Will I ever crash? That's one of the foremost concerns of every motorcycle rider. For some it happens when they are young and flexible riding around on the family dirt bike. For others it happens when their friends forget to tell them to release the clutch slowly. Still others go years without a crash.
A wise old saying goes something like this; "there are two types of riders, those who have gone down and those who are going to go down".
Looking back over any fall I've had it could have been prevented. I felt sharing some of these experiences might help save you the reader a fall or two.
At the moment: "I didn't make it"
Technical reason: Running off the track into the dirt and losing control "no save".
Root Cause: Heat Exhaustion
This first crash happened when I was a fully blown track addict. I wanted to be on the track as much as humanly possible. I did not want to skip sessions to take breaks. In my opinion Texas is one of the best places to live for a sport bike rider. Not only do we have a wide array of hill country roads but we have access to many tracks from February to November giving us only 2 months of "off season". With that July and August can be brutally hot. On this fine weekend it was a nice toasty 105F off the track which made the on track temperatures even higher. I was able to ride my bike every session on Saturday and I dug into this hot buffet of sticky tires and hot track heartily all day Sunday. As I was leaving for this session I forgot to put on my gloves, then I forgot to put on the GoPro, then I forgot to strap my helmet, then the track Marshall had to zip my suit up before I pitted out. Looking back I know my brain was cooked and I was done for the day. As I entered the corner I just blanked and ran off the track. Looking back at GoPro Video I can see my riding degrade with each lap up to the point of the fall. Now I don't go onto the track if I am tired or not feeling well enough to do my very best.
At the moment: "the bike just went away from me"
Technical Reason: Cold Tires
Root Cause: Bad planning, preparation, and rushing to the track unprepared.
The fall happened on the day I was taking the advanced riders course and preparing to ride in the advanced group. At previous events I had noticed some power lag with my bike and did not spend enough time between track days to fix the issue. This left me trouble shooting at the track day; we had narrowed it down to a faulty exhaust valve which we were trying to wire open. In between sessions and class I was taking the bike fairings on and off and trying different things. It was a cold day and I was rushing to get out to the track despite not running tire warmers. I thought to myself ""ahhh .. I'll just do a quick lap and the tires will be warm."
Finally after 1 lap I did not even try gradually going faster, I just went all out and on the very first turn (turn 1 to be exact) my front tire lost grip and I crashed resulting in a fractured ankle.
At the moment: "oil on the track"
Technical Reason: Oil is slippery =)
Root Cause: Lack of experience.
I was having a great day working with an expert rider on my favorite track. It was my turn to be filmed and I wanted to turn some good laps and find some places to improve. I was so focused that I failed to be aware of my surroundings. As I approached a crash I could see white smoke and someone off to the side. Due to my lack of experience I did not even think there could be oil on the track (or debris). I slowed down for the turn but not enough and I hit an oil spot and fell. The expert rider filming me told me he saw the smoke, recognized the oil burn smell, and got OFF the race line. These are things that come with experience and seat time which I could not account for at that point in my riding.
These are just a few examples of crashing and how they could be prevented. At some point in time mistakes can and will happen. Here are just a few tips to help you lower your chances of accidents.
1. Make sure your machine and equipment is 100% ready to perform. Never leave anything to chance.
a. Remember T-CLOCS ?
b. Tire Pressures Tire Pressures and again Tire Pressures
c. Your safety gear must be 100% operational too.
d. If you are wondering if those tires have another day in them.. they probably don't.
e. Brakes Mushy? Don't take a chance!
2. Always consider the conditions and adjust to meet your experience level.
a. Cold days
i. Consider checking your tire temps with an infrared thermometer when you pit in.
b. Hot Days
i. If you are not peeing clear you are not hydrated. (Guide to Number 1)
ii. If you are cramping it's time to take a break or stop for the day
3. Always keep learning; always try to learn something from everyone you ride with. You may get a grain of knowledge from a newbie who learned it from a wise uncle. There is no substitute for experience and wisdom.
4. Train your mind and body. Study the track ahead of time and keep yourself in good physical condition. Always pay attention to your concentration levels. If you don't feel 100% then you probably should not be trying to operate a machine at triple digits!
5. And above all, get enough rest the night before. Nothing degrades concentration like arriving at the track after only 4 hours of sleep
These are just a few tips to help you along however there is never a guarantee that it won't happen to you. The best riders in the world have been known to fall down a few times!