I first rode a motorcycle at the age of seven. I’ve been riding on the road for 45 years. I had a spell road racing in my 30s. I did some dirt racing before that. I enjoy the occasional track day.
Not counting my field adventures before I was 16, or my off road tumbles, I have crashed twenty times, six of those on race tracks.
With four exceptions, the accidents have been my fault. The most common cause has been going too fast for either the conditions, the equipment or my ability.
I have been fortunate to avoid serious injury on all but three occasions. When I was 23, I hit a brick in the road at night on my Honda 400-4 at about 50mph. I lost lots of skin from my knees, elbows and right hip. I was wearing denim jeans and a leather jacket at the time.
When I was 24, I broke my neck crashing at 30mph. I fell badly while trying to avoid a car.
Two years ago, I bust my collarbone when a car driver drove into me on a roundabout. I was doing somewhere between 25 and 35mph and again, I fell badly.
The first of the three crashes would not have been serious if I had been wearing leather jeans. The other two were bad luck.
Every other time, I have escaped injury thanks to good riding kit and luck.
If you do not learn from a crash, it is a wasted experience. After any accident, I like to analyse the causes so that I can avoid repeating the mistake.
The last thing you did is what caused the crash, although there will be other factors to take into account. My latest tumble, which was at Cadwell Park, was caused by turning too fast into a corner. The front tyre lost grip and down I went. I was doing about 90mph. I did some measuring and got my calculator out. From where the front tyre started sliding to the point where the bike fell over was 20 feet (six metres). At best I had 15 hundredths of a second to realise something was wrong and do something about it.
Not a chance. A Moto GP Alien can sometimes recover that sort of mistake. I cannot.
My error was to trust a tyre which had already warned me twice with small slides that it was not up to the demands of a track day. I should have packed up after the third session and gone home, or bought new tyres.
Ah well, you live and learn (then you die and forget it all).
Apart from a small bruise on my back, I was uninjured. Here’s what I wore and how it coped.
Shoei GT Air. £399 from Sports Bike Shop. It was a good fit. It did not rotate on my head. It withstood the blow on the road with just a small scrape to show. Top marks. I’ll have another one.
We’ll be looking at the relative performance of cheap and expensive lids later this year but for now I’ll stick with my policy of only buying the best. I’ve used (and crashed in ) Arais in the past but Shoeis suit my head shape better.
Joe Rocket two-piece – properly zipped up, of course. These are ten years old and cost £695 at the time. They did well. The zip joining top and bottom held. The right arm and right leg wore through but they kept my skin clear of the tarmac.
I sent them to Hideout Leather www.hideout-leather.co.uk who did superb repairs for £212, including return postage. I sent them photgraphs first so they could see whether or not repairs were possible. From posting the leathers to receiving them back took two weeks.
Knox Handroid £169.99. Great performance. My right wrist and knuckles were protected by the glove armour. The scaphoid on my left hand, a nasty thing to damage, was similarly preserved.
The gloves stayed together but needed repairs to both the wrist closers and the knuckle protectors. Knox offer a repair service and they fixed mine for £30.00, which included posting them back to me. Time taken 10 days.
Knox Urbane Shirt £139.99 I never, ever go anywhere without this except when I wear one piece leathers, in which case I use a Knox back protector. The Urbane shirt is more comfortable than built in pads. It protects shoulders, elbows and back. When you consider the fragility of your spinal column, it’s a bargain.
Sidi Vortice £299.99 This is their third crash in four years and they are still strong enough to fight another day. As you roll and bounce along, the substantial armour protects your lower legs from impact while the torsional rigidity offered by the sole and the articulated ankle joints stops the horror of twisted limbs that cause torn ligaments, ruined muscles and broken bones. Hard to fault.
My KTM survived better than expected. There was no chassis or suspension damage. Wheels and discs were fine. The right hand handlebar was knocked back on its mounting, bending the positioning bolt and wearing a chunk off the end weight. Easy fix. The right-hand mirror was snapped off and dangling by a wire. The front brake lever was scraped and bent. The replaceable tip of the rear brake lever was ground down to almost nothing. Two fairing panels needed replacing. Total cost of parts £730.00
It’s a tough beast. The track day was an MSV Road Bike only affair. I’d ridden the KTM there and, although battered, it was still roadworthy for the 90 mile journey home once I’d removed the dangling mirror.
I do my own repairs and it took me less than a day. A week later I was off to the Cotswolds on the RC8 to visit Watsonian-Squire sidecars. Top marks to the robust Austrian.
You’d think I would have learned them all by now…
Analyse why you crashed and be willing to accept the blame. It will make you a better rider.
Always wear the best gear you can afford and see what the repair options are before throwing it away.
Be grateful when you get away with no injury to yourself and with a motorcycle that is still usable.