Crashing is a part of motorcycle riding. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.” is one of the first things we hear when starting our 2 wheel journey. Many of us have already had our falls, some have yet to experience them, and a rare few may get away without ever having a crash.
For me, this crash was my first real crash on track. I don’t count the 16 or so crashes at the TTBC or the few I had at the Herrin Compound. But I will say, I’m glad to have had it and walked away knowing that I still love riding and want to go even faster. Here are a few of my takeaways from my rolling adventure:
1. Comfort zones are nice but they slow you down.
Our brains are amazing blobs of jelly that are wired to keep us alive through self preservation. Yet, we know riding a motorcycle can often seem counter intuitive to survival — at least for some.
Leading up to my fall, I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone – driving deeper into the turns, braking later and practicing trail braking to the apex. This push had me running 110% of my comfort zone even though I felt as if I was riding at 80% of my ability. I knew my bike was capable — I wasn’t dragging hardware and still had edge left on the front tire — I knew I could brake later, lean harder and go faster.
Yet, even with this knowledge, my brain was slowing me down. It didn’t like the possibility of a crash and rightfully so – no one wants to crash. So I spent 2 sessions and a mock race getting my brain progressively more comfortable with doing something counter intuitive.
Staying in my comfort zone would have likely kept me and my bike in one piece. But I also know I would not have improved my lap times and I would need to try harder next time in preparation for racing next season. would Doing so gave me a new level of confidence and helped me eventually lower my lap times by almost 2 seconds.
Take away: More seat time helps get you out of your comfort zones and making new ones to help you go faster.
2. Hip protectors are awesome.
At 6’6″, 225lb (2m, 102kg), there’s a lot of me to hit the ground. And if physics has taught me anything: size + mass + momentum will bring the pain.
One extra piece of armor I would highly recommend if you can swing it – hip protectors. Crashing sucks, but crashing into curbing really sucks! I have an old pair of Knox hip protectors my brother lent me after he got out of racing and I am super happy I had them on for this crash as I managed to not have more than a slight bruise after hitting my hip and rolling down the straight. These hip protectors literally saved my ass!
While many (including myself) often find hip protectors a touch uncomfortable or somewhat restrictive, you’ll get use to them in a few laps and will be glad you have them on should you ever find yourself tumbling down the road.
I walked away from this crash with just a bruised elbow/forearm, sprained knee and slightly separated shoulder (a chronic problem I have from a rock climbing injury). My ankles were a little sore from slapping the ground in the roll, but nothing bad.
Take away: All things considered, my gear helped make this a rather minor accident.
3. Frame sliders, a blessing or curse?
Once I picked up my bike and looked it over, I knew it would need some work – but thought it was rather minimal — A bent clip on, some rash on the fairing, a cracked engine cover (even with a case cover guard) and tore off frame slider. All in all, the parts did their job to help the bike minimize damage… or so I thought.
I chose Woodcraft frame sliders with the racing sliders (Part: 50-1399 recommended for racing) — they are slightly shorter to reduce the likelihood of catching and flipping. I had always heard good things of the Woodcraft products and didn’t have much reason to doubt from others I’ve seen using their products.
Even on their site there is a quote:
“Being in the frame alignment business, we see a lot of frame sliders that do more damage then they prevent. Woodcraft Frame Sliders are designed to protect the frame without causing unnecessary damage to the mounting points. We won’t sell any other brand” – Peter Kates GMD Computrack Boston
But, regardless – in my case the frame slider did the exact opposite and cracked the frame. My guess is the slider didn’t have much chance to slide as it hit directly on the curbing – catching between the grooves, and snagging an edge.
For this reason, frame sliders are a topic of much debate. Some believe with the right engineering they can save you hundreds in damages when you drop your bike. Others believe they will cause more damage to the bike.
I believe they can do both — just depends on how the bike crashes. It’s only after the crash that you might realize which would have been better choice… but then again…
“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” – Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men
Take away: I still believe Woodcraft makes quality products and will continue to buy other products from them.
4. Look where you want to go – just not too far or short.
The mantra “look where you want to go.” – is some of the best advice you can give any new rider. Target fixation can do horrible things when what you’re looking at isn’t where you want to be.
In my case, I crashed partly because I was looking too far down track and didn’t realize I was running out of room on the exit until it was too late. Adjusting my line and carrying more speed than I usually did is what set my eventual crash in motion – yet it could have been prevented if I had pulled my target closer to my exit point. I can’t say that this alone would have prevented the crash, but it certainly would have given me a better chance.
Take away: You will need to find a point of reference that matches your speed. The same one you use early on may not always work as your speeds improve.
5. Making mistakes? Pit in!
A few laps earlier in the day I started making simple mistakes; missed a down shift, let the clutch out too soon under braking, tipping in too soon. Sure, these things happen, but I noticed they started happening more and more frequent towards the end of the day. And I wish I pitted in when I thought about it.
If I am at a track day and I make 2 big mistakes in one session — I pit in. For me, a big mistake is blowing a brake marker or missing your apex and running off track, or catching false neutral two or more times in a session just due to being sloppy or tired.
For some reason I went against my own rule that day – maybe because my confidence was higher as I was improving — I dunno.
However, a few laps before the crash, I could tell I was getting brain fatigue. I caught a false neutral braking into the chicane where you should be hard on the gas, and it almost threw me off track. Then I ran off in turn 2, had my little off-road adventure and rejoined. Shaking my head I said I would back off for a few laps and let my head cool down.
Yet for some reason I continued, and even had a moment of hesitation when i saw pit in on the front straight. That was a lap before the crash.
Take away: Set a GTFO rule for yourself. Find your limit and know when you’ve hit that limit, then get your ass off track! Missing a few laps is better than missing the rest of the weekend. Remember, just have fun!