Feb 16, 2006

Crash we must, for we ride

You know as well as I do that if you get on it, you're going to come off it. In plain text, that means slinging a leg over the saddle and riding off is a firm commitment to falling. It may not happen for years, and it may happen just as soon as you've thumbed the starter, you never know. Anyone who tells you they've never crashed (and are therefore safer than you) are just statistical abnormalities. And those usually fix themselves.

But this post isn't about that. In my job, I am required to push the limit often. This I do as diligently as my cowardly disposition allows me. I will usually be trying to push just one of the many physical limits of the machine I am on. But sometimes, one broken law of physics is enough to cause an off.

But this post isn't about me either. It's about what I've learnt from the crashes. My third low side (slick corner, too much speed and a misaligned wheel... strong cocktail) happened a few years ago and was simply amazing. The first two times, I remember nothing. I recall leaning over, followed instantly by the sensation of a riding jacket doing its job and I slid to a stop, unhurt both times.

The third time round, I felt the bike go. I remember my brain tucking my knee in to save the ligaments. I remember tucking my feet as close to the bike as I could. And I remember consciously not taking my hands off the grips until the bike had fallen properly, absorbed most of the impact. Then, my body uncoiled, letting the motorcycle slide away (which it did, across six incredulous lanes of an T-intersection). As I slid to a stop, I remember lying on my side looking for traffic, which might have run over me, or worse. I took in the fact that the light was green on my side, and no one was following closely enough to do any damage.

I felt almost like a hero when I walked extra-casually to the bike, picked it up and rode off. Most of the slack-jaws at that intersection were not going in my direction. Else they would have spotted the second low side of the day not three corners later - I hadn't spotted the misalignment yet...

Point is, you can consciously make decisions even as you fall that can add up to greater safety. You could roll into a ball and preserve momentum to give close following traffic time to react. You could consciously relax as you make impact, properly ragdoll to reduce chances of breaking bones. And you could calmly slide to a stop, none the worse for the wear.

There is one thing though. You must be absolutely sure that you've stopped sliding before you attempt to get up. Else it can hurt badly. The liquid in the inner ear is sloshed about when you fall and you can completely lose orientation (including the one that tells you you've finally stopped).

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