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Common Tread

Motorcycle crash stories: A few of Lemmy's greatest hits

Jul 21, 2016

I used to work with a guy who hated snakes.

However, he was always watching TV shows about them. When I asked him about it, he couldn’t explain why he spent so much time watching snake shows on the Discovery Channel. It sounds odd, until you realize that most motorcyclists spend an inordinate amount of time watching, reading, and diagramming crashes.

I’m no different. I love a good crash story, whether I’m telling it or listening to it. When I met the lovely Mrs. Lemmy, she noticed I had some road rash on my right side. I had been cut off by a maniac making a three-lane change to make his exit. I decided to test the traction of the gas tank as opposed to the tires. I wasn't too battered, so I stood up, picked up my scoot, and nursed it home. I then began scrounging parts. I was particularly proud in that instance to have gotten my little motorcycle healed up before I did. I had road rash on me, but my bike looked mint again. (Well, as good as that ugly mutt ever could. I was broke, and it was the best I could do at the time.)

Here's my little Savage after new bars, risers, tank, paint and exhaust. The bike was back up to snuff before I was. Photo by Lemmy.

Not too long ago, the video crew at RevZilla was determining the feasibility of running a camera bike offroad. I saddled up on our COO’s BMW F 800 GS, and we got our cameraman Ryan strapped in. Ryan used an apple box to simulate the camera rig he usually uses to shoot so we didn’t ruin anything expensive, and we headed off to the gnarly stuff. We dumped the bike in various lowsides until it became apparent that we could probably shoot this way, but busting up the camera rig was a distinct possibility. The bike had plenty of protection on it, but we were both a bit banged up and looked significantly worse than the Beemer.

My most egregious crash, however, occurred shortly after I began working at RevZilla. My commuter bike at that time was a 1994 Kawasaki Concours. That big old dinosaur was a comfy, reasonably quick bike, so it was easy to pile up the miles on it. And pile them on I did! I rode that bike over 120 miles each workday, rain or shine, hot or cold.

It got to be a bit of a joke, because I just bundled up warmer each day as winter set in. A few Zillans asked me when I’d stop riding for the winter. Well, I never! I spent quite a few winters in the Show Me state without a car. Of course what didn't sink it was that I had done that commute as a kid on little Hondas — a CB350 one year and a CMX250 another — on roads with 25 mph limits, not freezing my cookies off ripping down the Pennsy Turnpike.

I shot my mouth off a bit. Meyer Snowplows makes a bumper sticker that I’ve seen since I was knee-high to a grasshopper that proclaims “Let it snow.” I put one on the windshield of my Connie and soldiered on.

Gear Geek Eric S. getting comfy on my big ol' Concours shortly before her final voyage. Photo by Lemmy.

If there was significant snowfall on the ground, I was taking my truck, but it really was not often I did that. If the plows had run, so did I. By late January, I was running some heated gear, and temperatures began dipping into the single digits up on Lemmy Mountain. At this point, this had become a hard row to hoe, but I do enjoy the occasional moto challenge. A few Zillans seemed duly impressed, but the joke was on them. They had mistaken stupidity for moxie.

One day in February, I came to work, bundled up like a snowman in my onesie commuting suit. The streets were clear, but it was cold. I left for home around 6:30 p.m. On I-95, I noticed flurries, but I thought that in the hour of riding ahead of me they would probably not be too detrimental.

Then the squall happened.

Visibility went to doodly-squat. Snow began piling up at a rather alarming rate. I abandoned my previous plan — boogie at 80 mph and try to outrun the mess — and backed off to 50 mph with my hazard lights on. (That was a nice feature to have for a 1994 model year bike!)

And then I came to a bridge. Bridges tend to ice up well before roads, and this one had turned into a skating rink. I had not planned for this. There were cars littering the bridge that had done exactly what I was about to do. My tires suddenly turned to marbles. I checked a mirror and saw the headlights behind me doing a dangerous dance, and there did not seem to be a way to safely get to the shoulder. Fortunately, I didn’t have to, because my beloved Kawi decided to take a little slide on its side. I watched it skittering down the pavement, throwing sparks, and watched cars reacting sliding all over.

I finally stopped sliding. I wasn’t banged up, so I got to the bike and got it off to the shoulder as quickly as I could. As I stopped to wait for my wife (Mrs. Lemmy has been a chase vehicle pilot more than once), I witnessed 13 more crashes on the same bridge.

I try to keep ‘em upright, but it’s an uphill battle. Crashing is not a mark of shame, if it can serve as a reflection point for a thoughtful rider. Crashing can be lethal, and that’s something to be considered very carefully. I’ve been fortunate so far, but I operate under no delusions that I am invincible. The wrecks seem to come fewer and farther between these days, but I doubt I’ll eliminate them totally until I hang it up for good.

They may be scarier than a snake show, but I still want to see the videos and hear the stories. Whaddya got for me?