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.