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Accident on August 30, 2004

Update — September 15, 2004

Thanks to the good folks on the Long Distance Rider’s list, I finally understand what happened. I really appreciate the help that you guys gave in this. It was not a significant accident to some of you, I’m sure, but knowing what happened will make it a lot easier for me to get back on my bike.

OK — here’s the best that I can figure out…

Per the update of September 10, 2004, while slowing down in traffic I downshifted into too low a gear and released the clutch too rapidly. This caused my rear wheel to lose traction and the bike start sliding to the left. At that point, I was executing a “lowside” (the bike fell over to the right). As a result of the lowside, I sustained damage to the right side of my Gold Wing including cracking the right foot guard and damaging the right front and rear crash bars (they did what they were designed to do).

The Gold Wing continued to slide and the tires gripped the road. Momentum carried the bike back upright and then past vertical, thus executing a “highside”. I was thrown from the bike at the time and the bike flipped over on the left side, damaging the left foot guard and the left rear crash bar. The bike skidded along the road until it impacted the SUV. It was towed on the left side for an undetermined distance though no more than a few yards.

Damage to the SUV totaled $1,386 while the damage to the Gold Wing is somewhere in the region of $400. I had minor scrapes on my hands, a quarter-sized scrape on each knee, strained my neck, and have a bruised tailbone. All told, I’m lucky and, from what I’ve gathered from a variety of sources, this is a common type of single vehicle accident.

Update — September 10, 2004

Brought the Wing home tonight. Robert Pollard, my across-the-street neighbor and co-worker, drove me to where the Wing was parked and drove behind me as I rode home at 30 MPH. I wore jeans, my AeroStich, and gloves just in case but there were no problems on the ride home.

I got a chance to look at the damage and I’m relieved at what I see. The only body damage that I can see is shown above — the windshield, the mirror assembly, and the plastic around the right rear speaker. What I don’t have a picture of yet is the right footboard. However, check out the mounting point of the left footboard, the left rear crash bar, the right footboard, the right rear crash bar, and the right front crash bar, and you’ll get some idea of what this bike went through even at the low speed of about 20 MPH.

OK, here’s what’s weird about the damage to the Wing — the pictures show that both sides of the Wing were in contact with the road surface. The metal on the left side of the bike was abraded the most which is clear when you look at the picture of the left footboard and you see that a lot of metal was worn away from the footboard arm. But the right side also was in contact with the road. The right side footboard was broken but it was also abraded which you can clearly see in this picture.

I’ve been trying to figure out how this accident happened and I believe that this accident was a case of “operator error”.

Here’s the only way I can put the pieces together that would explain what happened:

I recount these items from memory: I was driving in traffic with more than a 2-second distance between myself and the vehicle in front. When I saw the brake lights of the vehicle in front of me, I squeezed the front brake lever, activated the rear brakes, and downshifted.

This is my supposition: I was probably in 3rd gear so I downshifted from 3rd into 2nd gear and into 1rst gear after which I let out the clutch. At that point, I was still moving at 15 MPH(±) and, when I let out the clutch, the rear tire didn’t spin up fast enough, and I lost control of the bike.

What I can’t figure out is how there is road impact damage on both the right side and on the left side of the Wing. The only thing that I can think of is that it went down on the right side first (the cracking the footboard arm and wearing away the metal on the right side crash bars), then I tried to right it, pulled it up too far, and it went down on the left side.

That just doesn’t make sense though. I’d argue that even an expert bronco rider couldn’t stay on a sliding 870 lb Gold Wing and have enough strength and timing to pull it back up!

Please email me if you have credible insight into how I could get damage on both sides of the Wing in this kind of low speed accident.

Original Posting — September 2, 2004

All I wanted to do was return two library books. That’s the only reason that I was traveling through Folsom just after noon on Tuesday, August 31, 2004. Normally, I eat lunch at my desk but I’d received an email reminder that the books were due back so I decided to enjoy the great weather and take a quick trip to the Folsom Library.

As I approached the stop light at the intersection of Blue Ravine and East Bidwell, I motored slowly between the lanes of cars but there was one SUV that was too close to the center lane so I couldn’t get through. Since traffic was heavy, we pulled away slowly and, about 100 yards later, when we passed the Carl’s Jr. restaurant, the left brake light on the SUV lit up. I was a good twenty yards behind the SUV, in the left side of the right hand lane. I know there was a vehicle behind me but I don’t think that it was too close or I would have remembered that. I applied pressure to the front and rear brakes and started to slow down.

It was instantaneous. No warning that anything was going to happen. Just putting on the brakes and then, a split second later, I was flat on my back on the road.

I do remember a sound, maybe it was the sound of my helmet hitting the road? Don’t know. And I remember the view from my where I was I lying on the road. I was perpendicular to the centerline, head on the center line, facing with the flow of traffic. What was really strange was to see my Honda Gold Wing being towed down the road behind the SUV!

All my body parts seemed to be OK so I got up and started walking toward the SUV. It appeared that my bike had slid on the engine guards and had hooked itself under the left rear fender. The driver, Kathy, told me that she had felt a nudge but didn’t see anything in her mirror so, when the traffic cleared ahead of her, she started driving away. In a couple of seconds, though, she realized that something was wrong and she stopped. (Surprise, surprise — Kathy was talking on a cell phone so it’s not surprising that she wasn’t aware of what was happening!)

A Folsom PD Officer was on the scene very quickly. We went through the “Are you OK?” drill and then he helped my push my bike onto a side street.

There was minor damage to her vehicle but the Wing lost the windshield and the right mirror/turn signal. The Wing would’t start so a Folsom PD officer helped me push it on to a side road. I felt okay right after the accident and picked up the pieces of plastic from the road. When I started looking at the road, the accident just didn’t make sense.

These pictures were taken right after the accident — the photo on the left shows where the bike was first dragged, the other two pix are close ups. Why would my 870-pound motorcycle just “fall over” when I activated the brakes? There are no tire skid marks on the road, just the marks of where the bike fell on the left side and then slid/was dragged along the road.

Damage to the Wing is not extensive when you consider that it was jammed under the SUV’s bumper. In fact, the crash guards really saved the day because there are no scratches on the body work at all!

The rider (me) turned out pretty well. I felt fine for about an hour after the accident. By around 2 o’clock, my neck and tailbone started to hurt. A trip to the doctor’s office and the X-ray clinic ended up with a diagnosis that I’d bruised my tailbone and sprained my neck. The only prescription I got was for a muscle relaxant and the PA told me that I would be sore through the end of the week. She advised me that I needed to keep ice on my neck and tailbone. I made a mistake by not getting a prescription for pain killers. I’m a firm believer in “betting living through modern chemistry” and I should have insisted on a painkiller. Fortunately, I had some Vicodin and did I ever need them!

The pain started on Tuesday night and the worst pain was on Thursday and Friday. I ended up taking two Vicodin’s on Friday afternoon, in fact, and it wasn’t until Sunday morning that I could get out of bed without grimacing from the pain. I hope that you never experience the pain of a bruised tailbone — just standing up from a sitting position causes serious pain. It’s been five days since the accident and I’m doing pretty well. I’d expect the pain will be completely gone in less than a week -- just about the same time I get the repairs finished on the Gold Wing!


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