When you ride a motorcycle, exposing your body outside of a protective metal frame with seatbelts and air bags, you worry about more things involved with staying upright and away from danger. So when I was applying the brakes to slow down for a turn the other day, the sound of skidding tires immediately got me concerned with keeping the bike aligned, while I simultaneously wondered “How in the world am I skidding? There’s no way I’m hitting the brakes that hard.” A few moments later, as my bike shot out from under me, a single word ran through my mind: “Oh.”
Thankfully, what came next was not as horrific as it probably could have been. I did not tumble on the road with limbs flying around to get cracked or dislocated. The car that hit me was slowing quickly enough to not run over me after hitting the bike. As I slid on my back for 5 or 10 yards, I was wearing all my protective gear, so I didn’t leave skin on the pavement. In fact, after sliding to a stop, I made a check of all my limbs, stood up without any immediately obvious external injuries, and walked over to meet the person who’d crashed into me and ask for insurance information. Of course, I was very shaken, and adrenaline was rushing through my bloodstream, as evidenced by a very shaky hand trying to write down names in my notebook; but all in all I was more annoyed at the time than horrified.
Nearby witnesses were very nice, helping me right my motorcycle to move it out of the way, calling EMS and the police, and sticking around to give their statement if needed. Progressive (my motorcycle insurer) very quickly got the motorcycle-damage claim taken care of on my end (they’ll follow up with the other party’s insurer to reclaim the money). Over the next couple days, pain in my back muscles settled in, my arms got stiff (the verdict is that I pulled the handlebars out of shape since I was holding on to them when the bike shot forward under me), and I developed a nasty looking bruise on my right butt cheek. And the sad news came to me: my motorcycle was totaled.
I haven’t fully decided if I’ll get another motorcycle, but it’s frustrating that owning a motorcycle now has to be an active choice. In some ways, it feels like the odds are stacked toward “no”. While the crash didn’t put extra fear in me, it put a lot of extra stress on my parents, who worry about me from afar. I haven’t been riding enough to justify the cost of the motorcycle (my mileage was embarrassingly low), which comes down to not having a social circle of riders, and not having the social “space” to add another such social circle. Even my wonderful wife Sarah, who knows how sad it would make me and is herself sad at the prospect that I might no longer have a bike, would of course sleep easier at night if I chose to leave riding behind. But when I think that the answer might be “no”, I really do feel there’s an empty hole in myself. I find myself watching the motorcycles on the road, feeling the same longing I would have before I bought my bike, but added to that is now a feeling of sadness.
I did go to the Harley dealership to say goodbye to my Sportster, to sit on it one last time. And afterwards as I looked around the showroom, I couldn’t help but get excited at the idea of one day having another Harley. I sat on a Fat Boy, and it felt really good. I still don’t know what I’ll do, but I do know I haven’t let go.