Let’s get something straight, crashing sucks! I’ve crashed…some all by myself and my own error, others with the assistance of others. Crashing is something we don’t like to discuss or stress at the track because it’s a bit like jinxing yourself, we know it is always a possibility, but we don’t like to draw attention to it. You can’t think of it or you wouldn’t push yourself outside your comfort zone and learn. It is a delicate balance of how far you choose to go outside your limits and be aware of the risk involved. It is all about making good choices and being focused, that is why we teach people to ride safely and increase their riding ability in a controlled environment.
For those who have only crashed once or twice and haven’t had serious injuries, there is a blase attitude of yeah no big deal, but remember you haven’t had a bad crash yet, one that’s rocked your world. When you meet that crash it will change you, you will question everything, your abilities, decisions and focus. Those of us who spend a great deal of time at the track have had a few and there is a period of time that every time you get on the track the percentage of fear is greater than it has ever been. I will use myself as an example, I had a second crash on turn 3 at the Ridge, one that shook me. This crash launched me, first landing on my back sliding, then flipped me over and all I heard was my visor scraping against the asphalt. When the grinding stopped, I stood up to the delight of the corner worker gals who were terrified I was knocked out. I remember having a brief moment in slow motion of “oh no, here we go” and then the get off, you’d be amazed that in those seconds how slow everything becomes, how vivid it all is, the thoughts that run through your head, it is nothing like you would imagine. I had to race in three weeks, I was a wreck, questioned everything. Troy got my bike back together, however I wasn’t the same. I raced scared the entire weekend and overly cautious, exactly the opposite as you should be. Then came the endurance race, ugh! 6 hours of racing with two one hour stints being my turn. I was going to have to go through that turn over and over. It ended up being the best thing for me, it desensitized me, pretty soon turn 3 became part of the whole track and not the turn I clenched my teeth through every time. The fear subsides, but I can’t say you will ever overcome the nagging notion every time you enter that turn.
I’ve also been in crashes I’ve saved and ones that have rung my bell hard. The saves make you realize you were lucky and the ones that you have your noggin rocked are more difficult. I hope in discussing this subject this doesn’t change your mind to ride, it is a reality, it is something that can and chances will eventually happen. That is why we require gear, it is that important, since you are preparing for something that is an unknown. Troy has always said to me that if crashes are what you are worried about then you shouldn’t be on the track and I agree, don’t think about them, just know that they can occur at any time, be focused and alert. That’s why track days are important to raise your skill set and learn, however, turning laps and seat time are not going to improve your riding. It will allow you more time to develop bad habits, become complacent, etc. It is important to ask for help, track time can be used to make yourself a better rider or it can make you the DB that turns laps with poor form, buzzing people and acting like an asshat all the while thinking you are awesome. These individuals usually crash in spectacular form when their number comes up, so eventually they do get their ticket punched too. Take the opportunity at the track to learn, seat time is not the only thing you need, good instruction and technique are key to developing perfect muscle memory. We want to save lives, we want you to take those skills to the street so that when situations arise you can react quickly and not panic. The truth about crashing is it isn’t scary in the moment, it requires you to keep your head, to not do anything sudden, time strangely slows down and you have what seems to be long conversations with yourself about what is happening, it is surreal…I actually had a crash where I heard a crunch and thought “wow, that’s loud who is that, oh crap that’s me, did someone hit me, yep (not including of course many choice words)! OK what’s my out?” At that point in time, the choice I made was the one I had to execute, time moves that quickly. I tried to save my bike all the way to the end and I believe that it was that decision that helped lessen my injuries. The trick is to relax, the crashing is inevitable, how you react will determine greatly on how you fare.
This subject is taboo and absolutely necessary as it leads into another subject, gear. We will have that discussion in the next blog. Gear is number one on my list, proper fitting well made gear is important. My hope is this gives you a glimpse of a subject that most people don’t like to discuss and that it can give some insight to help you should that situation arise, that raising your skill set can help you immensely in giving you the tools necessary to respond, that we can demystify crashing. Again I will reiterate…crashing sucks, but being able to have control of your response to the situation will allow you to feel more in control of your outcome. It is not my intention to scare people, it is to open up a subject we like to brush under the rug, why, when it can be used as a lesson to help make it less scary. That’s why we ask everyone on a trackday to pass responsibly because even in the best case scenario played out in your head, that pass might have been closer than you liked, it could’ve spooked someone, why we ask for etiquette to be followed. I’ve been incredibly fortunate and I know there are a crew of guys I ride with that feel the same about their crashes, with that in mind, please ride with other people’s comfort level in mind at track days. If you are unsure then yield and wait for a safe place like the straightaway to pass, nothing is worth injury or worse. Bikes can be fixed, you can’t always be put back the same after a crash, please make smart choices. Please stay alert and ride safe everyone, see you again on the track next year!