1ST ARMORED DIVISION
Fort Bliss, Texas
A few years ago, a friend of mine, who is a very experienced rider and has spent a lot of effort practicing motorcycle safety, was on a group ride in the Pacific Northwest. At the time, he was riding a new Polaris Can-Am Spyder. He and a buddy, who was on a new Triumph sport bike, decided to switch rides at a fuel stop (his first mistake). Less than five miles later, a truck without brake lights suddenly slowed ahead of the group. My friend over-braked on this unfamiliar bike (his second mistake), did two or three stoppies and then a forward flip. His Aerostich riding gear did a great job protecting him, but he did suffer enough damage to both hands to require multiple surgeries and almost a year of recuperation.
Unfortunately for my friend, this accident had a huge impact on his job because he is a writer. It was tough on his wife and children, too, as there were many things he couldn’t do for himself while he recovered. He was also forced to cancel a long-planned summer vacation with his son so he could have one of his several surgeries. He never imagined all of this could be the result of just switching rides.
In the months following the accident, my friend spent a lot of time thinking about his risk matrix. He commented at one point that, “There is no such thing as absolute safety, but I definitely need to hone my risk-reduction skills and tactics. Crashing just soaks up too much money, time and my wife's energy.” This was from a guy who has ridden far more miles than 99% of us ever will and devoted innumerable hours thinking about how to do it as safely as possible. From this accident, he learned to never change motorcycles in the middle of a ride.
I tell this story to remind us all to review our own risk matrix every time we mount a bike. This matrix should reflect the lessons we have garnered from our training, experience and any pertinent writings we've absorbed. We should also think about the mistakes we've commonly made. Not looking far enough ahead is my most common mistake.
What errors do you make while riding? Have you come up with any solutions to correct them? If not, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. Remember, reviewing your risk matrix can go a long way toward reducing the odds of an accident and its consequences. Ride safe!