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It was a warm summer morning when I put on my motorcycle gear for a ride. After checking my text messages to ensure my four-man group was still meeting at the agreed-upon location, I performed a T-CLOCS (Tires and wheels, Controls, Lights and electrical, Oil and fluids, Chassis, Stands) inspection on my bike. Satisfied everything looked good, I departed to our rendezvous point, where I ate a small breakfast, drank some coffee and waited for everyone else. Two other riders arrived shortly thereafter. The fourth rider texted that he was on his way.
Time passed and the fourth rider still had not shown. Traffic was beginning to get heavy with motorists headed to work, which made for less-than-ideal riding conditions. We couldn’t reach the fourth rider on his phone, so we decided to cancel the ride and head home. But then one of the guys suggested we instead go on a short ride with lighter traffic, to which everyone agreed.
The route we decided upon would take us by the fourth rider’s neighborhood. I figured we could stop by and see why he didn’t show. As we rode along the coast and neared the turn onto a two-mile bridge, we encountered police blocking two lanes of the four-lane roadway. We thought they were conducting early morning vehicle inspections, so we continued on. Halfway up the road, however, we saw several fire trucks and more police. There was also a motorcycle standing up along the median with a heavily damaged front end. We immediately recognized it as our fourth rider’s bike.
No one will ever know exactly what transpired that morning, but here’s what we think: The fourth rider, trying to make it to our meeting point, was speeding on the two-mile straight stretch of road. He was familiar with the road and knew there wouldn’t be a lot of traffic at dawn. On this morning, however, there was a bicyclist also on the road. The two men collided, killing the bicyclist on impact. The fourth rider was rushed to the hospital.
Calling the fourth rider’s wife to tell her he’d been involved in a motorcycle accident was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. The accident site was less than a mile from their house, so she would have to pass it on the way to the hospital. I met her at the hospital, where, sadly, we were told the fourth rider died due to complications from a broken neck.
The fourth rider was one of the most experienced and respected motorcyclists I knew. He’d ridden for much of his life and was fearless on two wheels. He trained at the California Superbike School, mentored other riders and was a full-time motorcycle safety instructor. He was someone you would never expect to have a significant mishap on a motorcycle. But he did. A momentary lack of discipline was all it took for this man to lose his life and unintentionally take the life of another person. The fourth rider also left behind a loving family of five and his mother.
This experience kept me off of my motorcycle for several months. I often thought about my family and the difficulties it would cause them if I were to die in an accident. In the meantime, I did a lot of thinking about how I could reduce my risks so I could arrive home in one piece after every ride.
Eventually, I returned to two wheels, and I think of my friend often when I ride. If anything positive came out of his death, it’s that I am now a better and safer rider. I learned that no matter how experienced you are, a single moment of indiscipline is all it takes to make that your final ride.