April 11, 2009

Perfect Timing

Beautiful blue sky, warm Saturday afternoon. Perfect day for a ride on the bike. All this is heightened somewhat by the start of the MotoGP season this weekend, as well as my first trackday coming up on Wednesday. Exciting stuff.

So I headed out over the bridge into Marin for my usual circuit around Mt. Tam, down to Stinson beach and back along PCH. I was a little concerned about the back left indicator, which broke off when I had a cover on the bike a few weeks back and has been wedged in place with varying degrees of success ever since. So I kept looking in my mirror to make sure it was there. But other than that, perfect riding conditions.

There were quite a few cars and especially bicycles on the road, so there were a few slow sections, a few overtaking sessions, and then onto some clear road. About 6 or 7 hairpin turns short of Stinson Beach, it finally happened. My first fall on the bike. Was coming round a hairpin corner not any different from any of the others, but on this one I clipped the footpeg on the ground, and so brought the bike upright in reaction to that. Next thing I knew I was running out of road coming out of the corner. It was a steep downhill section, left hand hairpin with a grassy drop-off below the road. I danced on the edge for a while, and maybe in retrospect I could have leaned a little more and pulled it back onto the road, but in any case, my tires hit the edge of the road, then gravel, then the bike dived into the grassy bank below it, falling up hill, luckily. I put my hands out to stop myself falling, and there was some kind of a (very slow) impact.

I was able to pick the bike up fine, and with some gentle coaxing, was able to get it back on the road by standing uphill of the bike and gently accelerating it in the roadward direction while trying not to spin the backwheel in the soft grass, or hit it at too steep an angle. Once back on the road, after the embarassing moment of one of the people movers I'd passed a few minutes before stopping to ask me if I was okay, I rode on to the next roadside stop. I then got off and inspected the damage. I was damn lucky. Nothing at all really. Possibly a very marginal bend in the left hand handlebar as it'd taken some of the force of the impact, but probably because it was such a soft and slow landing, that was all. And for myself, I have a bruised left hand at the base of the palm. It'll be fine - the question is will I still feel it on Wednesday, and if so how much. Hopefully it'll all be fine, but tomorrow I'll have a better idea - if I wake up and it aches, that's bad news. If it's already on the road to recovery, then I should be all set.

So how do I feel? I wouldn't say I'm shaken, but it has made me think twice about my riding style. I've been riding so far for almost two years without incident, and have been riding progressively faster as I've got more comfortable with the whole experience. I'm now at the stage where I ride pretty aggressively, but smoothly (or so I thought). But the fact that this happened while I was riding in what I'd call my "normal" style, without any huge "oh shit, I screwed up" moment means one of two things. Either I'm riding way too fast for my ability and I've just been lucky so far, or I had a moment's lack of concentration, and the fact that it didn't feel especially different means that I could have a similar moment again. Whichever one it is, I think I need to slow down on the road for a bit, and work on my technique. Which is why I think in a strange kind of way, it's perfect timing that it happened now, because it'll make more just that bit more cautious on the track on Wednesday, and will hopefully mean I learn more and get more out of the experience as a result.

Bring it on!

Posted by mthaddon at April 11, 2009 01:39 PM