David Hough's Proficient Motorcycling
has some convincing statistics showing accident rates going up, not down, as motorcyclists move into their second year of experience. The reason, he suggests, is that as we get more confident and more aggressive, we start to work our bikes a bit harder, and take risks that you just wouldn't take during the first year.
Well, I guess I'm a little ahead of schedule because I've been riding for six months and in the last two I've started to feel much more confident and in control of the bike, feeling much more stable leaned over in turns, and better able to calculate speed, breaking and shifting. Basically, I've got more comfortable being an aggressive rider. I stay within the bounds of my ability (I don't speed (too much
), but enjoy riding my GS500 with purpose. I'm not sure that's why I had a low-speed low-side crash this afternoon, but I'm guessing it accounts for part of it.
So here's what happened. I went for a quick loop on the country roads north of my town right after work. Its a a route I've done more than a few times on my motorcycle, and even more times on my bicycle, though this was the first time I've done the loop in this direction. The weather was great, around 70 degrees and bone dry. It was late afternoon, but there was still plenty of sun light. Simply put, conditions were great.
Approaching a stop sign at an uphill T intersection, I put the breaks on and came to a safe halt. The road surface there is a rough, chipped macadam that you'll find on lesser-traveled country roads. The road it joined continues uphill to the right and level to the left, which is the direction I was headed. I looked left and right down the clear road. Then I rolled on the throttle, moved forward, and looked, leaned and pushed left to make the turn. Next thing I new I was on the ground in the middle of the intersection, my left knee and hand on the deck, my bike revving like an angry bull.
The bike had some road rash but was mechanically fine. The only damage sustained was to my Tourmaster Venture Air Pants
As you can see, the double layered 1680 Denier Ballistic Nylon knee panels weren't as ballistic as I would have imagined. Fortunately, the CE hard plastic knee armor protected my knee completely. I was impressed by how well it stayed in position during the slide, as it didn't move right or left off the center of my knee.
All in all, I didn't have a scratch on my body. I remain surprised, however, by how easily the nylon came apart. I couldn't have been doing more than 10 miles an hour when I went down, and I don't think I slid more than four feet or so. My leather glove, on the other hand, did much better. There's a little scraping, but no holes or tears. Interestingly, its not a motorcycle specific glove.
Its just a nice leather glove that my mom bought for me at a men's clothing store. They've got wool liners and are super comfortable. Apparently they're also pretty sturdy. This isn't breaking news, or anything, but leather is better.
After I had gotten myself and my bike off the road, and made certain I was okay, I walked to the intersection to check the road surface. It turned out that the whole intersection was covered with loose road surface, the same color and texture as the road itself. Because the road surface was black, it was hard to see how loose it was from the bike. Plus, because the road to the right goes uphill, I think some of the road surface had washed down the hill and accumulated at the intersection. In any case, it was much less stable than I thought, and clearly I took the start of the turn too hard, with too much throttle and too much lean. I really wasn't going that fast, but obviously I miscalculated none the less.
So, lessons learned. The ballistic nylon was not nearly as sturdy as I would have thought. On the other hand, I had never really thought of the knee armor as that useful, but obviously its very functional. That couple millimeters of plastic kept me from having a really nasty road rash and a bloody ride home. Most importantly, I'm going to be much more careful about watching the road surface, even at low speeds. Its amazing how quickly gravity takes over once friction lets loose.