Ahhhh what the hell: one more damn crash analysis
April 15, 2010 at 8:40 pm #3876
No no, don’t worry, it wasn’t on the roads. I just downed my Suzuki at the track for the first time ever.
I was having a brilliant day at the track yesterday. Everything is finally coming together for me, and the whole day, my lap times were tumbling down. I had just put in a 1:41.2, and was incredibly excited to try and sneak under 1:40 to qualify for the expert group (EDIT: Joke’s on me. The cutoff for the expert group is actually 1:44…I’d already done it ). The very next lap around the track, I got stuck behind a very slow rider on a literbike. A ton of people had come out for the beginner group, and to make space, some of them had been bumped up to the intermediate group.
After following “patiently” for a few turns, I planned an overtake on the first of a pair of back-to-back sharp downhill hairpins, one where most new riders slow down about 25mph more than they need to. When you are substantially faster than somebody, one of the easiest ways to pass them is to open up a little gap, turn-in late and wide, apex very late, and carry much greater corner speed. You reel them in during the corner, and because of your later apex, they go wide on the exit and you end up accelerating earlier, charging up the inside. As I started to roll on the gas to exit, still at some lean angle, the slowpoke in front of me suddenly slowed down in my path…at corner exit! I immediately stood my bike up and squeezed the brakes to avoid hitting him, and ended up running the bike off the side of the track into the gravel trap. The moment my rear wheel hit gravel I was down (I was still on the brakes…a dropoff to the switchback below was just ahead).
By the time the bike went down I wasn’t going more than 20mph or so. It was completely painless, I am totally uninjured, and the moment I was down, I was back up again, killing my bike’s ignition, picking it up, and waving the corner worker that I was ok and no red flag was necessary. The only damage was to my rear brake lever, my helmet’s paint job (scraped on the gravel), and the titanium shoulder cap on my suit. All in all, a pretty darn good outcome.
But why am I still pissed off about this? Well, here’s why it’s worth posting this on BBM: despite the initial reason for my crash being the fault of another rider’s erratic behavior, the actual crash itself was still preventable. I went into the gravel trap because I hesitated, then target fixated. When I stood the bike up I was pointed off track. At that moment I had to decide whether to lean hard to the right and stay on track, risking sliding into the gravel at high speed and high lean, or whether I should keep the bike upright and try to scrub off as much speed as possible on the brakes before hitting gravel. In retrospect, I had more than enough room to stay on track, and if I hadn’t target fixated on the gravel, I probably would have felt comfortable with the hard lean required to save it.
There’s yet another lesson in all this, and it applies even more to the street than to the track, where crashes are expected and usually inconsequential (apart from $$$ damages). I was in the heat of my success, eager to go faster still, and pushing too hard. Whether or not that caused my crash is immaterial; I was caught up in the moment and taking unnecessary risks. Especially after setting my fastest ever lap at Pacific Raceways, I should have taken a few cooler laps and, if the opportunity presented itself, pass the slow guy casually, in a no-risk area. Instead, I got impatient and opted to pass him in the single most dangerous turn on the course.
On the street, you’re not trying to set a new lap time, but many riders do push their limits. Some of us ride for many hours at a time, and some are eager to navigate around slower traffic. This is a lesson to you, who ride around pickups, telephone poles, ditches, and cliff edges: don’t let yourself get carried away. Ride calmly, and always put your safety before whatever silly challenge lies ahead, whether it be a slowpoke on a Goldwing or a tricky turn that you haven’t quite mastered. My crash, though understandable, was probably avoidable, and on the street, my crash would have put me in oncoming traffic, not the gravel trap. Be safe.April 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm #25770briderdtParticipant
You were running counter-clockwise then? Yeah, I’ve run off there on my bicycle a couple times getting squeezed out of the pack. It’s been a couple years since I was out there, so I haven’t seen the gravel traps.
Glad you came out okay, and with nothing more than lessons learned.April 15, 2010 at 9:50 pm #25771
It was the first decreasing-radius right-hander on the way down the hill…April 15, 2010 at 10:39 pm #25772eonParticipant
Sorry to hear about your little spill but glad it was a minor one. I guess it’s easy to get sucked into expecting certain behavior from other riders at a track. Easy to do on the street as well but there you kind of expect the unexpected. At the track I imagine other riders behavior is more predictable. At least till you come up on a beginner!
Oh and congratulations on your fastest lap.April 15, 2010 at 11:24 pm #25773TrialsRiderParticipant
…or come up on an expert who’s trying to keep you behind, that’s what makes it a race
Great ride and good recovery eternal.
Fortune cookie: eternal winning requires consistencyApril 16, 2010 at 12:29 am #25776Jeff in KentuckyParticipant
Congrats on not getting hurt, and just a few scratches on dead stuff.April 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm #25786
…I would have beaten the snot out of that guy. That stuff doesn’t fly at a track day (where it’s decidedly NOT a race). In general, you’re supposed to yield to faster riders. It doesn’t mean you have to pull over, but you certainly should not intentionally make it difficult or unsafe to pass (unless it’s your friend and he deserves it ). This guy was no racer, and certainly didn’t do it intentionally…probably just got spooked.April 17, 2010 at 12:01 am #25791owlieParticipant
Congrats on your fastest lap time!
And you are going to hurt tomorrow…. err.. today. Take some Advil and take it easy for a day or two.
BTW- good timing on replacing your fairings. Now you get to find a new helmet. Let me guess- it will be black and white?April 17, 2010 at 12:37 am #25792
I’m lucky in that I already have another helmet. The one I was using at the track was a closeout deal from…? You guessed it: Sportbike track gear. The one I use for every day riding is just fine, and it is, as you guessed, a white helmet with dark smoke (black-ish) visor.
I’m a bit sore, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from taking a tumble on the ski slopes. I really am completely fine. Most of my soreness is usual post-track-day muscle ache, so no worries there. And as far as taking it easy? That’s what vacations are for, so yes, absolutely
And you’re right! Great timing on taking my fairings off. That crappy hotbodies bodywork can get knocked to hell for all I care (and it did…heh).
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