Back on a Bike: Motorcycle Crash Cognition


Geared up after returning from the ride today

Today marks three weeks and two days after I crashed my Ducati Monster at a pretty decent rate of speed- and the first day I got back on a bike.

It seems important to talk about my state of mind through the whole ordeal- because I’m not impervious to anxiety like some may think. Getting back on a bike after a motorcycle crash came with a ton of different feels. Now, firstly, I can’t give you the details but I was on a Harley. Not a huge Harley, not the smallest either. This was my first time riding one, in fact, and with the usual forward controls I was completely out of my element.

Before we carry on with the story, you must know that I have always gotten excited to the point of being jittery right before getting on a new bike. I mean, come on! It’s so crazy exciting and a little bit scary in the most thrilling way! Every bike is so different- and I feel like my approach actually gives me the perfect amount of respect for machines, letting me get a feel for them instead of whiskey throttling myself off or something. Hop on the bike, feel it’s center of gravity, find the sweet spot in the clutch, get acquainted with the throttle sensitivity, roll and test brake grabbiness, and boom- I’m off and my anxieties dissolve into the wind.

My roommate Will and I rode two-up to pick up the bike, so my first reintroduction to two wheels after wrecking was a two step process. Being a passenger has always been more daunting to me than piloting a bike myself- as you have to let go of all control. Will works for Motocyclist Magazine, has lots of years and miles of track and street riding under his belt, and commutes through LA traffic on a daily basis. So I told my worries to go away and we zipped onto the 55 freeway, then taking the 405 interchange (that we’ve now dubbed ‘THE ONRAMP’ at our house) where I went down. Going about the same speed as I was, we went through the turn as per usual, and carried on with the commute.

That was an interesting moment for me. You see, ever since the incident with THE ONRAMP, I’ve wanted to go rail through it in a sort of “I WIN” sort of way. The consideration that I simply ‘lost control’ was definitely there, but today, on a much less capable motorcycle than my Monster, we did it no problems at perhaps 10 mph faster than I was. The idea that after so many rides and twisty roads, so many miles… I merely slammed myself to the ground because of a bump in the road is unbelievable to me. The metal piece we found in my wheel is quickly becoming more suspect.

Anyway, just before I was going to get on the bike and head to our next location, I hit the bathroom inside. Immediately upon my return outside and the reality that I was getting on a brand new bike for the first time after my crash hit me and I started jumping around all excited and felt like I sort of had to pee my pants, like a little kid. Hey- it’s the truth. So, we geared up and took off for Long Beach.

As usual, the magic of motorcycling worked it’s wave of relief over me immediately, and despite the strange-to-me forward controls and one inch wide bars, I was right back at home.

I had a lot of time during the day to get acquainted with slow speed maneuvering on the hog, becoming quite comfortable with it in general. The cumbersome big bike didn’t feel unwieldly for long! On our way back home we hit just a little bit of traffic, and lane splitting on it was an interesting adventure. People seemed to see it a lot quicker in their mirrors, that’s for certain. While I didn’t have crashing on the brain the whole time, each car that didn’t get out of my way was much more suspect to be a danger. Not just assuming they don’t see me and may pull out, but pretty much assuming every single person was going to do so, and maybe on purpose. Hyper-hyper-aware. Even moreso than ever before, despite riding like I was invisible and everyone was out to kill me. Closer to home, we came up on the reverse 405/55 onramp which is a big right hander. The moment of truth! I nailed it no problem, bumps and all. When we rolled up to the house I shifted it into neutral, hit the kill switch, and coasted to a stop feeling all awesome and stuff.

And with that, my confidence has fully returned.


related: more motorcycle crash posts

Posted on July 8, 2015 in Blog, News & Features by

16 Comments for “Back on a Bike: Motorcycle Crash Cognition”

  1. So great to hear you’re back riding and still feeling great about it!

    • Matt Crawford says:

      Hey Moto Lady!
      You look fabulous in your outfit. Kind of feminine/ military. But cotton as the primary fabric in your jacket and pants makes it rather silly to pretend it is ‘safety gear’. I guess you are advertising for your website. You seem too smart to actually believe that cotton is sufficient for protection in a prolonged slide. It’s commonly understood that cordura, leather, and some of the other new superfabrics are the only reasonable approaches to abrasion resistance. And cotton is also a dubious fabric for weather resistance, being naturally too chilly or hot. But hey, when did a girl not put fashion over practicality?

      • MotoLady says:

        Are you KIDDING ME?! I crashed in this exact gear at 55+ miles per hour and it SAVED MY LIFE. Being a know it all is super unattractive in people, especially cause they usually don’t know it all. I stand by all my gear- not because I’m sponsored or paid to wear it. But it’s because what I choose to wear. And how dare you sir, for implying that I would suggest someone wear something for safety sake that could actually take their life. How. Dare. You.

        • Matt Crawford says:

          So … am I to understand that cordura and leather is NOT more protective than cotton? When does moral outrage become more plausible than scientific fact Motolady? So … how dare I ? The FACTS did it for me … am I now to be impugned because I had the impertinence to mention the obvious?

          S0 … if you want to ‘stand by all your gear’ – just look again at your side and wonder what your body would look like when your ‘Bros’ canvas pants and ‘Icon’ canvas jacket is ripped to shreds at the current 80mph average on a freeway when you go down the next time something intrudes into your wheel. And then imagine how you would feel when it happens to the 18 year old neophyte who just wants to be so ‘cool’ for her friends on her new bike who was influenced by your fashion taste? Will you hold her hand as the surgeons painstakingly shred her gangrenous skin for the grafts to come? Will you buy for her the collagen necessary to repair her pink complexion that now looks like roadkill?
          The point is Motolady … that opinions on the internet viewed by the ignorant have realistic effects. Can we plausibly ignore our moral responsibility for misinformation? Or is it your proposition that ‘freedom of speech’ is more relevant than misinformation?
          So … go ahead – CHOOSE to wear your gear. But when you tout it on a popular blog with superlatives that misinform because they are relevant to particular conditions that do not encompass ACTUAL safety, then someone should call you on it.

          So that Miss Outraged – is how dare I. You make it easy.

        • Ray Boorman says:

          Am I missing something here, you were wearing armoured riding jeans, and an Icon Canvas and leather jacket? Again armoured… 90% of the riders on the road are wearing clothing that probably isnt as safe.
          I’d ignore the knowitall..
          Having had a fall falls in the past 30 years, its always a little nerve wracking getting back on, but it isnt long before you are back to the reason for riding in the first place.

      • Heather McCoy says:

        Dude…could you BE any more condescending? A woman writes about her experience surviving a motorcycle crash and the first thing you remark is how “fabulous” she looks in her “outfit”?! But hey, when did a guy not put a woman’s looks over her substance? Um, somewhere around 1975, I think.

      • Russ L'Rogue says:

        Whoa! Can you possibly be any more sexist? ‘Sides, this Lady would look fab in any outfit … if that’s your focus! Her stuff did it’s job and saved her skin … mostly. She knows more ’bout what she’s doin’ than … ummmm … many of us. She came out of it all relatively unscathed and is back on the road … that’s what counts in the end. Oh, and the sexism thing? Wrong place for it … riding, that is … (or any place, for that matter)!

  2. Paco Naranjo says:

    It is sometimes harder to recover mentally from a crash than to heal up your body, but once it’s done and you’re back on two wheels it’s all done, now just enjoy!

  3. I too recall that first ride after the crash, although mine was forcibly a bit sooner since after I went down, my bike was still rideable. That combination of fear, adrenaline, and doubt is a powerful one and can take a while to subside. After my crash, the only thing that kept me off the bike was it being in the shop and I rode it to the shop for the repairs. I figured that forcing myself to overcome the emotions and to keep on riding was the best way to make sure that that one crash did not mar my entire motorcycling experience and would ultimately end up being a positive in the long run.

    Hopefully, you too will find the same and be able to look back on this experience in a few years with fonder appreciation. Glad to hear you are back riding again and hope to see you out on the road.

  4. Jennifer Pietrzyk says:

    Great articles on this. Thank you so much.

  5. Moral_Hazard says:

    Glad to hear you’re back on the bike and the crash wasn’t that big a deal and your gear did it’s job. This is a good blog.

  6. Crash Rabbit says:

    thank you for sharing this experience, so very often people tend to shrug off the anxieties of getting back on a bike after laying one down. In my experience it isn’t always that easy. I am finally back on a bike again myself after a wreck and then having to take a number of years off due to multiple back surgeries. It is great to hear someone else talk about their struggle with the feels…

  7. cuntray says:

    Did you ever send all the rewards for the Indigogo campaign you used to build that Ducati?

  8. cuntray says:

    Did you ever send all the rewards for the Indigogo campaign you used to build that Ducati?

  9. Suzanna says:

    Thanks for writing this.

    I was in an accident in august ’15.
    My boyfriend was riding the motorcycle and I was the passenger. We hit the ground at ~80 kmh after the back wheel lost grip. I broke my foot so badly, I will never be able to wear heels again and walk a little funny for the rest of my life. It has been pinned together with metal during surgery. I had to be in a wheelchair for nearly 5 months, but luckily came out of it. Couldn’t imagine myself in a wheelchair being only 23.
    If I only wore protective shoes instead of ordinary boots…….!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙁

    I still love motorcycles and they still get me all happy excited and wanting to ride too one day, but I’m also having thoughts about ”what if we were on a highway and there was another vehicle behind us…?”
    It scares the shit out of me and I’m being engulfed with fear and anger. Angry at my foot, the motorcycle that slipped, angry at myself..

    So I’m so happy with everyone sharing experience about getting back on the bike.