Yes, when it comes to motorcycle riding there is one inescapable
fact. There are only two kind of motorcycle riders, those who
have had an accident and those who will have an accident. That is
also true of riding a motorcycle on the track at high speeds. If
you do it long enough you will crash. If you don't believe that,
you really have no business riding a motorcycle.
On the track especially, it's unavoidable because it's the nature of
the sport to push yourself and your machine. To find the limits
of both. And sooner or later there will be some combination of
variables that will come together and you will exceed the limits.
The only question then is how bad will it be and will you be ready for
And so, the odds have caught up with me and now I'm in the "has crashed
on a track" category.
Sunday, September 17th. The next to last track day of the
year. The track was Gingerman in South Haven Michigan.
I got up about 3:00 a.m.. Well, sooner actually. As before
most track days I wake up early and then I can't get back to sleep, so
I just lay there with my eyes closed drifting in and out of some half
sleep state until the alarm rings, or until I feel there's just no
point to laying there any more. Actually the plan was to get up
at 3:30 and leave the house by 4:00. That's earlier than usual
because Gingerman is in the East time zone, so two hour drive and one
hour time difference makes for early rising.
When I got up the first thing I did was to check the weather
forecast. There had been a threat of rain over the weekend.
In fact I had signed up for the trackday late because I wanted to make
sure It wouldn't get rained out. There was still a chance of rain
in the afternoon. Ah well.
As usual, I had done all the prep and loading the bike on the trailer
the day before, so all I had to do was pack my cooler with food,
tighten the straps on the bike, and I was off.
The drive there was actually pretty nice. It had been a long time
since I'd driven in the pre dawn hours. There was hardly anyone
on the roads. I'd occasionally pass someone or someone would pass
me, but the rest of the time it was just peace, quite, and the hole
which the headlights punched in the darkness.
When I got there the sun was just starting to come up. The pits
are on the West side of the track and I pulled into a spot facing East,
got out and just watched the sky turn shades of orange and blue.
The weather was definitely going to be cooperating and it looked like
it was going to be a good day.
I got the trailer and car unloaded and then took a walk through the
pits. Judging by the number of people I saw, it was not going to
be crowded on the track. I got through tech inspection, and by
the time the rider meeting took place, which was much earlier and much
shorter than usual, there were still only about 20-25 people total.
Definitely familiar faces from the Grattan track in early spring.
Turned out that there was only one Advanced rider, so Intermediate and
Advanced groups were combined and we'd be running half hour sessions
rather than 20 minutes. Sweet. Turned out that one of the
reasons the meeting was so early, and we got on the track nearly an
hour earlier than usual, is because there is a local ordinance that
from 9:00-11:00 in the morning no one could be on the track Hey,
they didn't tell us about that when we were signing up.
Although the riders meeting was short, one things sticks in my head
now... something along the lines that it's not going to be crowded, so
there's plenty of open track, and there's no reason anyone should be
crashing... the ground is cold so take a couple session to warm
up. Wiser words were never spoken.
They gave the five minute warning for the Intermediate/Advanced group
and I got myself suited up. I came up to the staging
area and I was the only person there. The track marshal there
came over and asked me what group was coming up. He wasn't sure
cause they hadn't told him. I waited for a little bit, one of the
control riders came, a couple more people, and we were off. I
doubt there was more than five people on the track. As I recall
the order was a control rider, a couple other guys, and myself.
Turn one comes up right after entering the track, then a short
straight, two right turns with a very short straight between
them. Going around those turns I could feel my tires slide a bit
because they were still cold. The second turn is tighter
than the first so you have to slow down. That leads into a longer
straight where you can accelerate and keep accelerating through a left
kink. I then stayed close to the outside of the track and
gradually slowed down because the next two left turns are progressively
tighter and closer together. So, by staying to the outside of the track
you're ready for the entry into the tight left. You never actually
stand the bike up in that section, just lean more or less. Another
short straight and then an increasing radius right hander, that really
lets you accelerate out. There's actually a pavement joint line that
runs with the curve about three feet or so from the inside of the turn.
You definitely notice it when you cross it. You then have to quickly
get on the brakes and take the next left hander. Then a short
straight, a 90 degree right that leads to the back straight, then brake
heavily again for a 90 degree right, down the front straight, then
brake heavily and early (because the road drops away a bit right before
turn one and you can't really brake as hard as if you were on level
So, my first few time around I learned you have to brake early for turn
one, go slower through turn three than two, accelerate through the left
kink (turn 4), slow down for five, really slow down for six, accelerate
hard through seven, than good brakes and quick transition left (turn
8), no big deal through 9, hard down the back straight, no big deal
through ten, hard down the front straight. I also learned I can
do the whole track in second gear, which tops out down the straights,
and there's really no point in shifting into 3rd, and still has enough
pull for the corners. The overall impression was that the
straights are short and it's a tight, technical track. Definitely
the shortest straights of any track I've been on.
Thinking back on it I'm not sure how many laps I did. I passed a
guy or two and stuck with the lead control rider until he waved my by,
but it was either one or two laps after that. I came accelerating
hard around seven, and realized I'd run out of track, as I came
off the asphalt I stood the bike up (grass is not a good place for
leaning the bike). I only got off the asphalt by a few inches,
and because the next turn was a left, I was back on the asphalt... no
problem. I'd definitely had worse off road excursions. But
where I came back on the track put me deeper and faster into the turn
than I wanted to be, but I had room. I started braking and leaned the
bike into the left turn.
That was it. The next thing I remember is a huge
grinding/scraping sound, me hitting the ground, sliding, then me
rolling/flipping several times, and then getting to my knees in the
grass on the outside of the turn, facing the track, with my bike in
front of me. I remember pain and heavy breathing, and thinking I need
to get out of here before someone else wipes out and lands on top of
me. I walked away from the bike and the track further into the
grass, then as the shock started wearing off, I decided I needed to get
my bike out of there so no one else would hit it. I went over to
try and pick it up, but there was no way, my left arm was useless and I
was in pain, I knelt back down and concentrated on my breathing. I saw
the corner worker coming over, talking on his two-way radio. I had
stood back up and he asked me If I was hurt. I told him my
shoulder was messed up and he radioed that in. Next thing the ambulance
is there, and the paramedic is asking where it hurts, helping me take
off my helmet and gloves. They walked me over to the ambulance
and I sat down in it. The paramedic shined a light in my eyes to see if
my pupils were dilating, asking me if I knew where I am, and If I
wanted to go to the hospital. I told him I'd like to wait
and see how I feel in a little while. He was OK with that, so
they drove me to my pit area, helped me get my leathers off my
shoulders, checked me out some more, and had me sign a
waiver. I also got some Advil from one of the guys parked
next to me, and the paramedic said I should take them for the next few
days to keep down any inflammation and swelling. I thanked them
and they went back to their post at the side of the track. But
not before they asked the guys next to me to keep an eye on me and make
sure I was all right. Funny things can happen when adrenaline
Somewhere in there, while I was still in the grass next to my bike, I
remember being angry with my self that I had done this. I
remember saying crap, shit, or something like that. When I was
walking toward the ambulance I took a look at the bike. It didn't
look good. There's the upper fairing with the wind shield, the
mid section, and then the lowers. The upper was cracked and the shield
was completely gone, the mid fairing was still attached to the lower,
but they were both ripped almost completely off the bike and that left
side was muddy. The tail section was also cracked with pieces
gone. I found out later that even the top of my ignition key,
still in the ignition, was bent over. I have no idea how you bend
a key while it's still in the ignition. I was surprised my lights
and instrument panel seemed in tact.
Thinking about it now, I'm not sure how it was that the bike ended up
between me and the track when I was in the grass. The front tire
slid out from under me and I fell toward the inside of the curve,
the bike was leading the slide toward the outside of the track, so how
did I get in front of it? The guy that was behind me said that my
bike flew almost six feet into the air during it's slide and tumble.
Did it stop, and I kept going?
The guy behind me also said that when I ran wide on the turn, and came
back onto the asphalt my tires were completely shiny... wet. That
explains it. That few inches into the grass, which was still
covered with dew, had gotten my tires all wet, and when I came back
onto the asphalt and applied the brake, and leaned into the turn, I had
no traction, and it wasn't like a dry tire slide where you have time to
react and adjust, it was like ice, it just let go with no warning.
Well, I sat there in my pit area for a while, not really thinking about
much of anything, just trying to avoid movement that would cause
pain. Then I called my wife to tell her the news and got about
the business of changing out of my protective gear. I was a bit
surprised to see the holes in my leather suit. At the left
shoulder the leather was worn through in spots, which explained how I
got a bit of a scratch on my skin. By my right forearm and elbow the
suit was worn through, and also under my left knee, where I also had
some scratches. The knuckle guards (made of some sort of hard
plastic) on the gloves were worn through on two fingers, and my helmet
was scratched up on my left side. I figured I needed to start a "Wall
of Shame" and hang these things up.
Well, with the help of the guys around me, I started packing up.
My bike was still out on the track somewhere but I wouldn't get it
until the mandatory two hour brake came up. I walked around a bit
and talked to a few of the guys at the track and the paramedic for a
while. He encouraged me to see my doctor, because it was
difficult for them to say what exactly was wrong with my
shoulder. But based on the movement I had, he said it was
Brake time came around and the paramedic found me to say I can just go
out on the track and get the bike myself. So, I got a couple
volunteers, they sat themselves on the trailer, and I slowly drove out
to the track and around until we got to turn 8. The track crew
had taken the bike across to the inside of the track and stood it up
next to the corner workers station. I pulled into the grass next
to it and got my first long look at it. Actually, it didn't look
that bad, other than the cracked up bodywork, everything seemed in
tact, even the things that typically go in a crash like footpegs,
shifter, and handlebars. It looked like the frameslider I had installed
really took the impact. The one on the left side was bent back
and had quite a bit of material ground off. And even the swingarm
slider was all beat up. The guys loaded it up for me and we went
round the rest of the track and back to the pits.
When we got back to the pit I readjusted the hold-down straps, made
sure everything was tight, said my thanks to everyone who had helped,
wished them a safer day, and took off. Let's just say driving
home was no picnic. It's a good thing I crashed on my left side,
because my car is a stick shift and I don't think I could have shifted
with my injured arm. As it was, driving was this dance of using
my knees to steer at times while shifting with the right hand.
Fact it's been like that for the past two weeks. I'm finally
getting to the point where I can get my left arm up on the strearing
I got home right about noon, managed to get the trailer in the garage,
took another look at the bike, and left it there. Haven't touched
it for two weeks.
I figured it would be a good idea if I went and got a sling to hold my
arm still, so my wife and I went to a couple different places, but we
couldn't find one. The medical supply store was closed on
Sunday. So, we figured I might as well go to the immediate care
center, have them look at me, and see if they could get me a
sling. Well, after three hours... which I find ironic given that
it's an "immediate care center"... they should rename it a "we'll get
to you when we can cause we're understaffed care center". But
hey, it was better than sitting in an emergency room, and where was I
going? It's not like I was going to be doing something productive with
this arm. I finally got in to see the doctor, they took some
X-rays, and sure enough, I had broken my shoulder blade. And a
pretty nice, jagged, crack, right across the shoulder blade below the
Since then, I've had a C.T. scan and seen an orthopedic sports medicine
doctor. The good news is that although my shoulder blade is in
three pieces, surgery is not required. As the doctor explained, it's
surrounded by 14 different muscles, which means it gets a really good
blood supply, which promotes healing, the other thing is to go in there
and pin it or something would require cutting through all those
muscles, and he said that's major work and recovery, and it may never
be the same after that. So, he and I agreed, we'll take the
Well, people have asked me do I plan on riding again. Others have
asked if I've thought about doing this in cars rather than on a
motorcycle, cause in a car you don't pay with your body. You make
mistake, you spin out, and that's that. Hmmmm.... You know
been doing for the last couple week? Searching the web sites for
places that sell aftermarket bodywork to replace the messed up
I'm trying to figure out if I'll buy some finished, pre painted, panels
or just primed and paint them myself. Of course the only reason
to really paint it nice would be if I was going to sell it.
Otherwise it just doesn't matter, wo we'll see. One thing I'm
sure of, I don't see my self not riding any more, and I don't see
myself stopping track days.
It's funny. My mother called today to see how things were and I
told her I broke my shoulder blade. Of course, she was
concerned. Among other things she asked who's fault was it?
I kind of laughed and said well, it's my fault of course, no one else
involved, and I explained what happened. She said something along
the lines of, "Well, I guess you learned a lesson. An expensive
lesson." I guess that's the thing to come away with. I do
need to learn a lesson from all this, maybe several. First would
be, if I do run off the track regardless how minor an excursion, it may
be a good idea to slow down, pull in, and check the bike over, just to
make sure nothing happened while bouncing through the grass. The
other thing is, there really is no reason that should have
happened. As they always remind us, it's not a race, there's no
trophies, we're all here to have a good time. I could have had a really
good time on a really nice track on a really nice day, if I would have
slowed down just a bit. There's definitely a lesson in that.
So, it's two weeks later now as I'm writing this. I have some movement
back in my arm. I can actually do stuff with it. And I can
sneeze. Yes, it seems that my shoulder, and ribs (because the
ribs are definitely sore too), would not allow me to sneeze. When
I got that itchy feeling in my nose, and took the breath... that's
it. The pain canceled any need to sneeze. So, I'm sneezing
again which is a good sign.
Well, I finally got the bike off the trailer, got all the body
panels off, and took a good look at it. There's a piece of
plastic that runs under the rear seat from which two attachment
point for the tail section are broken off. But that's not major because
the tail section has four other attachment points. Also,
the upper fairing bracket, which is like a big Y, has the tips of the Y
broken off, but all the mounting points for the fairing and mirrors are
still in tact, so that doesn't effect the function, and it's covered by
the fairing anyway. So, don't need to replace that.
I washed the bike and kept looking. There are a few electrical
odds and ends mounted on the left side of the bike, they didn't look
right. I looked at a picture in my service manual and judging by
the difference, it looked like the bracket that's holding these things
bent. I spent some time straightening that out and got it back to
Well, I mounted the upper fairing temporarily back on the bike. There
are a bunch of electrical connections to it, so it all needs to be
hooked up for the electrical system to work. Once that was done I
turned it on, poked the starter button, and it started right up.
I let it run for a while and it seemed to run fine and the temperature
was regulating properly. Bounced the front forks, they seemed to
So, here's the wall of shame. I took these pictures in the garage
two weeks after it happened.
Let's start with the better side of the bike
The saddest part of it all is that I did all that metallic blue paint,
I did. Yup, sanded, primed, painted, clear coated. I had
plans to do some more blue on the upper fairing, maybe the tank and the
tail, just to balance it all out. Ah well. The good news
is, now I'll get to paint it all over again. I'm starting to
think black purple and yellow.
And this is the bad side:
Here's a close-up of the upper fairing:
Obviously that use to be where the wind shield was. That black
muddy thing right under the crack is the mirror mount. There's a
bracket underneith that use to extend up past the mount, but it cracked
off when the bike landed upside down.
This is a close-up of the left side by the frame slider.
That is probably the reason I still have footpegs, handlebars, and a
gear shifter, but the more I look at it, the more I think it's also the
reason I don't have a fairing on that side. The bracket got bent
and it twisted right up into the fairing, causing the fairing to break
apart. Tradeoff I guess.
Here's a close-up of the case cover:
The lower fairing definitely saved that. Those are marks from melted
plastic and they came off with brake cleaner. There was a hole in the
fairing (shown below) right at that point.
Then of course there was the damage to the protective gear:
Holes in leathers at the shoulder
Holes in elbow
Had holes at one of the knees too. Also on the gloves, the hard
plastic knuckles wore through.
And then there's the helmet, which isn't that bad really, maybe I'll
send it back to the manufacturer to have them check it out and tell me
if it's still good. Of course, it protects my head, so why take a
chance... I'll just buy a new one.