Riding has always been an adventure sport, there is literally nothing separating you from the elements. The vehicle requires balance and the smallest loss of concentration can have severe consequences. Of course as a rider one always believes accidents happen to other people who are reckless. When you are out riding short or long there are a number of elements at play of which only some are directly controllable. But then, it is part of the joy of riding where you are part of the world around you and not disconnected from it in an aluminium bubble.
So, it was nothing short of a severe shock when I took a toss recently. I was riding to Goa for the India Bike Week – 2019. The best thing about riding for an event like this is the number of riders out on the road. There is always company to be had.
This happened in Chorla ghat. The roads were messed up due to the excess rain that came down in Aug Sept ’19. Unfortunately for me , at that particular point I was riding alone in a space of about 200 metres ahead and behind. Just around the curve was a massive crater. There had been other craters that had come by but up to that point the road had been ok, nothing very different from other bad roads one has experienced.
To step back a bit, I had recently ridden in Arunachal Pradesh, the roads there were really bad. We were on much smaller bikes (Himalayans) and were able to negotiate the seriously bad roads without any issues. The Arunachal kind of trip is very good to help one understand how to ride in hills and on bad roads. It teaches you some amount of humility and a lot of camaraderie. But in my case it probably gave me a certain hubris of having been there done that. And moving from the Himalayan to my monster of a bike I was even more confident of being able to negotiate anything the road had to offer.
Therefore up to that point any pothole or other road features did not get any respectful slowing down from me. I would just point the bike straight at the pothole and ride through it hardly slowing down, just rising in my seat a bit. All classic examples of what not to do.
The huge crater that got me was just around the bend, so I did not get a chance to spot it early. I was singing in my helmet (actually trying to recall lyrics to purani jeans). I looked at the crater and rose a little in my seat. That was probably the second mistake, first one was not emergency braking as soon as I saw how big the crater was. I was definitely not speeding (I very rarely do) , was cruising at 40ish, but that too was faster than I should have been for that road condition. The bike went in and bounced up really hard. I was already half-standing and got thrown off the bike completely. Luckily for me the bike and I went in separate directions from that point. I landed on my face and chest. At the moment of impact I was conscious and stood back up. There was a car which had come up and I actually remember declaring to the person in the car that I was fine before passing out. Next when I came to, I could see a number of bikers had gathered, some of them were pulling my bike out of a ditch (or the side of the road) and others were helping me with my helmet and jacket.
This is a good time to appreciate the importance of equipment. I was wearing a Shark helmet, carbon fiber. It is a testament to the helmet that all I got was a swollen lip and a cut on the inside lower lip where my teeth went in at impact. My jacket and trouser are a set from Alpinestars. I have added chest and back protectors to the jacket. Landing on my chest, the protector definitely helped, other than getting the wind knocked out for a few seconds I was fine. My gloves were the cheapest piece of equipment I had. The palm tore and I had scratches near my wrist – probably my watch and bracelet were the cause. The gloves were gone, however the jacket & trouser had no sign of damage at all. When I bought these, it was certainly an expensive deal and I have my wife to thank for egging me to buy good equipment. While she might not be a fan of biking (certainly not after this incident) she was responsible for helping me make the choice for better equipment. Certainly glad she did that.
The most important factor in all this was the action taken by other bikers. My friends and biking group I was riding with were of course there, and so were a number of unknown bikers, some of them turned and came back to help when they heard of it. A genuine heartfelt thanks to each one of you out there who came to help. A special shout out to my bunch the Ministry of Torque who stood by me all through. A few of them waited till the bike could be fixed up enough to be ridden to Goa. I was immediately taken to a local hospital where they did basic first aid, luckily that is all that was needed.
Heartfelt thanks to Raj, Parth, Sharad, Shalin, Kiran, MJ and Suhail (who worked his magic to get the bike in rideable shape). Thanks to Joe as well, who helped with getting the bike offloaded in Bangalore on a Sunday.
Well, I am still recovering, my wrists are still not back to 100%, esp the right one where I might have landed and taken severe impact, nothing broken but it is weak. The bike is also recovering courtesy of Joe’s Garage.
Lessons to take away from this: i. always ask yourself if you are being too cocksure and extra smart, be honest and down to earth (else you might get down to earth like I did) ii. Ride in groups and have a friends who will stand by you iii. Invest in high quality equipment, this cannot be emphasized enough and iv. Put in some effort to learn riding skills either through tons of practice or formally.
I am of course back to riding. Currently riding to work, since I do have a bullet and a Harley still in the garage. Ride on and stay safe !!