Rookie mistakes led to my accident and a seriously broken leg - Kawasaki Vulcan 750 Forum : Kawasaki VN750 Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 02:28 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Rookie mistakes led to my accident and a seriously broken leg

I posted a thread in the goats belly last week (Feb.16) just before going into hospital for my 3rd surgery on a leg broken last June 25, while riding my Vulcan. I got a PM from FlaRider, asking how the accident happened. I know that I wrote a fairly complete account of the accident several months ago, but I cannot find it. I will recount it again here, in the hope that it may help others avoid making the rookie mistakes that I made.

I was early evening, returning home from Taber, about 40 miles away, on mostly flat, straight, prairie, 4 lane highway. I don`t get much practice on twisties or long sweeping turns. On my daily commute home from work, I would deliberately take a route with a righthand 270* exit ramp, just because it was the only real curve that I could lean into at any speed. I was looking forward to the exit ramp off Hwy 3 all the way home, as it was just a little tighter than the one I rode every day. I had slowed down enough to safely ride the loop around, on the left hand side of the traveled portion of the lane. I think I was travelling 30 mph or less at all points during this incident. Just after starting into the loop, I decided to let the bike go a bit wider at the beginning of the curve, then cut back in to the apex, close to the exit.

This would have worked out just fine, except for several things suddenly competing for my attention all at the same time, which are:

1. I let the bike stand up too straight, while allowing it to describe a larger curve at the beginning of the ramp.

2. I was now travelling down the center of a 4 foot wide, lighter colored portion of the lane, next to the guardrail. This lighter colored strip is where all the sand and gravel on the road ends up, as it is brushed and blown off the travelled portion of the lane by the tires of passing vehicles. Now I could not see any amount of sand or gravel, but in my mind, was convinced it was there, in part at least, because of the difference in color between where the black rubber is scrubbed off the tires onto travelled portion of the road, and where I was riding. Because of inexperience, I was afraid to lean the bike over, to push right to go right. I was afraid that I would slide on the sand and lowside into the rail.

3. Countersteering was not (and is not yet!), a reflex action to me. I still have to consciously think "push right to go right", or "push left to go left". If you have to think about what action to take in an emergency, while riding, it is too late. I should have taken advantage of some empty roads in a new industrial park, that I passed on my way home each afternoon, to practice emergency obstacle avoidance (swerving right and left). PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, until it is second nature, or a reflex action.

4. I also needed (and still do) to practice threshold braking, emergency braking or panic stops, whatever you prefer to call them, along with learning to swerve quickly. Up to this point, I have very little experience using the front brake for stopping. I`m a truck driver, with 13 gears to shift through, and use engine braking and coasting, to slow down whenever possible. The habit has carried through to piloting a motorcycle. I have recently come to realize that merely rolling off the throttle, may have slowed me enough to have successfully negotiated that curve. Engine braking and coasting to a stop may be a bad habit on a bike, in traffic, and needs to be stopped or at least modified. (At least the brake lever needs to be flicked on and off to warn other drivers I am slowing down. Although this is a completely different issue, as no other vehicle was near me at the time.)

5. Coming back to countersteering for a minute. Because I was afraid to "push right, to lean the bike over and hence go right", I tried to muscle the bike over by steering right ( pulling to the right, or pushing left). Of course pushing left, steered me left into the guardrail, where I dragged my leg along it for 50 feet. Chaps and boots saved it from even worse damage than it received.

6. Now lastly, but maybe most importantly, was my failure to KEEP MY HEAD UP AND LOOK TO THE RIGHT, WHERE I WANTED TO GO. I got fixated on the guard rail ahead of me, while still riding along 2 feet away from it. Naturally by concentrating on the rail, instead of the escape route to the right, I drove directly into it.

In conclusion, I encourage all riders, especially new ones or those returning after a long hiatus from riding, or those like me, who live where weather forces several months of non riding each year, to take a refresher course at the beginning of a new riding season. If you feel that you don`t need a refresher course, at least take your bike to some low traffic area and practice some obstacle avoidance and emergency braking maneuvers. This will at least allow you to get reacquainted with your baby's moves.

I realize this is a long piece, but if it helps one person avoid the pain and trouble that I have gone through, it will have been worth the time it took to write it.

Gordon

1991 VN 750 -"Cosmic Lady" or "Bad Girl"?
Purchased May 16, 2008
Approx.19,300km (12,000 miles)

H-D windshield
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F&S luggage rack and engine guard
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July 13, 2016, Riding on the DARKSIDE now, Classic Radial 165/80-15


TOP TEN THINGS A NEW RIDER/OWNER SHOULD DO. Click on link.
https://www.vn750.com/forum/11-vn750-general-discussion/9127-top-ten-items-you-would-suggest-new-owner-do-his-new-ride.html

Last edited by OlHossCanada; 08-18-2010 at 10:01 PM. Reason: spelling corrections
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 03:42 AM
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I believe those are common newer rider issue's Hoss, and you're right; a refresher course, or basic starter course will help alot, (as well as some practice)

Thanks for (re) posting this.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 08:14 AM
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Smart is the man who can admit his mistakes and learn from them. Thank you for posting this.BTW how's the leg healing?

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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 10:12 AM
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Thanks for posting this. I sure hope you get healed up and can ride again this summer. Since I started riding I have always thought that folks who live where the roads are mostly straight and flat probably have to work pretty hard to get good experience riding curves. It's tough to make things happen by instinct when you don't have the constant repetition.

I have an ERC course scheduled for 5 weeks from today. If it is anything like the BRC I took 5 years ago it should be pretty valuable. Sh*t! I need some riding time before then to shake off the winter rust! Melt snow melt!

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 10:22 AM
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Thanks for the post. As a fairly new rider I appreciate any and all information about riding. The hardest thing for me to learn was that I need to keep my head in the game.

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 11:34 AM
 
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yup i remember when doing the msf course they always stressed that in a turn your bike is going to go where your looking..... i still have trouble doing that to this day i only look about 20=30 feet ahead when turning when according to them i should be looking at the end of the turn.... hopefully i can find an advanced riders course around here cuz a referesher is always nice and since its free im all game...

im glad that you came out ok and are willing to share the experence so maye someone who has the same situation can have an epiphiny and stay with the wheels on the ground and pull through safely....

i have a story of my own too but it comes down to dont pull out of a bar when a drunk guy is walking in front of you.... hahaha again glad to see that your walking away from this one
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 12:23 PM
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The situation you describe is called 'target fixation', named by pilots, and keeping your eyes on where you want the vehicle to go is the cure. I also have experienced this 'target fixation', on my very first long ride.

I came around a sharp right switchback turn, on a two way road, too fast for my newbie abilities and drifted toward the diving line. Instead of looking down the road to where I wanted the bike to go, I locked onto the fast approaching lane dividing line. The bike quickly passed over into the lane of oncoming traffic, but luckily no vehicle was traveling in the opposite direction (I had chosen a back road at 5:30am to take my first long ride). Scared the hell out of me, but I knew what to look for the next time (and there was a next time and a next time, etc.). Still happens on occasion, but now a little voice screams from the back of my brain, "EYES FORWARD!".


Chris Glennon - Portland, OR
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 02:32 PM
 
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Thumbs up Thanx OlHoss!

Quote:
Originally Posted by OlHossCanada View Post
I In conclussion, I encourage all riders, especially new ones or those returning after a long hiatus from riding, or those like me, who live where weather forces several months of nonriding each year, to take a refresher course at the beginning of a new riding season. If you feel that you don`t need a refresher course, at least take your bike to some low traffic area and practice some obstacle avoidance and emergency braking manoevers. This will at least allow you to get reaquaintted with your babys moves.

I realize this is a long piece, but if it helps one person avoid the pain and trouble that I have gone through, it will have been worth the time it took to write it.
OlHoss--
Yes, it's a long piece but worth every minute of your writing time! I'm one of those returning to riding after a long hiatus of 4 years. I have ridden on and off most of my life. I have done 'track days' and even did a short stint as an MSF instructor; however, I was shocked at HOW MUCH a 4-year absence effected my riding skills. I think that age may be a factor because with age we tend to lose some degree of reaction time, physical ability, coordination, etc. During the 70's I had about a 10-year absence and I don't remember my skills suffering as much.

I'm practicing a few times a week in an empty school parking lot doing what you recommend such as quick stops, swerving, obstacle avoidance (look away from the obstacle and toward your escape route), tight circles scraping the pegs, etc.

OlHoss, you have my sincere appreciation for sharing your traumatic experience with us!!!!
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 06:12 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the responses to the post. I have heard the term "target fixation" before, and it describes the situation precisely.

I have listened to and distributed motivational tapes and literature in the past, and learned some interesting facts about learning and improving physical skills along with intellectual, mental or emotional ones.

There was a test done several years ago with a basketball team, to discover the best and fastest ways to teach and improve their skills. They were divided into three groups. The first group was coached and drilled in the usual manner. The second group watched the practice and were told to visualize and feel the drills, in detail, over and over again for the same period of time as the first group practiced. The third group did nothing but watch the first group practice.

When the three groups were then tested to determine their progress, it was discovered that the first and second group progressed at about the same rate. The third group as expected, progressed not at all. What was surprising to the testers, was that those who only visuallized the practice drills repeatedly, progressed as rapidly as those who actually, physically had their hands on the ball.

Another story I heard was about a POW who wanted to become a concert pianist. Naturally he didn`t have a piano in his cell, but he did have a pencil and a piece of paper that he drew a life size piano keyboard on. I don`t remember how long he was there in virtual isolation, left to practice on his paper keyboard, and listen to the music in his head. As I recall, when he was finally released and returned home, his skill as a pianist were greatly improved over what they were when he went to war.

I believe that this applies to anyone learning to ride as well. Whether it is a brand new rider just learning to co-ordinate the throttle and clutch lever to move off without stalling. Or someone like me who has a certain amount of basic ability, but needs some coaching and practice to become a truly competant and skillful rider.

I think you`re right FlaRider about reaction time, co-ordination and strength diminishing as we get older. I`ve never been one to spend time working out, but the time has come when I must, I think. Perhaps before the riding season begins I can get my exercise on a stationary bike or a treadmill, and visuallize improving my riding skills at the same time!

antiq, it is too soon to tell if any bone growth is occuring. However I am feeling well, and am not in any pain.

Gordon

1991 VN 750 -"Cosmic Lady" or "Bad Girl"?
Purchased May 16, 2008
Approx.19,300km (12,000 miles)

H-D windshield
Relocated R/R
MF-AGM battery
Fiamm Freeway Blaster horns
F&S luggage rack and engine guard
Kury Offset Hiway pegs
July 13, 2016, Riding on the DARKSIDE now, Classic Radial 165/80-15


TOP TEN THINGS A NEW RIDER/OWNER SHOULD DO. Click on link.
https://www.vn750.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9127

Last edited by OlHossCanada; 02-28-2009 at 06:14 PM.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-17-2009, 10:58 AM
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Target fixation can be made to work for you as well. I know this from city bicycling, and am starting to realize it more fully on the motorcycle. Just take your mind (and your eyes) where you want to be, and it's kind of amazing how the bike will just go there.

I have a kind of "Not there - rather, There." response I've drilled myself into for dealing with potholes and road debris in FL. When my eye lights on something I know is bad (say a 2x4 with nails sticking out of it - seen on I-95 on a recent ride), I think, "Bad - don't go there, go There instead," while looking at the clear roadway next to the object. Actually I don't really verbalize the thought in my head. I just look at where I want the bike to be and she goes.

Scheherazade
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