something like this: "I wonder if I should have a hamburger or a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch?" Wham! "Oh wow, I'm not going to save this." The next thing I knew I was on my face in the middle of the road trying to figure out where my bike had ended up.

Here is a photo of the cattle guard that caused me so much trouble and some of the marks on the road made by the bike. You can visualize where the bike ended up, in the ditch on the left where the firemen are checking me out. (Someone let the volunteer firemen know that there was another motorcycle crash and they came to check out if I needed an ambulance or anything. When they determined that I was going to survive, they headed back.)



I got to my feet immediately and it didn't take too long to figure out that something was wrong with my left hand. I had broken the bone in my hand connected to my ring finger and dislocated my thumb in TWO places. The thumb was the much bigger problem.

I immediately removed my riding gear; helmet, gloves, riding pants and leather jacket with the help of another rider. Upon first inspecting the bike I was still trying to figure out if it could be repaired enough with duct tape and bailing wire to ride it back home. I had already helped three other riders do that earlier in the year due to various other "minor" crashes.

As we were picking up various pieces of the bike, it soon became obvious that nobody was going to be riding it back. This is what it looked like, with the tank put back where it belongs:



Although the right side of the tank was all smashed and scraped, the left side was still perfect. Norm Brown in North Carolina eventually pounded it back out and used the tank on a project bike.



You can see that the rear of the frame is bent, but there was no other frame damage at all and no scrapes anywhere on the frame. That frame also ended up being used on a Norm Brown project bike.



The guys I was riding with found most of the pieces of the bike that had been torn off during the crash and piled them by the bike, next to my "used up" riding gear.



I found it amazing that the footpegs and exhaust pipes had been torn off of BOTH sides of the bike, but there were no scratches anywhere on the engine either. There was a small scrape at the bottom of one fork leg, and the front wheel was gouged and slightly bent, but much of the bike survived in pretty good shape.



My helmet clearly did its job of protecting my head, and this is why I won't wear anything but a full face helmet when I ride a motorcycle. You can imagine what would have happened with any style of open face helmet.



The leather jacket that I was wearing did a wonderful job of protecting me while sliding on the road and only looks a little scuffed up, although all three of the plastic zippers in the front were destroyed. I still have it and still consider getting the zippers replaced so that I can use it once in a while.



The First Gear textile riding pants that I was wearing over my Levi's jeans didn't do nearly as good of a job of protecting me. I had about four square inches of road rash at the top of my left leg from where it all wore through, plus about another square inch on my knee. This is why I wear leather pants on all serious rides now.



Okay, that's it for the crash photos.

A local rancher drove me the mile and a half to The Junction restaurant and most of the people who had been riding with me came up there. I had to beg some Ibuprofen from somebody and borrow a cell phone to arrange transportation for me and the bike back to Pleasanton. Just getting a signal was difficult up there in the hills.

As with the only other time I ever crashed a motorcycle out in the hills, my wife was out of town at the time, so I called my friend Dave. He had a Dodge truck and everything needed to haul his dirt bikes, and he was willing to drive 50 miles to come rescue me. I'm thankful for good friends like that.

One of the guys I was riding with made a splint for me out of a rolled up newspaper and some duct tape to immobilize my left hand. At this point I was very thankful to have friends along with me on the ride. I know that I really dislike being on rides where people crash, and I've seriously reduced the number of group rides that I go on with people I don't know, but it sure makes a difference having friends with you if you're the one who crashed.

When Dave finally arrived with the truck, I got in with him, we headed back down Del Puerto Canyon Road, and he and some of the other riders loaded the bike into the truck along with all of the loose stuff. The bike had already been marked with a tag indicating that it needed to be moved within 72 hours or it would be towed. I spent the rest of the trip back to Pleasanton keeping my left hand elevated.

Dave dropped me off at the local emergency room and left me there because he had to keep another appointment. The bike and stuff stayed in his truck until the following evening. After several hours getting X-rays, getting my thumb joints pulled back into place, and getting a cast installed, I called Dave's wife to haul me back home from the emergency room.

The rest of the weekend was rather unenjoyable with me discovering other parts of my body that didn't feel too good, plus having to call my wife and explained that I had crashed the motorcycle. At one point I layed down on the floor while watching television and found it nearly impossible to get back up again. I guess hitting the road at 60 mph stretches a few muscles in unnatural ways.

Sunday night I arranged for other friends to come over and help unload the bike into my garage. It had leaked some gas into the back of the truck, so we drained most of it into a gas can, then I stored the tank at an angle to prevent any more from coming out in my garage. A few days later, after contacting the insurance company, Dave helped me haul the remains of the bike to the closest Ducati mechanic, where the bike was pronounced totalled. I ended up taking the insurance payout, but buying back the bike, then parted it out over the next few months. That was the only way I could get the "true value" of the bike.

Some people would give up riding motorcycles after a crash like this, but I had already determined that I love riding motorcycles more than just about anything else, and was looking for a replacement bike before I even had the cast removed. I had hoped to get another Ducati Monster, but for some reason settled on a less expensive ST2 with a salvage title. My plan was to keep that for a short time, then sell it and buy another Monster. I eventually took at least eight Monsters on test rides before I determined that I actually preferred to ride the ST2, so that's what I'm still riding.

When I bought the ST2, I had the cast off of my hand, but couldn't squeeze the clutch lever, even once. I arranged for the owner to deliver it to my house, we went to the bank to handle all of the paperwork, then I drove him back home.

Riding the ST2 was used as therapy for my left hand over the next few months. The first ride was around the block. Soon I was able to ride it for about ten minutes before my hand became too weak to work the clutch. Little by little I was able to take longer rides until I eventually recovered full strength and flexibility in my hand. It took about 1000 miles of riding over the next few months before I felt as comfortable and confident on the ST2 as I had on the Monster.

When the cast came off, I couldn't even touch my thumb and index finger. The goal of my physical therapy over the next few weeks was to be able to touch the end of my little finger with my thumb. It was months before I could touch the base of my little finger with the end of my thumb and eventually I reached full flexibility and was able to touch about an inch below the base of my little finger. Five years later I can still feel a tiny bit of stiffness in my left thumb.

After all of this, my emphasis while riding a motorcycle became much more directed towards safe riding. I purchased and read all of the David L. Hough books, plus Lee Parks and Keith Code. I also became a regular at msgroup.org to help maintain the safe riding emphasis. I ride just as fast as I did before, but pay much more attention to the potential road hazards everywhere. I'm also more of a fanatic about wearing proper gear.

In honor of making it five years without crashing again, laying down a bike, or even having any close calls, I'm leaving both bikes parked in the garage for the day. (The real reason they'll stay there is that today is the first rain in six months and I don't even want to take a car out on those slick roads.)

It took me many months to figure out what really happened in this crash. I posted an article on a number of forums entitled "I crashed and I don't know what I did wrong". That helped me pick up a lot of theories, and there were a surprising number of different theories on the subject. I'm certain that if the bike had had a steering damper, I would have only experienced a bit of head shake and I might still be riding that Monster today. I'm pretty sure that if I had had a better grip on the bars and been prepared for the cattle guard, I wouldn't have had any problems either. I later went back there after about a year and ran across the cattle guard a few times on my ST2, and I believe that if I had slowed down to even 50 mph I wouldn't have crashed. I have a much greater respect for cattle guards now.

If you've read this whole thing, thanks for your time. I hope it has helped you understand the crashing experience without having to go through it yourself. I also hope it helps people understand the value of proper gear and how you really can't predict when a motorcycle crash is going to occur. It had been 16 years since the previous one, which I was expecting to be "my last crash". I don't ever want to go through the crashing experience again, but I remain prepared for it. In addition to proper riding gear, I keep a bunch of first aid supplies in my hard bag in case they're needed someday.

Ride safely out there.

River
Male Advanced Member
506 Posts
[Mentor]


Chippewa Falls, WI
USA

Kawasaki

Concours

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  9:49 AM
Thanks for sharing Scott,
You are one of the resoundingly sensible voices on this site. I'm glad you learned from the crash, and that you take care to continue to ride, too.
I'm extremely glad you are here at this site, since I have undeniably learned a few things from you.
Your passion for motorcycling does come through.
Here's to continuing your crash-free streak! <klinks glass>
Stay safe,
^o^

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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17378 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  10:36 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Bravo!

Scott, your contributions on this site have been extremely valuable in the past but this post simply shines like the sun as a demonstration of thoughtful and valuable rider feedback to the family of fellow riders. There were no exaggerations or excuses made that camouflage reality and make learning from the experience - more precisely, the learning by others - virtually impossible.

As to what caused that crash ... I would like to suggest that at the moment your front tire hit the bump in the cattle guard it instantly changed your trail from positive to negative and that, in turn, changed the 'righting effect' into an exaggerated 'more of the same effect'. That causes a slight steering angle change to become an extreme steering angle change and a tank slapper began.

Of course I wasn't there and this is merely a suggested explanation that I did not hear you voice five years after the incident as a possible explanation.
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Mutabilis
Female Junior Member
83 Posts


Cocoa, fl
USA

Honda

07 Shadow

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  10:40 AM
Thank you for the excellent photos, showing quite clearly the protective gear did its job. I don't even want to imagine how much skin would have been on the road without it. Ride safe.

Elaine
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Indiana Randy
Moderator
2118 Posts
[Mentor]


Fort Wayne, Indiana
USA

Honda

2000 Magna V4 750

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  11:44 AM
Excellent post Scott. Thank you.

I hope all riders who aren't sure about ATGATT find this post.
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gdickelman
Male Advanced Member
1205 Posts
[Mentor]


Annandale, VA
USA

Moto Guzzi

California Vintage

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  11:48 AM
quote:
Originally posted by scottrnelson
...I don't ever want to go through the crashing experience again, but I remain prepared for it. In addition to proper riding gear, I keep a bunch of first aid supplies in my hard bag in case they're needed someday.

Ride safely out there.



Scott -

As always, thanks for such a valuable, content-filled post. It provides a visceral reminder that things can unravel quickly and unexpectedly. The safe riding mission is all about reducing the probability as much as possible while being prepared with proper gear, knowledge, reflexes and riding habits for when something does go awry.

I can relate to your memories of trying to get up in the days following the accident. The evening of the day I crashed back in January I had reclined on the couch to watch TV for a bit. When I tried to get up to go to bed, the broken ribs and related trauma reminded me of what had happened, to the point where I nearly passed out.

As you know, I just purchased a second bike, a Ducati Multistrada, and have been pondering whether to include a steering damper. The majority of seasoned Multistrada owners tell me that the damper is a waste of money. But a few folks have had experiences like yours and similar speculation that the damper is just one more piece of reducing risk, a kind of insurance policy. So I've decided to include the damper, which is being installed by the dealer as we speak.

Thanks again for your example, inspiration, counsel. And stay safe!

Gary
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6950 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, ID
USA

Honda

XR650L, 790 Adv R

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  2:21 PM
quote:
Originally posted by derangedhermit

One question arose in my mind: Is the picture of the pants of the front or rear? For some reason it looks like the back to me, unlike the helmet and jacket. Did you tumble or roll, or slide?

Pants are viewed from the rear. I didn't tumble or roll, but must have rolled over on my left side a bit or maybe landed there before sliding face down. A few seconds of my memory are missing between the initial panic and realization that I wasn't going to regain control, and when I started to get up from the road. In other words, I have no memory of the sliding part, only the evidence of my riding gear.

As for theories of what caused the tankslapper to happen, I've collected more than a dozen of those, and there is no way to find out exactly what happened. But I'm pretty sure that the three things I've mentioned probably would have prevented it.

And for the record, I haven't bothered to put steering dampers on either of my current bikes. They're both just a bit more stable.
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Night Train
Male Advanced Member
1668 Posts
[Mentor]


Sydney, Nova Scotia
Canada

Kawasaki

2006 VN900

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  5:06 PM   Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Excellent post Scott and please add my voice to the accolades already expressed. I am unfamiliar with "cattle guards". What exactly are they? They look much worse than railway crossings in the pictures.
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Jim B
Male Senior Member
491 Posts


Newark, Delaware
USA

Honda

CMX250 & CB750

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  9:45 PM
Thanks, Scott for the detailed report. I like reading this kind of stuff, details of every little thing, etc. We all can learn from this. Your posts are very straightforward and informative, and I enjoy reading them.

And congrats on 5 years of riding safely.
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YoungAtHeart
Male Junior Member
81 Posts


Pleasant Hill, CA
USA

Harley-Davidson

'07 Softail Custom

Posted - 10/04/2008 :  11:32 PM
Thanks Scott,

I have always enjoyed your writing and your insights. Congrats on five crash free years. This was a timely post for me to read because I have been thinking about riding the very same Mines Road before the weather gets too bad. Did it once in a car but don't remember the cattle guard. I will watch for it for sure. Great road , great post.

Craig



edited for spelling
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bachman1961
Male Advanced Member
2272 Posts
[Mentor]


colorado springs, co
USA

Honda

CB750 NightHawk

Posted - 10/05/2008 :  2:17 AM

Well posted and documented ! Thank you.

With your riding resume and years of experience, this is of great interest and value.

Question;
Is there in increased likelihood of cattle in the roads where these cattle guards are?
That is something I can't shake from my mind but I don't know if it's as logical a hazard as it might seem.

~brian
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John Henry
Male Advanced Member
535 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Harley-Davidson

2005 FLHRCI

Posted - 10/05/2008 :  7:00 AM
Good job, Scott, and thanks for these and all the other high level comments you have made to the board. And here's to another 50 years for you accident-free. +1
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Niebor
Ex-Member

Posted - 10/05/2008 :  9:29 AM
Cattle guards:

Cattle find these rather painfull, and will not cross them willingly. As Scott found out, they are rather hard on motorcycles as well.
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Jim B
Male Senior Member
491 Posts


Newark, Delaware
USA

Honda

CMX250 & CB750

Posted - 10/05/2008 :  9:36 AM
quote:
Originally posted by bachman1961


Well posted and documented ! Thank you.

With your riding resume and years of experience, this is of great interest and value.

Question;
Is there in increased likelihood of cattle in the roads where these cattle guards are?
That is something I can't shake from my mind but I don't know if it's as logical a hazard as it might seem.

~brian



Brian: I almost never see any cattle guards in the Northeast. did see a number of them in the Midwest back in the '70's, and I do recall seeing one cow stuck in the guard. Cattle guards are seen wherever a farm owner owns the properties on both sides of the road, and sometimes the animals cross over to graze, so the answer to your question is yes, there is an increased chance you will encounter something. There should be animal crossing warning signs around, too.

And driving over these guards will wake you up if you are tired!!!

More info if interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_guard
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Niebor
Ex-Member

Posted - 10/05/2008 :  10:32 AM
The neat thing about cattle is they tend to move rather slow. Bambi is far more likely to catch you off gaurd.
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dogdoc427
Male Standard Member
196 Posts


Milan, New York
USA

Yamaha

650+87 Honda GL1200I

Posted - 10/05/2008 :  12:36 PM
Scott,
Congratulations on the milestone! Here's to another 5, at which point I would like to toast to 10 more after that. Good luck, ride safely.
Regards, Dogdoc427
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bachman1961
Male Advanced Member
2272 Posts
[Mentor]


colorado springs, co
USA

Honda

CB750 NightHawk

Posted - 10/05/2008 :  2:28 PM
quote:
Originally posted by Jim B
so the answer to your question is yes, there is an increased chance you will encounter something. There should be animal crossing warning signs around, too.

And driving over these guards will wake you up if you are tired!!!

More info if interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_guard



Thank you!
Signage does make sense in these areas then but I sure wouldn't count on it.

I still do my short commute for the most part and rarely see anything over 40 45 mph in the residential township environment yet I'm always thinking about the quick dart of an animal or ?? and about stopping distance or evasive action. I just know when I get out more on the open roads and higher speed zones, it will hopefully keep me in check.

A former ER Nurse said he was east of town on a deserted 2-lane and hit an antelope at super speed on a sport bike, literally cutting the animal in half.

~brian
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Guzzimundi
Senior Member
261 Posts
[Mentor]


Palmeira, Coruna
Spain

Moto Guzzi

Breva 750

Posted - 10/05/2008 :  2:41 PM
No surprise on the quality of your post, Scott. Just another example of your insight and knowledge and your ability to share it. I've learned a great deal from our comments over my months in the forum and consider them invaluable. This is a fine example that backs your advise; not rhetoric, but clear sharing of what experience has taught you. We are all lucky indeed that you are so willing to share it with us. Many thanks (and congratulations on those 5 years). Wish many, many more.
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WarHawk
Male Advanced Member
1796 Posts


Baytown, Texas
USA

Yamaha

'07 V-Star Custom

Posted - 10/06/2008 :  10:39 AM
Great post! Sorry about the crash and the loss of the bike..but it did catch your attention before you got into something that you COULDN'T recover from!

That which does not kill us makes us stronger

Thanks for posting this and thanks for letting your experience help others, unfortunate events didn't derail you it only made you stronger and more focused and by sharing this you could possibly save the life of someone else!

Sorry about the incident..but bravo to you for keeping your head up and carrying on and sharing your learning with the rest of us!

+1
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aidanspa
Male Advanced Member
1740 Posts
[Mentor]


Omaha, NE
USA

Harley-Davidson

Road King

Posted - 10/06/2008 :  12:54 PM
Scott, thank you for your valuable and thoughtful post! I hope all who read it do so deliberately & repeatedly, as there are many lessons to be learned. Thanks for your continued contributions and congratulations on your milestone!
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dogdoc427
Male Standard Member
196 Posts


Milan, New York
USA

Yamaha

650+87 Honda GL1200I

Posted - 10/06/2008 :  8:42 PM
quote:
Originally posted by scottrnelson


And for the record, I haven't bothered to put steering dampers on either of my current bikes. They're both just a bit more stable.



Scott,
I am just curious, Why would you not want a damper?

Regards, Dogdoc427
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