Just because you can think something, doesn’t mean that you should say it.
In fact, there are entire hierarchies of thoughts whose vocalizations — the giving of objective reality through the medium of breath — are highly inadvisable.
I am not a superstitious man.
But the universe craves balance, and pride seems to lead directly to and be causally linked to every fall.
Consider the following thoughts, if you will.
“I can’t remember the last time my wife and I had a fight about something.”
“What could possibly go wrong?”
“I can’t even remember the last time I fell off a bike.”
Each and every one of these ill-advised utterances assumes an abundance of good fortune which, frankly, based on my experience, you simply do not have.
Now fear not, because no motorcycles were harmed in the making of this story.
Which is good, because they were about the only thing that weren’t.
Sweet Doris From Baltimore and I have been more than passing busy lately, for a multitude of reasons. The most significant reason, though, has been her design and construction of an ultralight teardrop camper that is intended to be pulled behind her recumbent pedal trike. The trikedrop is engineered – through use of 1 x 2 framing and coroplast — a corrugated polyethylene product — to end up at a total mass of under 60 pounds, and to provide a sybaritic bicycle camping experience with comfortable, off the ground sleeping accommodations and some cargo and cooking capability for a cyclist seeking to cover long stretches of the C&O Canal bike path, which stretches from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown in the District of Columbia.
What is significant about the Trikedrop project is the spacial stress it has exerted upon Shamieh’s Shop facilities, which are now having to support three motorcycles, two campers, one bicycle and one recumbent trike, which are making things more than a tad cramped, and necessitating frequent rearrangements of things with wheels in order to get the work space and access required to move projects forward.
It was on one of these projects that I found myself having to move Sweet Doris’ prized recumbent. I don’t get too much saddle time with it, so I tend to wax enthusiastic when the opportunity does arise. While moving it from the Shamieh Shop Storage Annex — ok, my shed — to the back of the pickup, I took the recumbent for a brief sprint down our suburban street.
It bears mention that it had been my deep conviction that the TerraTrike Sportster was the most stable and good handling recumbent trike of the many I had test ridden. My mission profile for any trike was one that wasn’t going to tend to spit off Sweet Doris From Baltimore, because well, she’s my Sweet Doris. On the dead level test course available at the bike dealer, I had deliberately thrashed every single machine to see how many Gs it could pull in a corner, how easy/hard it was to pull a front wheel off the ground, and whether the bike had any tendency to stoppie or endo under hard braking. In every measure I had available, the Sportster had been dead stable and theoretically uncrashable.
After a few strong strokes and an upshift or two the trike and I were carrying a little speed down toward the end of the block and the cul-de-sac. As I got set up for the turn, I noticed my neighbor’s dog who was beginning to evince an interest in the low red speedy thing that was running at the edge of his lawn. Dogs, for motorcyclists and traditional bicyclists, are a hazard, but that hazard changes dramatically when one is piloting a recumbent, which places the pilot’s face at the exact same level as the dog’s. If a dog decides he wants to rip a recumbent rider’s face off, that dog has a straight, unimpeded shot at it.
To her credit, my neighbor Kim was pretty perceptive in detecting that condition and getting the dog moving smartly back into the house. With maybe three and a half seconds of total distraction wrapped up, as the sound of the slamming screen door reached me, I set up for the U-turn in the gently sloped cul-de-sac.
Motorcycles that start to go bad – handling wise – or at least my motorcycles, do so in a way which telegraphs that the limits are being reached, and then do so in a way which is tractable and allows the rider to correct before certified bad things happen.
Maybe my distraction was a contributor, but it sure didn’t seem like that was what happened here.
I started my turn, began to lean in toward the inside wheel, sensed the inside wheel coming up, and then everything snaprolled putting me near instantly on my ass, sliding down the road as the Sportster cartwheeled, clanging noisily against the pavement.
Being as how trikes were clearly uncrashable, I was wearing none of the gear – no gloves, no helmet, nothing. It was a lucky accident I had some Keen work boots and canvas pants on.
I took the brunt of the impact on the heel of my outstretched right hand, although the next day it was clear that I’d hit my right hip and shoulder as well. My right workboot now has some gnarly road rash patina to it as well.
As all of the formerly kinetic elements came to rest, with me on my back on the pavement, surrounded by the former contents of the trike’s rack bag, contemplating the blueness of the spring sky, all I could think was “How the feck did this happen — these things are supposed to be uncrashable……”
I sat up slowly and did the inventory all of us unfortunately know all too well — checking for broken bits, blood and parts of myself hanging off — not wanting to jump up overconfidently only to discover that I’d have been way better off sitting down.
I passed the inspection and slowly rose to my feet — becoming slowly aware of just how pulverized my right hand was.
I had a business trip the next day that had me planning to ride my K-Bike to Charlotte, NC., over four hundred miles distant. A hand in this kind of shape was going to make that somewhat more challenging. Thank Bosch for cruise control and the Two Johnsons for Ibuprofen.
I became aware of neighbor Kim headed back down her lawn in my direction.
“Are you all riiight? Are you hurt?”
“Thanks Kim — I think most of the damage is to my pride.”
“Thass ’cause you’re a speed demon…Glad you’re Okay….”
I spent a few minutes shaking and flexing my hand, then flipped the trike back onto its wheels and gathered up the contents of the top bag and buttoned things back up.
More than somewhat chagrined, I headed back up to the street towards my garage. Because Sweet Doris was deeply engaged in Kreg jigging, gluing and screwing camper bits, he hadn’t really noticed that I was a little overdue on my return.
“Oh, hey hun…where ya been?”
“Oh, I’ve just been crashing my brains out on your bike….”
“Oh NO!…. Did you hurt……MY BIKE?”
There are a lot of reasons why Sweet Doris and I have been together thirty years. Somewhere further down the list of her virtues is that she shares my biker perspective on the universe.
How many time have you seen someone dump a motorcycle, or been that guy that dumps a motorcycle, and the following little drama plays out.
“Holy cow, man, are you all right?
“Yeah, I’m fine (dragging obviously broken leg) but …LOOK AT My BIIIIKE…”
Heck, early in my riding days, I had a left turning motorist remove my motorcycle from underneath me, forcing me to jump his car. After walking back up the road from where I completed my Superman impression, I was that guy.
“Did you hurt……MY BIKE?””
That’s my girl.