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May 2009 Off-Road Rant

Posted in Features on May 1, 2009
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People say that there are two types of riders: those who have been down, and those who are going down. I used to secretly think I was some third type of rider - a freak of nature who could elude any danger and always be okay; someone unbreakable. And my track record didn't help convince me differently. I've flipped off and landed on my feet during my last three decent bike crashes, been sideways on two wheels at 60 mph multiple times, been airborne at triple-digit speeds, crashed skateboards at 50 mph without any protective gear on and still walked away with only a couple scrapes. When a Cadillac took out my first motorcycle nine years ago, I grabbed onto the Caddy's windshield cowl and never even came off the hood.

With all the mountain biking, moto riding, skateboarding, and snowboarding - not to mention all the off-road trucks I get in and out of - I've been tempting Fate for some time without any major incidents. In fact, I'd made it through this entire decade with zero bone damage save for one minor collarbone snap.

But for this new year of 2009, I started off with another lesson in mortality. After 11 years of almost flawless riding, I made a very careless and stupid error, laying my streetbike down and flipping myself off (head first, of course) towards the pavement. Luckily for me, I make it a strict rule to never leave the house without all my gear on, no matter how hot it is outside.

And I definitely used my gear to put my own signature in the pavement, digging first my helmet and then my jacket, pants, and boots into the asphalt. I remember thinking to myself "Man! That was soft!" And it really was. My friend said I was practically to my feet before I stopped sliding forward. I quickly picked my GSXR off the highway and started to run it back to the house, marveling at how well proper protective gear can work. But it felt like there was something between my right glove and the handlebar - probably some debris from the crash. And it started to feel like I might've sprained my thumb again

I got into the driveway and set my bike on the kickstand, looked down at my hand, and saw that my thumb wasn't where it used to be. And it looked like it had more bends in it than it normally does. In fact, my thumb was somewhere in the middle of my palm. I told my friend that he was going to have to pull my glove off and see if we could straighten my thumb out before it started hurting. He didn't even blink twice. In fact, he looked a little excited to do it. With a couple good yanks, we heard a vibrant snap and my thumb looked much better. But when my brain signaled for it to move, nothing happened. And I mean nothing. I couldn't help but start laughing a little bit - I think it was one of those fear-induced laughs, because I am very fond of my thumb.

I ended up in the ER of the closest hospital - a place I'd be happy to frequent less often. No offense meant to the doctors and nurses working there, but I really dislike surgery, hospitals, and casts. And I managed to experience all three this time around. I broke the very front bone in my thumb, impacted the joint closest to my hand (leaving some fragments), and ripped the ligament completely from the bone.

Surgery went well. Dr. Abdollahi tacked the ligament back onto my thumb and re-broke the front of it to straighten it out. By the time you read this I'll be out of my cast and be in North Idaho catching the last of the snowboarding season (it's easier on the thumbs than things with handlebars). They tell me I'll have to do rehabilitation to learn how to use my thumb again, and I should regain almost full use. In the meantime, I went and bought myself some voice-recognition software, which I have to say is pretty cool. I've just written this entire editorial by speaking into a headset.

What did I learn from this whole experience? Well, first it was a great reminder to always be careful and never careless 100 percent of the time. I do miss my thumb, but a thumb is minor when compared to a head or back. Secondly, life again pointed out to me how important the proper safety gear is. Had I been wearing a half-helmet (AKA brain bucket), I would not have a face right now. I cannot stress enough how important appropriate safety equipment is. If you don't wear the proper gear when doing something a little risky, then you're leaving yourself open for punishment - probably because you haven't yet had a bad experience

If there is one lesson I can pass on to you, please let it be the advice to wear proper safety equipment. There is no second chance when you smack a wall, dig into the ground, or skewer yourself on vegetation. And no one likes to clean that mess up.

This Month:
We got into some serious drivetrain work. We checked out some new axle ideas and revisited some old favorites. We were also able to build an off-road ambulance for the Ocotillo Wells ambulance service, something to ensure future self-preservation knowing us.

Also, we've recently gone online!

You can now get your OFF-ROAD subscription online at www.off-roadweb.com by clicking on the "Subscribe" link and choosing "Digital Edition." My favorite part about the service is the fact that you can enlarge the pages and pictures to see better detail.

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