News from the Baja 1000 on November 16th underscored that despite all efforts for safe motorcycling, fatalities do happen.
Kurt Caselli was killed riding for Team KTM in an unfortunate accident where he reportedly suffered massive head injuries after striking an obstacle. First reports suggested a man-made or 'booby-trapped' part of the travel path was to blame. This, however, was ultimately debunked. According to KTM's website on the topic, Kurt struck and animal causing the crash, the size or type is not mentioned.
In 2012, Police Chief Al Hogle from Florida died after a single-vehicle crash on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Riding buddies behind him said he just went off the road, hit a previously felled tree, went over the bars and landed in just the right way to kill him instantly. Chief Hogle was an extremely experienced rider, wearing leathers and a top-notch full face helmet. All the protective gear, all the experience and the net result, d-e-a-d. Sad but true.
Yes, sometimes a riders number is just up. But that can happen anywhere, can't it? A person falls at home, hits their head and dies of a head injury. It happens.
How do we as motorcyclists, put the odds in our favor? Here's a few ideas:
- Always wear all safety gear. The acronym is AGAT (all gear all the time). This includes, armored jackets, pants, boots, gloves; of course a helmet (a good one, not a cheapo model). And wear the gear whenever on the bike, period. This is sometimes hard when a rider says "heck, I'm just going to the store, I'll forget the helmet today." Two blocks away their head slams into a curb when somebody cuts them off. Bad idea. AGAT. No excuses.
- Training, training, training. Even if it's as simple as reading an article on riding in a motorcycle magazine, whatever gets the safety juices flowing is good. Riders can take basic and advanced classes offered by local dealerships, community colleges and private businesses that employ MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) certified Rider Coaches. Other types of classes are likewise available. The more training, the better.
- Attitude, attitude, attitude. Make sure that that thing that keeps a rider's shoulders apart (the noggin') is in the right condition for riding. Overly tired, angry and frustrated riders do stupid things and those things put riders at risk. Don't ride tired, or angry, or anything other than squared away, 100%. It's the only way to be safe.
- Keep the machine top-notch, period. Worn tires, brakes and other parts cause problems that will affect handling, or stopping distance. Motorcycles have only two wheels (duh) so it's inherently easier for two wheels to be come 'upset' by something like wet, slippery roads than say, your average Chevy Suburban.
What this all equates to is, a top-notch bike, ridden by a top-notch rider with training and the right attitude. If this isn't the picture of the average daily ride then make changes until it is.
Mathematically, the chances are greater that a motorcyclist won't survive a serious trauma event. Heck, more often than the average person knows, car drivers and passengers don't either if the impact is serious enough. But those folks have their 'cage' around them where we don't. Why not bolster the chances of living a long and happy motorcycle life but making sure all the nuts and bolts are at the correct torque. That includes the metal ones on the bike and the mental ones in the rider's head.
Shiny side up, rubber side down.