Laying a Motorcycle Down Sucks—As I Found Out Firsthand
A few days ago, a thought entered my head at one of the most inopportune times of my life. The thought: “This is going to make for a great article…if I survive.” It was just one of those weird ideas you have when dealing with a potentially terrible situation—it was almost like an out of body experience. Time appeared to slow as the Kawasaki Z1000 motorcycle I was piloting bucked me off at 40 miles per hour, and launched me straight towards the wall of a cliff. (Editor's note—this story contains some images and descriptions of cuts, bruises, and road rash. If you are squeamish, consider yourself warned.) I've been riding motorcycles for ten years, and through all that time, I’ve counted myself lucky. Lucky because I was the outlying ratio, due to the fact I had never been down in my life. The old saying goes, “It’s not if you’ll lay your motorcycle down, but when you’ll lay it down.” And for ten years, I thought I had beaten the odds, and that I would continue to beat the odds into the future. Well, the odds finally came back to bite me in the ass last Saturday. RELATED: See images of a 2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2R
After the success of my last motorcycle review, Kawasaki allowed me to take another motorcycle; a Z1000. It’s a naked, street-fighter superbike, which makes it sort of like the McLaren 650S Spider of the motorcycle world. The Z1000 is a hugely impressive machine, and in my mind, would continue to attract attention and (hopefully) access to more motorcycles. I could not have foreseen the attention it was about to attract to me.
I got the bike home Friday night, took my wife out for her first ride ever, and then stashed it in the garage. The next day, we had an event to get to, so the bike remained dormant for the next few hours. But throughout the event, I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to ride it. It’s that type of motorcycle, one that gives you the fizz while riding it. It’s almost like electricity. The bike's power and soul flow through your body—and in danger of being too sappy—you sort of become one with it.
We arrived home, and I told my wife I was going to go out riding and take a few pictures for the review. Everything was going great. I had taken the motorcycle up into one of my favorite canyons. The roads there lend themselves to amazing photography, and the images did not disappoint. Between the light from the sun, and the Kawasaki green paint job, I couldn’t wait to text my editors to show them how good this thing looked. Seriously, the pictures were turning out fantastic.
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Since the pictures all came out great, and the sun was setting, I decided to pack up my gear and head home.
With a 1000cc superbike, you might imagine that I would be hauling ass all the way down the canyon, and you’d be wrong. First, there are 700-foot drop offs in this canyon, which I’d rather not tumble down, or go flying off the side of. Second, I got my need for speed on a motorcycle out of me a long time ago. I enjoy the ride, I enjoy listening to good music as I watch the breathtaking scenery around me. It’s a way to calm my nerves, and wipe my mind clean.
As I neared the base of the canyon, and the road to get me home, I leaned in for a turn. The following resulted in pain, swearing, and what will surely be the most expensive hospital bill I’ll ever see. For those that haven’t taken a motorcycle class before, one of the biggest things the teachers try to impart on you is keeping your eyes up and watch for hazards. I didn’t catch this one, though.
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The sun was setting, and shadows swept much of the canyon roads. That meant the patch of gravel directly in the apex of the turn wasn’t really visible, and I was already halfway through it before it was too late. As I hit the gravel, the front end of the motorcycle tried to wash out from under me, and in hindsight, I should have let it. But I tried to correct it with a touch of brake and some steering input. This just made the bike high side me. And for those unfamiliar with the term, "high siding" is when the bike essentially wobbles uncontrollably and literally throws the rider off the top and into the direction of travel. That direction just so happened to be the rock of the canyon wall. From that, all I remember is hitting the ground and rag-dolling for about 20 feet.
At first, I landed on my camera that was still inside my backpack. Coincidentally, I’m now branded as property of Nikon. I hit rock after rock, until I finally stopped about a foot from the motorcycle. Luckily, within a minute of me going down, a Ranger appeared and called for backup. I was already sitting up, and trying to figure out how the hell I was going to explain this to Kawasaki, and how this article was going to go (you can see my priorities).
I was checked out by the paramedics and my wife arrived soon after, looking completely freaked out, for obvious reasons. Between her frightened look and the pain from the crash, I felt like someone had stuck a bunch of rocks and me in a dryer and turned it on spin-dry. Other than that, though, I was ok. I didn’t lose consciousness, I remembered my name and where I was, who the president was and all that jazz. Although, I couldn’t remember the day, but I never remember the day, so I guess that was normal. I felt remarkably good (sitting on the ground), and figured I could forego a hospital visit. Then I tried to get up and walk around. I almost passed out right then and there.
I told the EMT’s that I would like the ride to the hospital in their fancy ambulance. After a 20-minute ride to the emergency room, three CT scans, five X-rays, and enough poking and prodding to last a lifetime, I found out I have a bruised lung and back, a broken shoulder, and some minor road rash that will definitely leave me with a scar. And because I landed on my headphones, my ear is a bit numb. While it may not sound like it—especially when I finally get the bill for all this—I count myself lucky.
On the other side of the road where I crashed was a 500-foot drop. I could have easily gone over that and the Ranger would not have been able to see me at all. I was also wearing all my gear, something many riders still don’t do. If you look at my helmet, you can see that if I wasn’t wearing it, I most likely would have died from a brain injury. My jacket, while ripped up, saved me from needing a skin graft. My boots and gloves protected me so well that neither my hands nor my feet have a single scratch. I’ll go into all of this in greater depth later, but the short of it is: wearing my gear helped save my life.
I should have known that I couldn’t beat the odds, that I was due to go down at some point. I was naïve and a bit stupid to believe that. Of course, everyone will now ask, “will you ride again?” And even after this traumatic experience, I’ll be back on a motorcycle as soon as I heal. It’s in my blood—in my DNA to ride. If I were religious, I’d say riding a motorcycle is as close to finding God as you can get here on Earth. Will this accident make me a bit more timid? Probably at first, but it won’t impede me living my life. You never know when you’re going to leave this wonderful blue dot, might as well make the best of it while you’re here. And for me, that involves riding motorcycles.
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