For the truly exceptional.....

Anatomy of a crash

"I was being cool."  Any story that starts out like this certainly has the makings of a Hardcore Tale. When you approach the edge that you've been living on, -- and then cross over........ That never ending 10th of a microsecond where your brain goes "oh shit", or "this is gonna hurt", and you resign yourself to some form of painfully tumbling cease of motion. When the air that you caught was just a little higher then you thought it was going to be, and the takeoff wasn't nearly as straight and stable as it was the last time, When you voluntarily or otherwise are separated from your machine at a time when you have no business being separated from your machine, the moment when time and sound stop and blurred vision and impending pain are your immediate future...........The moment of impact.

I'd hit the jump before. Lots of times. It was the "perfect" jump. No bad hook, not a whole lot of  height (maybe 6 feet), but great distance. (A measured 130 feet or so). hit 'er as hard as you can, harder and harder with each successive run, top of 5th, wide open, 75mph, over the crest of a dune and down the other side, barely compress the suspension on landing, fly like a bird for a second or two - an eternity. The kind of jump that you only find once in a while, so I hit it often, savoring the moment, the air, the rock and roll.

. After a while the takeoff gets rutted, but you don't dare hit it off the beaten trail for fear of an unpredictable launch - you don't dare slow down and build your speed back up with another takeoff ramp. The crowds get larger, you don't dare quit while you are ahead. You are living a beer commercial. Good friends, good fun, good times. Living single, drinking doubles, jumping triples. The machine starts to come off the takeoff a little squirely. Nothing you haven't dealt with before. Besides, you are only gonna hit this jump one or two more times anyway.......

Since it's the last jump, you may as well lay into the throttle a little heavier, and load the suspension up a little harder -- go out in style, number one, the unbeatable jump, the odds are in your favor. As you approach the takeoff you do a self check. Good body position, wrists are straight, arms slightly bent, left foot squared on the peg, right foot, a little off - back and right - touching the mud guard - no time to fix it, it would be far worse if the suspension didn't load right - best case, I miss the big air I was planning on and I have to put myself through this horror again, worst case the machine gets loaded unevenly and becomes airborne with more lift on one side then the other - don't think about that - the odds are in your favor.

Could have just throttled back. Could have simply not loaded up the suspension and let it roll over the hill..... Could have, would have, should have - didn't. So immediately after takeoff, the combination of extra power, extra pre load,  and incorrect mounted position cause the machine to begin a non recoverable crossup. It gets worse and worse as the jump progresses. At the apex the machine is flying near sideways. Not good. I hang it out. Way out, to attempt recovery and resign to the fact that this is probably going to go bad.

. It's a good jump. Maybe even a great jump. As the ground approaches in a rush, I twist and I cause a single rear tire to contact mother earth in a final attempt to salvage something gone very wrong. I agree that regardless of the outcome of the next few milliseconds, this is my last jump, and for a moment in time, a microsecond, the mighty machine bends to my will and corrects it's orthogonal flight. For a lifetime it feels like I might actually pull this off. Then the remaining wheels hit and the machine slams straight with enough force that my poorly positioned foot becomes dislodged, creating and out of balance situation that will prove to be unrecoverable.

I resign to the fate with a though of "I knew this was gonna happen" spewing from my mind. Just in time to be slammed into the ground with an unimaginable force. A force that feels no resistance from skin and bones now shattered. I impact violently on my right shoulder and my head. Yes, we all wear full safety gear, but at 75mph in the sand you might as well be wearing shorts and a tank top. The sand is like a thousand little hands. Whatever hits first gets grabbed. And held onto. The rest of your torso, however, keeps going. Summation, one severely dislocated shoulder, one cracked humorous, one chipped socket. And one removed helmet, as the impact spun me around. Not good.

Funny what you notice and think about in the 2 or 3 seconds it takes to crash. I watched my helmet come off, powerless to stop it, and thought; "uh oh, this is bad." then consciously raised my left arm - because I knew my right was not working properly - and put it over my head for protection. That's how I dislocated my left thumb. I wear a wrist brace (from a past accident) and it kinda leaves the thumb out there all on it's own.

So a few tumbles and bounces later, I could feel the energy bleeding off, I came to a stop. I always try to use the last little bit of energy in a tumble to stand  so that I can do a self check without straining anything further. In this case I was well aware that I had a "leg issue" so I took the opportunity to come to a halt in a seated position.

Self Check

  The self check begins. For those of us that have crashed before, we know what the self check is: consciously pay attention, or initiate movement in every component of your body, while simultaneously paying attention to pain. Your body communicates with you in the only way it can - pain. The trouble is that. intense pain can cover up subtle pain. For example, I knew right away that I had "issues" with my right leg and my left thumb, although I didn't know until after my shoulder was "relocated" that I had broken my ankle and three bones in my foot, and dislocated my thumb. so, you have to keep that in mind. No pain is small enough to be ignored until completely examined. Just make mental note of where all the pains are and immobilize those components until the doc gets to you.


Then, of course, shock sets in. Shock doesn't mean that you are scared. Shock is the body's way of dealing with trauma, and mental overload. What mental overload? Well, I lived the about story in about 5 seconds - Get it? I've been around the aftermath of crashes long enough that I actually use shock to my advantage. I know I'm going to be in shock, I know that is going to cause things to hurt less than they will when I get out of shock. For example; One fateful day I was shifting from fifth to sixth  going down a tight bush trail a '91 XR250R and met a Honda Foreman 4x4 ATV going the other way. Essentially I slid the dirt bike sideways and crashed into the front of the ATV using my leg as the cushion between the 2 machines. I was doing a good 50Mph and the ATV was probably doing 20Mph. After the initial crash - I had leg issues on this one too - I hopped and the guy's ATV and rode about a mile to a clearing to complete my self check. The theory being that an ambulance or chopper wasn't going to be able to get to the location where the crash happened. Shock can be your friend. But I've also watched my wife roll her 4x4 ATV on top of her leg and proceed to do a dancing jig showing everyone that she wasn't hurt - until she came out of shock. Shock can also kill you. As your body shuts down - pain centers go first - in a serious accident shock induced coma is possible as well.  Nevertheless, in relatively minor incidents shock can be your friend.

The Aftermath

Somewhere in the swirling events that followed, I found myself in an ambulance headed for a hospital in a country from which I had no citizenship. Can you say travel insurance - or extended medical coverage?

. The pain remains.The specialist argue for, and against surgery - I spend my nights in my pool working the appendages so I can get to the point where I can lift my arm high enough to put it on a handle bar, and get rid of this damn leg cast so I can operate the rear brakes - mind you, you don't really need them so I concentrate on the throttle arm.

I stay off the pain killers I was given, for the most part so I can judge if I'm pushing to hard on my recovery path, but secondly because they are highly addictive and it would do no good be a junkie with motor sports habits. I don't intend to die quite yet.

It will probably be the better part of 6 weeks before I can twist a throttle or press a thumb lever, probably 6 months before I can hold a wheelie or berm a corner. Probably next year before I can take the abuse of a jump - maybe never before my should will take the abuse of a jump gone wrong.


I must be stupid. Insane. Out of control. The doctors just shake their heads. Why would you do something like this? Pick another sport. I don't think so. I remember the commentary during "On any Sunday" - "Why? Because I like to." Basically it's as simple as that. We, the elite, the chosen few - this is how I feel. To experience life. The good and the bad. "We do these things not to invite death, but to truly live" The adrenaline. The rush. To participate in a task with the elite and to be elite in that class. The best of the best - that is what we strive for. Sure, I could take up lawn bowling. I could get really good at that. Be the number one lawn bowler in the world. I'd still watch motocross on Sunday and wish is was me.

. I'd ride and jump and crash if I were the only one in the world that rode. Having folks join you just makes it better. I'm a bit of an anti socialist - but when I ride I only have to interact with other folk when I choose to - when I stop. Then it's stories about what we did when we rode. When we're out doing our thing, the other folks are just animated collections of  protective gear and flashy rides. Oh, and competition (grin)!

So, the infernal question - why do we ride - why do we do the things we do - why, why, why....... The folks that ask that question obviously don't ride - or don't ride hard. And you know what? That's o.k. too, but they've never seen the ground disappear as your altitude off a jump increases, they've never felt the thrill of crossing over the edge - and bringing it back, they've never felt the rush or the feeling of accomplishment in controlling, absolutely, 100 percent, if only for a moment, a wonderful collection of mechanical technology that when combined creates a steel horse to ride or a the worlds longest amusement park ride or an analogous fighter plane. It's the difference between watching motocross on the tv - my mother would do that - or loading up the truck on Sunday. It's alpha type personality, doers not watchers, but singularly, most importantly, we do what we do because we like it.

And for that, for the freedom to experience the truly extreme, when payment is due, I'll pay.


A word or two from Rich:

Anyone stupid enough to think this is an endorsment or a direction to go out and do this kinda of stuff deserves what happens to them.  Nature has a nice way of taking care of the idiots that society produces. Every rider on these pages is either highly experienced, or plain stupid. 

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(Rich - Rich@gw-networks.net )

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