The bike crash – Part 2

This is a continuation of the story of my motorcycle crash on 9th November 2006, 20km out of Orbost on the Bonang Highway in rural Victoria. In this part of the story I will share more of my thoughts, insights, learnings and realisations in the time since the bike crash.

“Any crash you can walk away from, is a good one” – Launchpad McQuack

Crashed VFR800
Crashed VFR800

At the time of the crash all I was thinking about was how to tell my wife that a) I was OK and b) the bike was not. At 7:30pm that night (the first opportunity to relax a little and make the call) I called my wife and said “Hi darling, I’m fine, but I’ve written off the bike”. Succinct enough and should get the important stuff out of the way. Well, it does convey the message succinctly, but no matter how it sounded (both in my head and in actuality), it did not get interpreted the same way. It also didn’t help that the crash happened so far from home and she felt completely helpless – questions start piling up but it’s not the time or place to ask them. To me, I was fine and that’s the most important aspect to it.

One other thing to note: this was a crash. It was an ‘accident’ insofar as it was not intentional (i.e. I did not intend to crash the bike), however I feel calling it a crash is the most realistic way of conveying the event. Plus, the word ‘crash’ also conjures up images of something hitting something else quite hard – which is exactly what happened.

In the weeks and months after the accident, I had been asking/answering questions and pondering quite a bit in the time after the

Having a nap
Having a nap

crash. Questions like:

  • Did my life flash before my eyes (no)
  • Did I feel lucky (yes – extremely so – more on this later)
  • Was I angry about the crash (no – these things do happen)
  • Was I sad about it (yes)
  • Did I cause it (yes, I should have read the warning signs re: fatigue and lack of concentration)
  • Do I know why it happened (yes, with hindsight and calm recollection)

The first question is the most interesting as many people seem to ask it of you when you have a serious crash. It’s true that a crash on a motorcycle is usually far more serious than a crash in a car as you have no crumple zones, airbags or seat belts to help keep you as safe as possible. At no stage did I fear for my life nor see my life flash before my eyes.

Bruised Leg
Bruised Leg

So what’s changed since the crash?

  • I now know & ride within my limits. I was fatigued and lacked concentration at the crucial end of the day. I had been riding well up until that point and did not know I had crossed an imaginary boundary that would rob me of such critical skills when I would need them most.
  • Any group rides have very clear rules set out and understood by all. This is something that will resonate with any of my fellow riders from the East coast on the Black Dog Ride (as part of the Riding4aCause project). I played ‘Dad’ a few times making sure everyone knew where we were headed next and even headed back to chase up the stragglers on a few occasions. To my OzVFR buddies this may be a change from my earlier riding!
  • No matter what you say, your message may be interpreted differently. What would you say in your first phone call to a loved one to let them know that a) you’re OK and b) the bike (or vehicle) is badly damaged?
  • I began working from home full-time. At the time, I had all the things in place to do so, but still felt a need to go into the office 4 days a week. Not being able to do more than just hobble around on my sore leg soon showed me I could do my job from home and be just as productive. I had wonderful support from one of the best managers I’ve worked with and she continues to be a wonderful friend and confidant to this day.
  • I realised I was put on this earth for a reason, and that I had not yet fulfilled it. I wasn’t sure what this was (at the time) but knew I was here to do something wonderful. I spent the next few months trying to work out what that was, but didn’t realise it. You know how the more you look for something the less likely you are to find it? This was one of those moments.
  • No matter how good you are; you can always be better. Up until the crash I thought my riding was brilliant. We’d
    The OzVFR Guys
    The OzVFR Guys

    travelled 650+ km’s from Jindabyne to Orbost and I was feeling good, being able to keep up with the others in most areas (I was not afraid to slow down to a pace I was comfortable with on some of the roads). History shows I didn’t truly learn from this…

This is by no means the end of the story, there are more thoughts to be shared with you in the 3rd and final part of the story where I will expand on the last 2 points and share with you exactly how this crash has changed my life and outlook. How have ‘big events’ in your life changed your views/outlook on life?

The bike crash – Part 1

This is an abridged version of my motorcycle crash on 9th November 2006, 20km out of Orbost on the Bonang Highway. This is Part 1, with Part 2 to follow soon after. 95% of this was written in December 2006 with a few minor updates made at the time of posting.

I’d gone down to the Snowyride with a few mates from the OzVFR group, and we’d been on a HUGE ride from Jindabyne to Orbost. We’d left the “90km winding road” sign heading up the Bonang Hwy out of Orbost (VIC), and after a few km, the other guys had gone on ahead, with me bringing up the rear.

I’d gone about 20km along the Bonang Hwy when the crash occurred.

Crashed VFR800
Crashed VFR800

I had failed to make a slightly downhill right handed bend, and ended up hitting an embankment then a tree. The bike was dead, and I wasn’t, which is the best part of the story! It happened at 4:40pm. The bike hit the embankment at approx 60km/h, then my thigh and forearm hit the tree (and I still remember both impacts on the tree) My leg was then sandwiched between the bike and the tree.

After it all stopped, I crawled out from under the bike, turned off the ignition and removed the key (One of my mates said “Why – were you afraid someone might come to steal it?“) I did the systems check – fingers…check. Toes…check. Legs…check (although I was able to put weight on my right leg, it was quite sore to begin with, and I hobbled around a bit. Eyes…yes, they could see but weren’t really registering the damage done to the bike (or myself).

I was amazed and astonished that I could stand and hobble around, which I am VERY LUCKY to have been able to do.

Tree damage
Tree damage

I removed my luggage and rummaged for my mobile phone, only to find there was no network coverage. I had a drink of water and wandered around for a few mins with many things racing through my head, including:

  • If I call the boys, they can come back and get me
  • I can call Stewie(*), who can rescue the bike – it shouldn’t take too long, we should be home by dinnertime
  • I’ll just pick the bike up and keep riding, just like in MotoGP

Great thinking when there’s no mobile phone coverage! Anyways, it took a while before someone else came along the road:

  • about 40 mins after the crash, a fellow on a trail bike [who had somewhere else to go] would alert my mates if he saw them and promised to help on his return journey
  • A young lady in a car packed to the gills with belongings (and looking deathly frazzled) stopped and offered help in some way, but she looked to be in more trouble than me – kinda like she was running from something or someone!
  • About an hour after the accident Pete arrived. Pete stayed with me until my mates arrived (they had been a further 50km up the Bonang Hwy before realising I wasn’t coming, and we were reunited about 2 hours after I crashed).
Bruised Thigh
Bruised Thigh

Pete is an absolute champion in the true sense of the word. Typical of most Aussies, he stopped what he was doing to help out  – he drove me to hospital in town, picked up his trailer and (with the help of the boys) loaded the bike up and took it back to Pete’s place. I went to hospital for a checkup, no broken anythings just bruising, miraculously! By now we’d realised we had to stay the night in Orbost. We stayed in a motel (arranged by one of the nurses); went to the pub for a beer (the motel called the pub to make sure they were still open for us; and then proceeded to drop us at the pub!

Orbost is full of lovely people and we certainly appreciated their hospitality 🙂

Next day, I called & claimed on insurance, and after saying bye bye to the bike, I was a pillion for the 600-odd km trip back to Jindabyne (the long way).

What contributed to the crash & lessons learned (with the wonderful benefits of hindsight & discussing what happened…)

  1. It was late in the day and we had done 600+km already, fatigue and lack of concentration are likely contributors
  2. I had the wrong line into the corner, with not enough ‘space’ should something go wrong. There was a bump in the road (as I started to tip in) that upset the bike. I must have tried to correct it somehow or probably stood the bike up ready to tip-in again. Either way I was into the grass/leaves/gravel off to the side of the road quite quickly, and it went from there.
  3. My skills in slower/tighter corners was always my weakest point, and something I didn’t readily look forward to a similar incident had occurred earlier in the day when I was distracted by something – again a ‘lack’ of concentration.
AB looking on
AB looking on

As with anything in life, it’s what happens when things go wrong that proves how well you come out of it. I was with a great bunch of the OzVFR guys (AB, Greg, Trev & Dan) who were very accommodating and in a way I felt sorry for them having to endure the event because of my crash. Thanks all.

There will be a follow-up post to this to really bring to light why this crash was one of the most important parts of my life to date. Stay tuned for part 2!

* the owner of the place we stay during the Snowyride…270km away in Jindabyne