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What went wrong in this Ducati crash?

The following is an article written by the BBM user MegaSpaz. October 5th, 2008. A day I won't forget about. It was a great day for a group ride on a new road in California. Nothing much different than previous Sundays, except for the route. The main, fun part of the loop was Highway 132 to Highway 49. The day was sunny and dry and both highways are known for having good road conditions. Highway 132 is a fast road with long sweepers. Highway 49 is an slower, uphill road with decreasing/increasing radius, tight L-turns, and level/camber changes. Sounds like a fun ride, no? It was until... I crashed. The morning started out with me putting on the gear I always wear on group rides in the California hills. My gear consists of:

  • Shoei RF-1000 full face helmet
  • Dainese Dellmar perforated short leather jacket which fastens to the...
  • ...Dainese SF perforated pelle leather pants
  • Dainese Full Metal Racer leather gloves
  • Dainese Torque-Out Air boots

The Ride

After gearing up and strapping on my backpack containing bottled water and a tire-repair kit, I was off to my meet up point with the group. I met up with part of the group in Dublin and then we made stops to Tracy and Modesto to meet up with the rest of the riders. From Modesto, we broke up into two groups; A pace and B pace groups. I put myself in the B group.

After breaking up into groups, it was off to ride the route. In the B group, on Highway 132, we were moving at a great pace. A great road to get into the groove of the ride. Everyone was riding their own pace and we started to get some separation between riders. At Highway 49, I found myself leading the slower riders of the B group up the mountain.

I was feeling great and hitting the turns until I came to the last technical left hander before vista point regroup area. The turn is a left-handed, uphill, decreasing radius hairpin turn with a negative camber further in the turn. Where the hairpin starts, the level of the road turns from uphill to level with no camber. According to the rider behind me, we were hitting the turn around 45 MPH. I ran wide at the hairpin portion of the turn and lowsided on the gravel on the side. So what happened?

Analysis

If you ever crash, and I hope you never do, it's important to be able to analyze as accurately as possible what happened. Why? If you can honestly analyze what you might've done wrong, it helps you learn from it making it easier to get back to riding.

If you don't analyze your crash, there's always the unknown in the back of your mind which stunts the "healing" process leading to psychological problems getting back in the saddle. So I'm going to try to put into words below what happened to me based on my observations and the observations of the rider behind me from the day of the crash and thoughts after the day of the crash.

I took a late apex line into the turn. In the turn, I recognized the turn being switchback with a slight decreasing radius. As I rolled on the throttle to power out to what I thought was the exit, I noticed that there was no road ahead! I remembered attempting to lean the bike and open the throttle more as I attempted to get my bearings and find the road.

It was too late. I hit the gravel and lowsided. I felt my left hand and elbow jam into the ground. I felt the front of my head hit the ground. What gave first, I can't say for sure. The rider behind me says the front gave out while I thought I felt the rear slide out. It was probably both since I was leaned over.

The rider behind me thinks, and I tend to agree, that I had target fixated on the gravel. He observed that I had a really good lean going and when I started to lean more was when I attempted to find the road again. I felt myself leave the bike and bounce off my back to my front. The rider behind me also estimates we hit that turn around 45 to 50 MPH.

Improving the Odds for Next Time

So, this is a pretty good high level look at the events of the crash. How can we narrow this down? Actually, it's quite simple. The main problem was speed. I was going too fast into the turn on a road I've never been on. I was in my groove, riding my pace with other riders no where in sight. I wasn't catching up to anyone, just concentrating on the road.

I got trapped, I got too comfortable. I didn't leave enough leeway to deal with misreading the road and with the change in the road conditions. On a new road, with no other riders in front, I didn't have the clue a rider in front would've given me to the type of turn I was hitting. The smart play should've been to take it down a notch on this road. I didn't do that, I hit that turn too fast, I crashed. It is possible to feel too good during a ride.

The Good

So what in this whole situation was good? I geared up. The gear saved me from more damage to myself or my own death. I'm pretty sure hitting your head on hard dirt with rocks an other debris at 45 to 50 MPH would leave your head smooshed like a watermelon. I walked away with only a small rash on my elbow and a small fracture in my hand with my ring finger being broken in two places due to the impact of how I hit the ground.

Without the neck protector integrated into the jacket, I could've snapped my neck from when my helmet hit the dirt. All the gear came away unscathed. The only thing wrong with my gear is the dirtiness.

Also, I had luck on my side. There isn't much room from the road where I crashed to the edge of the cliff, maybe twenty feet. My bike and I stopped with about five feet to spare before the edge of the cliff. The other thing that turned out good, well better than what could've been, was that the only damage to the bike was cosmetic. I'll only need to replace the plastics and the shift lever. The bike runs fine and straight. The frame and subframe have no damage. Even though replacing the plastic will be expensive, it's better than the alternative.

So, in summary, the things you should take away from this:

  • Gear up! A good set of leathers is worth its weight in gold.
  • Be able to honestly assess the accident, from what you did to what you could've done given the conditions you were in.
  • If you're on an unfamiliar road, take it down a notch and slow it down or just take it down a notch anyway.
  • Even though you're riding your own pace, it is possible to get too comfortable.

Tally of damages (Prices in MSRP):

  • Ducati OEM Front headlight fairing - $1013.99
  • Ducati OEM Rear cowl fairing - $860.99
  • Ducati OEM Upper left side fairing - $538.99
  • Ducati OEM Shift lever - $149.99
  • Pazzo brake lever - $104.99
  • SpeedyMoto Thru Body frame slider kit - $149.95
  • Helmet - $384.99 MSRP
  • Leathers/gloves/boots: $0.00
  • Medical for fractured hand with ring finger broken in 2 places: Unknown. Awaiting health insurance adjusted bill.

Comments

Rab's picture

Submitted by Rab on

Man, you were really lucky by the sounds of it. Another 5 feet and you would likely have been dead. Makes you think, doesn't it.

Having had my own involuntary get-off (only once thankfully), I truly know how it feels. My "accident" was also on a beautiful Norcal country road like 49. The beauty of the countryside and the fun of riding such great motorcycle roads seems to, like you said, make it all seem too easy and we drop our guard to some extent; that's what happened with me anyway.

We should never forget that some of the greatest motorcycle roads are also some of the most dangerous what with blind turns, hairpin turns, mountainous drops, gravel, sand, farm vehicles, animals or their bio-waste on the road, giant trucks on roads never designed for same, drivers (and riders) cutting corners and going too fast, etc. etc..

I think you've pretty much got it sussed what went wrong and have accepted responsibility for it. You've learned from it.

One thing I *will* say though, is that on group rides (especially sport-bike ones), riders often feel obliged to ride beyond their limits in order to impress others, or just to keep up. I'm not saying that's true in your case, only you can know that, but I think you'll probably agree that in general, what I'm saying has some truth in it.

RobM's picture

Submitted by RobM on

Glad that you are OK and appreciate your honesty about what happened to cause the crash. Your report will give me something to think about. I agree with you about being honest with yourself and working to understand what happened in an event like that this so you can learn from it and apply in going forward.

Anonymous's picture

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

in your pictures I can see what looks to me like guitar cases. Are you playing? Is you finger going to interfere with that?

K

Matt's picture

Submitted by Matt on

Good job on beihn honest with yourself. As always, thanks for sharing.

---
"The two seconds between 'Oh S**!' and the crash isn't a lot of practice time."

---
"The two seconds between 'Oh S**!' and the crash isn't a lot of practice time."

megaspaz's picture

Submitted by megaspaz on

Didn't realize this was posted... Gonna reply to comments in order.

Rab: I agree that sports bike group rides does tend to lend itself to machoism. I can honestly say, I wasn't in that frame of mind. I wasn't catching up to anyone as the faster riders in my group were way out of sight and the rider behind me was a comfortable 2 seconds behind. I was also keeping a constant pace the whole ride on that section.

RobM: The one advantage of a group ride is the possibility of having a rider behind and in front of you that can help you piece together what happened. I was lucky that there was a rider behind me with a vantage point of seeing everything. The key is being able to objectively listen to the other rider's perspective... Sometimes pride gets in the way of that.

Anonymous: I'm not playing right now. My ring finger still hasn't completely healed. It's still swollen at the main knuckle and feels stiff. My hand's probably about 70% of where it needs to be for me to comfortably try to attempt playing guitar again.

---
If there's anything more important than my ego
around, I want it caught and shot now...

--- AFM #998 If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now...

Dieselboy's picture

Submitted by Dieselboy (not verified) on

Did the overwhelming power of a Ducati 848 have anything to do with it? Not trying to be inconsiderate, or rude, but that is the point of this entire site: to encourage riders to ride motorcycles of a moderate and responsible power rating.

Again, wishing you a quick and full recovery, and thanking you whole-heartedly for this very informative analysis.

megaspaz's picture

Submitted by megaspaz on

I'd have to say no. I was never above 3rd gear and was mostly in 2nd gear to keep the rpms higher for engine braking.

edit: lemme expand on why I say no. Given the situation, I believe I would've still crashed if I was on my SV650S. I don't think it would've mattered which bike I would be on, I still would've probably gone down.

---
If there's anything more important than my ego
around, I want it caught and shot now...

--- AFM #998 If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now...

Dieselboy914's picture

Submitted by Dieselboy914 (not verified) on

Gotcha... sounds like the laws of physics went ahead and spoiled the day. It seems like you did all the right things, and there was nothing any of us could have done. Just a risk that comes along with riding.

In any case, thanks again, recover quickly and fully, and have a happy holiday season.

Tim T's picture

Glad you're ok. I had a similar spill in March of this year that left me with a separated shoulder that has healed but still hurts at times. I too was enjoying a beautiful ride, glanced at my friend in the mirror entering a curve and crashed at about 45 mph. I too got fixated on the edge of the road and probably hit the front brake. It's only the second crash in about 20 years but it has made me more carefull. Thanks for the story.

Loki's picture

Submitted by Loki on

So you hit gravel and went down? You used to many techincal road terms that i dont understand. Also, although its going to cost alot to fix the damage doesnt look that bad for being a 50mph crash. I crashed at 20mph and totaled the whole side of my bike.

megaspaz's picture

Submitted by megaspaz on

Sorry to hear about your get off. Hope physical damage to you is non-existant.

Yeh, damage was pretty light considering. Basically, it wasn't so much I hit gravel and went down... Take from this that I went too fast on a turn on a road I've never been on before. I misread what kind of turn it was and didn't leave myself anyway to correct that mistake.

---
If there's anything more important than my ego
around, I want it caught and shot now...

--- AFM #998 If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now...

Anonymous's picture

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Nice gear you have there. How's wearing a backpack with the hump? Most people tell me it's annoying so I opted for a suit w/o the hump but now I'm interested in some Dainese gear very similar to yours.

megaspaz's picture

Submitted by megaspaz on

I only find it annoying if I pack the back pack extremely full. I wear the back pack low so the hump itself doesn't really bother me. But being low and full does bother me a bit especially if the back pack starts swishing from side to side. I can see where wearing the back pack up higher against the wide side of the hump would be extremely annoying as well...

---
If there's anything more important than my ego
around, I want it caught and shot now...

--- AFM #998 If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now...

greggh's picture

Submitted by greggh on

July of last year i did about the same thing too fast for a left turn. realized after the crash that i had the wrong line going into the turn, was in the inner lane when i should have been near the outer part of the lane. Also the pavement sucked. but basically it came down to too fast for the turn. the 08 Vstrom's brakes (not anti lock) are mediocre at best and i quickly found out how easy it is to lock up the front brakes (which I did) down i went at about 30mph. Fortunately i had most of the riding gear on. I did find out that blue jeans suck, they aren't made for riding and my Dickeys proved that, the left knee shredded out but was mostly 6" of road rash that swole up like nothing i have ever seen. got to wear a leg brace for 3 weeks (oh the joy) and also got the biggest bruise i have ever seen from groin to toes. the steel toed boots worked excellent, the Icon Helmet never touched the ground, gloved had a little plastic scraped off of the knuckles but they are still servicable and the cortech jacket well i am glad that i had it, the left arm lost some material not bad and for some unknown reason there is a hole at the collar bone area. I just lost skin, thank god. as for the bike well it suffered similar fate as yours. I broke the shift lever almost exactly as yours is. scuffed up the upper fairing, and took of the front turn signal, the back was kept off the ground mostly by the rear passenger foot peg and the rack on the back. The bike slid into gravel and weeds. It started right up after picking that heavy mo fo up. amazing what adrenalin will do. then we rode home. Later that night i was in the ER. Glad the military covers stuff like that $4,000 bill OUCH. Bike repairs about $200, and i now have riding pants.

I am glad that you came out of yours in good shape. sorry about the bike sounds like it wasn't a cheap venture but i guess for both of us it is seriously a learning lesson.

Gregg
[email protected]

Georgew6's picture

Submitted by Georgew6 on

Your post of some years ago still seems up-to-date for a beginner. I especially found your insight that you might have been going too fast for the road, and how you suddenly realized that the road you were following had, in a sense, disappeared. I am too new here to comment much about any motorcycle accident, since I do not have one, yet . Notch it down sounds like good advise, especially on unfamiliar roads.

Am I ready to go without the armor? (Falkland Islands - Good place for bikes)

duhrel's picture

Submitted by duhrel on

Thanks for story MegaSpaz. I hope you've fully recovered from the whole ordeal.

I'm just a beginner, and was thinking that because all the gear is so expensive that I could just start off with a helmet, jacket, and gloves. I thought maybe pants and boots later down the line would be a good investment. After having read your story, I'll strongly consider getting all the gear sooner rather than later.

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