2018 has started with a lesson in humility for me. I spent the week before the new year doing some maintenance on my CB500X; an oil change, a new Shinko 705 for the rear, chain cleaning, and slack adjustment were all due. Then Maryland had some snow and our average temps have been pretty chilly, so even with a bit of sunshine, our roads are a nice light grey to white from dried brine. On New Year’s Day I took the bike out for a cross town trip to my mom’s, it was sunny and about 20° f. While making a right turn into her neighborhood my rear tire lost traction and I experienced my first low side crash at 15-20 mph.
Even at low speed everything happened very quickly. The tire spun and the back stepped out, then my right foot was underneath the bike as we slid and I could hear the scrape of metal on asphalt. After coming to a rest the bike was a few feet away from me, a driver waiting to turn left opened his door and asked if I was ok. I stood up, did a quick check to make sure everything worked, waived off the driver and noticed a few cars already waiting at the intersection for me to get out of the way. I picked the bike up off its right side and pushed it to the side of the road. My dash was lit up like a Christmas tree, the heated grip control was flashing purple, and the right turn signal was still blinking. I turned the hazards on and it took a few key cycles to reset the tip over protection and allow the bike to start. I then took a detailed look over the rest of the bike to make sure it was rideable the last two blocks to her house. No fluids were leaking, so I swung my leg over and rode the rest of the way there.
I parked, walked inside, and started to take my gear off and assess myself in detail. It was pretty quickly apparent my right wrist was injured and my right ankle was sore but nothing else. A couple days later as I started to write this I have an ace bandage and ice on my right wrist. I’m mostly sure it’s just a sprain and I’m already regaining range of motion and use. Hopefully I’ll be back on the bike in the next week or so; mostly because of my gear. I owe a lot of thanks to TCX, Scorpion, Olympia, and Barkbusters for making gear that does what it should. The TCX X-Street WP shoes protected my foot from what would have been impact, crush, and abrasion damage; they show almost no damage. The Scorpion Tempest gloves have a small scrape on the right knuckle armor and some salt dust on them, all the seams are intact and my hands are unscathed. The Olympia Odyssey suit held up very well; the knee, hip, and elbow armor definitely protected my joints from injury. There is a bit of fabric damage around the lower right leg but nothing through the waterproof membrane and I suffered no road rash. All zippers and seams are intact and functional. Finally, the Barkbusters Storm guards took a pretty good hit with some scrapes to the plastic and aluminum backbone, they are still rock solid and protected my handlebars, heated grip, brake lever, and other controls.
So what caused the crash and how can I make sure not to do it again?
There is no shortage of things relatively new motorcyclists, like me, are told to always keep in mind. Some of the relevant thoughts are:
- Be cautious on new tires until they’ve been heat cycled and/or scrubbed in.
- New tires turn differently because they don’t have the same squared off profile of the worn tire.
- When it’s cold, tires take longer to warm up; accelerating and braking quickly (in a straight line) can put heat in the tires more quickly.
- Anything other than clean, dry pavement will have less traction.
Here’s what I think happened – I think I was going too fast for a new and cold tire on pavement with dried brine. I approached the corner with caution, but it still wasn’t enough to prevent the slip. I’ve taken that corner at 30+ mph in ideal conditions; 15-20 mph was too much on this particular day and I have taken it slower when things are wet. The tires were definitely cold, I didn’t get over 35 mph on the ride over and didn’t intentionally warm them up on my way. The rear tire has less than 10 miles on it, it was (and is) as fresh as fresh can be. To put it simply, I took the corner too fast for the conditions. It was my fault; not the tire, not the weather, not the salt. There are things I could have done differently; I didn’t follow advice I know and now I know better.