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I started later in life, at 30-something, and started off with an MSF (CMSP) beginner rider course. Rode for about 2-2.5 years without incident outside of a few low speed practice session drops.

For my entire, admittedly brief, riding career i had been focused on learning as much as I could, going slow, focusing on developing skills (riding and road strategy), and generally aspiring to be a safe/smart/long-lived rider.

Back in early March I had gone out to attend my first group ride in an attempt to meet some local fellow motorcyclists and take some new roads in, on my first ride since "Winter" hit, about 2 months' time.

I did my usual schtick, got up early, checked over the bike (I had just done maint. while it was stored) etc. had some breakfast got geared up and headed out. Then I took about an hour by myself along some familiar back roads in an effort to re-acquaint myself with riding after stopping for a couple of months, prior to meeting up with the group.


I didn't know any of the riders so we chat and I ask about the intended ride -- where to, what pace, etc. and find out it's a ~5 hour ride, at a relaxed pace. I though to myself "no way do I have another 5 hours in me, I'll probably need to call it a day at the first gas stop and head home."

Conditions were great - a little cold, still, but clear and dry. So the ride was beautiful and perfect, except for a LARGE amount of anxiety added by the new task I found myself with of keeping tabs on the riders in front of and/or behind me. Holy crap I found that so stressful. There was an older gent on a bobber style bike who I swear to god almost died three times before the first gas stop. The dude seem unperturbed and/or oblivious. Just one of what turned out to be a lot of observations of other people taking away precious mental cycles from what I am/need to be doing myself.

We stop for gas and snack break in a neighboring state and I called my wife to check in with her, got to talking all about how beautiful the roads are and how interesting it is to ride with a group, etc., and neglected to get food or water (stupid, I know better. I. Know. Better.) gassed up and kept going instead of calling it a day and heading back. Riding is just so much fun, we all know it.

As time passed I could feel fatigue kick in and, I still only had my mesh/summer gear from when I lived in SoCal, I was freaking cold, and a bit stiff. But lots more beautiful roads came and went, we stopped at a couple local sights for photos along the way, and after about 4 hours of riding **** finally hit the fan. Except I was the ****, and the fan was, ironically, a speed limit sign.

I was taking an unremarkable, "easy" left hand turn, posted 25, at around 30-35, and found myself going wide and fixating on the edge of the asphalt. Country road, asphalt stops and its about a 1-2ft drop into some graveled rut running along the roadside. I made an effort to correct but couldn't make my body do the right things.

So I departed the road, my poor SV dropped into the rut, I got launched off it, went sailing through a peed limit sign legs-first, and landed square on my back. I'm told the bike went a little further before going down HARD on the left hand side and getting all snagged up on the earth.

Gear worn -
  • Scorpion EXO R710 helmet
  • Reaxx Alta mesh jacket w/ elbow and shoulder armor + alpinestars back protector
  • Reaxx Alta mesh pant w/ knee armor + D30 hip inserts
  • Alpinestars something-or-other riding SHOE... Since upgraded to boots w/ better protection (smx 6 v2
  • Thermal base layers...
Damage done to me -
  • (3) broken ribs
  • (4) vertebrae fractures accompanying the broken ribs
  • 1 large abrasion on right leg from where it collided with the sign post.
Everyone present was amazed that I didn't break bones in my right leg, heh.

Damage done to bike (so far) -
  • Radiator folded/crushed against cylinder head.
  • Handlebar, clutch perch, clutch lever, and left mirror destroyed.
  • Front fender destroyed from, as far as I can tell, torsion..
  • Forks are most certainly bent, hopefully not to a degree that requires outright replacement.
  • Rear LH frame cover destroyed.
  • Fender eliminator folded/crushed
  • Tail light assembly destroyed by fender eliminator.
  • License plate light destroyed by fender eliminator.
  • Rear front fender mangled by fender eliminator.
... I thought it funny that the $60 steel fender eliminator destroyed around $220 worth of OEM plastic.

Most importantly, the painful and (to me) expensive lessons! -
  • Group rides are not for me, at my current skill level. Fellow riders are a source of stress and distraction to me. I should stick to solo or riding with my wife/a known quantity.
  • I made incredibly stupid decisions and did not drink enough water or keep my energy up with any kind of food or snacks.
  • I rode beyond my limits. I was fatigued and cold and not PRESENT. I should not have been riding at that point...
  • I target fixated on the edge of the road and went right where I was looking like I knew was supposed to happen. I should have been looking to the inside, where I needed to be going.
I guess this is a long rambling post, sorry for that, but i've been meaning to dump my thoughts on this ever since my crash. Hopefully someone, somewhere, will glean something useful from my accident and avoid making the same mistakes I made.
 

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First off, I'm glad you didn't get hurt worse. The bike can always be fixed or replaced. Group rides are something to approach with open eyes. It's usually the less experienced riders who have trouble on them. I lead groups. My rule is I go the pace of the SLOWEST rider. We have a pre ride talk and anyone who wants to go fast is fine, we meet up at periodic break stops. The choice of a group leader is critical. If everyone is left completely on their own, it's not a group ride. Having said that, you should only be concerned with your own riding. Paying attention to others in front of you and , especially behind you is distracting. And it sounds like you need more practice on keeping a High Visual Horizon. Remember, you go where your eyes go. I hope you keep riding, and learning.

Mad
 

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Thanks for sharing, runleveljames.

Very glad to hear that, all things considered, you came out relatively unscathed! I hope you healed / are healing up well. As a first time rider myself also in my mid-30's (less than a year and about 4000 miles of experience) it's nice to hear another rider talk about the mental aspect, and being open and honest about things that induce nerves, trepidation, etc. And, not to mention the very real peer-induced pressure to keep going, even when you know better.
I've yet to do a proper 'group ride', although I've twice gone out with 2 other good buddies. That was enough for me given my skill level!
I also fully understand the accidental skipping of nutrition and hydration. It's so easy to get caught up in all the other stuff that comes along with riding, and having to pause to do something as mundane as eat a clif bar and half a bottle of water seems like a waste of time --- even when we know it really, really isn't! And weather conditions creating fatigue is no joke. I have a (not very original motto) that I try to apply to most parts of my life -- my 10 / 100 rule: "10% more effort now yields 100% more satisfaction later." DEFINITELY applies to motorcycling, especially regarding stopping for food and drink, proper layering, etc.

All in all, glad you were wearing good gear, glad you weren't too hurt, glad you have the mental fortitude to properly assess what went right and what went wrong, and glad you shared it all with us!

Stay safe out there, and if you ever find yourself back in So-Cal, let's maybe (but also maybe not!) do a group ride together ;)

-JK
 

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All I can say isI hope that's never me, and glad you pulled through.

I also don't​ do group rides. I've ridden a couple of times with a friend, but there was definitely no pressure to go fast or be stupid, it was just a go out and enjoy floating on a 2-wheeled cloud kind of ride.

My neighbor stopped street riding when a person in his group decided to show off and creamed a curb with his skull and died at the scene as a result.

I ride for me, not to impress some other man-child. I don't wanna be that guy eating the curb, or putting a 4" square channel in my vertebrae.
 

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I've done a few small group rides, maybe 10-12 people and it really does take a little more mental energy than just riding solo.
When I'm not on a moto, I'm also a cyclist. I've been in races with large groups and even just large groups in general where we are literally elbow to elbow at 25-30mph. In races it's 20-30 people, but in group rollouts it's been as many as 900-1000. The first time I did a mass start I never got comfortable until about 20 minutes in when the group started to break apart. Eventually you learn to compartmentalize and it gets a little easier to deal with, but you're always on edge to some degree, you need to be if you want to come out unscathed.
 

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Glad you're on the healing path.

For the first few group rides I tried to be the second to last rider, since each ride I went on had a leader and a sweeper--both experienced riders who knew the route and were easily riding within their limits. They also have comms so they stayed in contact with each other. If the group was ever split by traffic lights or slower riders midpack, the leader would hold the group up at the next turn so everyone could catch up and no one would be lost.

This freed me from most of the responsibility of keeping tabs on the rider behind because I knew as long as I rode within my limits, he was well within his. I still tried to develop the habit of checking for him whenever my concentration wasn't called elsewhere. Even when I wasn't able to be the last rider who wasn't sweeping, I tried to stay near the back of the pack. Again, the sweeper has the ultimate responsibility for all the riders ahead, so it alleviates your responsibilities somewhat.

As my skills improved and my group of riding buddies narrowed, I came to enjoy sweeping. No responsibilities to a rider behind. Just ride within my own abilities and stay close enough to the rider ahead that he doesn't worry about me.

When I am on all day rides with my friends I don't call my wife. I will text her when we stop for lunch and when we break off and start heading home.

As far as layering and gear goes, well, you kind of have to experience inadequate gear a few times before you can start to find ways to mitigate heat/cold/rain etc. It's good to be very aware of your body and mind when dealing with extremes of heat or cold.

Here's to a speedy and complete recovery of both you and your bike.
 

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Reading your post and finding myself nodding my head, yep, yep, yep. I started riding in my 30s, took the MSF class and loved it, I'm almost through my second year, 10k miles or so. Spend a lot of energy being as safe and competent as I can be, learning from the experiences of others.

Thank you for sharing your story and I'm glad you survived your crash! Hope you heal up quick and get your bike sorted without too much trouble.
 
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