What went wrong in this Ducati crash?


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.
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