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Learn from your mistakes 1

I must admit that I am not a "real" biker. I have never crashed my motorcycle. But there's people who have done it several times. Mark Hodson (United Kingdom) has written a enjoyable article about his many crashes with his motorcycles. Learn from your mistakes! Mark Hodson has learned a lot...



This crash picture has nothing to do with Mark Hodson. I borrowed it from www.superbikeclub.com.


Crashes what I remember having
Fri, 24 Aug 2001
By Mark Hodson <mark@markhodson.com>

Personally, I think that you're not a TRUE 'biker 'till you can't recall all your "offs". I lost count of mine many motorcycles ago. But, in the spirit of Ixion and the eternal hope that SOMEONE may learn from this lot:

Mobylette N50 - 1975 - took it with me to Army Camp, lost the front on gravel. Exhaust burnt through lightweight trousers, leaving scar on calf which I bear to this day.
Lesson: don't brake (much) with the front on gravel.

TS125 - 1976ish - fell off about 15 times simply because the nylon knobblies had NO GRIP in the wet. And, as they never wore out, I couldn't afford to replace them. Fell off once, with witnesses, when the front tyre just slid down the camber of the road into the gutter after I had stopped.
Lesson: tyres do make a difference

A "pal" borrowed the TS125 and wheelied it straight into and through his dad's fence.
Lesson: people lie to you about their 'biking experience.

I fell off the TS125 twice due to leaving the steering lock on and trying to ride off.
Lesson: unlock it before riding.

The only "real" accident was on College road, a Volvo (yes, really) pulled out on me - it was dusk and 6v lights ain't too grand. I swerved round him and hit a traffic island - landed about 30 feet further on - still upright. Rode the mile home, to find I had two rapidly flattening tyres and two wrecked wheel rims.
Lesson: they haven't seen you.

T500 Suzuki - 1978ish - This lasted me for MANY years, and I fell off it in all directions. The invention and fitting of Avon Roadrunners made a heck of a difference. First off was on ice, on a clear sunny spring day.
Lesson: trees shade the road, it can still be icy under them.

It wasn't an "off" but had a really nasty experience on the T500 on the M4. Just past Jct 7/8, the motorway street lights finish. In those halcyon days, at about 10pm, you were almost alone on the road - no oncoming cars. So you switched onto high beam as you left the street lit section. At which point the lights all failed. 85mph in the pitch dark on an unlit motorway.
Lesson: the indicators are on a different circuit and you can see to get onto the hard shoulder and stop just by indicators.

One of my very very few incidents involving another vehicle was on the T500. An idiot policeman stopped the car in front of me as it tried to go round his double parked patrol car. Twin leading shoe brakes proved inadequate to match the stopping distance of the startled car driver. I was down to about 10mph as I hit his rear bumper, I unhooked my thumbs from the bars and briefly looked down onto his parcel shelf. Then gravity returned and the 'bike and I returned to earth. The bike was almost wedged into the V grove that now adorned the rear of the car. I wouldn't have fallen off, except I was so shocked I forgot to put my feet down! The policeman pissed off!
Lesson: cars can out brake 'bikes. And policemen aren't all that reliable/ clever.

My next 'bike was a GS550 Suzuki with Dunlop "Red Arrow" tyres. By the standards of the day, it steered, braked and handled. I never fell off it and began to actually learn to make progress. Then Suzuki lowered the price on the GSX750 (square headlamp, slab sided tank). So I traded "up". Probably a mistake. The GSX750 was not noticeably better than the GS550 and the exhausts rusted out in 9000 miles, despite oiling them each week. So I fitted a Motad 4 into 1. Which was lower than the stock exhausts and levered the 'bike off its wheels on a roundabout.
Lesson: they didn't make aftermarket zorsts very well in the '80s.

The next 'bike was a BMW R65. A revelation in the handling stakes (you can get the pillion pegs down, two up, on the right tyres) so prone to be slid down the road from pure exuberance. So I did the IAM test on it in about '84 or '85.
Lesson: A BMW R65, two up, can keep up with a GSXR1100, one up, on the roads down the massif central ... but the tyres melt.

Then I got a BMW R1000 RS. Which I never crashed, despite it having the older "hinged calliper" brakes.
Lesson: Ferodo will send you experimental pads to update your brakes if you ask nicely.
Lesson: If you roll a BMW off the centre stand, with a weeks groceries in the panniers, with a Oxford U-lock still on ... the lock shatters into three pieces and the 'bike is undamaged.

So I switched to a R100RT. Of which I was asked: "how is it tuned?" having seen off a GPz900R on it. Tee hee. Apart from a couple of nasties when the crashbars dug into the road, this was fairly crashproof. But it went through six clutches in 6 months.
Lesson: don't expect big BMWs to be reliable if you REALLY thrash them.

I had to move to a Jap sports tourer, so I got an FJ1100. With radial (gasp!) tyres. A revelation. I never crashed this, but it got crashed a lot, 'cos we used it to train novices. The FJ is such a pussycat that people who are scared of their 125 can ride it.
Lesson: fit crashbars and learn plastic welding.

A series of VFRs and CBRs passed with no noticeable impacts.

A pal sold me a VERY cheap FZR600, because it had spat him off on a wet road "for no reason". I rode it for a while, then, doing an Observed Run on a wet road, it spat me off for no apparent reason.
Lesson: if someone's set the 'bike up for racing in its past, it may not handle well on bumpy roads.

Then I got a TDM850 and had it tuned - 80Bhp. And took it to a track day at Brands. And tried to put it up against another TDM, ridden by a certain Jon who once had the lap record at Brands. Tried to gas it early out of Clearways, to get the drop on him. Best crash of the day.
Lesson: don't open the throttle too hard too early - and don't, don't, DON'T close it if the rear has already slipped out wide.

Then I got the VFR70-FM. The first of the single sided swing arm VFRs. What a dog! I've always LOVED VFRs - especially the FJ model. The FM was underpowered, ill handling, overweight and I kept falling off doing slow speed, full lock turns. Then other Observers would try to show how to and they'd fall off it too.
Lesson: Honda made the VFR far, far worse when they first went to single sided swingarms.

Fran had a VFR400-F3 as a track day 'bike. This has a very early and crude type of V-tec: a second cam profile chimes in at 5000 RPM. When we had it dyno'ed the operator commented: 'you wouldn't want to hit that powerband cranked over'. I went to pick the 'bike up from the dealers, where it had been for over a month (minor shunt when parked). It sounded so good, I went the "pretty way" home - and limped back to the dealers with a footpeg gone and oil coming out the clutch casing.
Lesson: sticky tyres go fossilised on their outside when the 'bike's been standing in a workshop and MIND THAT POWERBAND. More importantly, I was wearing jeans - which didn't hole through, but I still got a huge friction burn on my knee through the fabric. Wear proper clothes!

I broke my fib and tib falling off the TTR250 at about 5mph (having stoppied to halt from 30). I was riding the off road 'bike 'cos I was just recovering from a (non-bike) broken ankle and I simply was not ready to return to commuting, especially not on an off roader with knobblies and snatchy brakes.
Lesson: try to be aware when you're below par and give yourself more time to react - don't just ride as normal.

I currently have a CBR600 with no fallings off to report and a DR350 with more offs than a National Hunt racing meet... but all on mud, so they don't count.

The FJ1200 has been down once, on the Wandsworth one way system, as previously reported on Ixion. Came round the bend a wee bit hot and found a smear of diesel exactly on the line I wanted; was on the diesel still cranked, so no chance to recover.
Lesson: None really - I knew better, but I was out to make progress and that does erode them there safety margins.

Injuries: bust floating rib twice; broken fib and tib, burn on calf, friction burn on knee, tiny friction burn on left little finger, sprained ankle (Brands) and a really, really bad back, partially due to the "offs" but more due to picking the buggers up when full of adrenaline and not thinking.

About equivalent to the injuries you'd get from two skiing trips or a few years playing Badminton. Not bad, really.

Mark Hodson
There's more stuff to read on www.markhodson.com





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