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Slip Sliding Away

Blog Date May 2019

They say it is not a question of if but when. As a biker it is not something you want to believe. After nearly 6 years of riding I no longer really concern myself with the when. Sure I've had a few drops while learning but they were just standing drops not an on the road accident. I have had a few scary moments such as riding buckaroo over diesel, but I got away with it and I stayed upright.

So I have no worries while gliding around corners and bends through the Trough of Bowland on this sunny Sunday morning at the beginning of May. I am with Ren and friends including some guys I have only met today. As I am riding I am feeling happy and I am thinking how far I have come in my confidence with corners. My speed is up, not stupid speeds, I am comfortable and in control but we are moving along at a good pace. All is well............then boooommm!

Have you seen the film the Matrix? If so you know there are those scenes where time slows down. This is exactly what happens as I come into a right hand bend. I lean the bike over, enter the bend and... time slows. 

I see a swathe of gravel right across half of the road right on my line. My brain sensing danger suddenly works faster than usual, in a split second it processes a vast amount of information. 

Gravel equals danger, on a corner with the bike leant over it equals big danger. I glance to the right for a possible escape route, damn a car is on the corner coming around the bend. The lane is only narrow so no room to run wide and avoid the gravel. What about straight on going to the left of the gravel? Nope a large tree on that path. ARGHHHH there is no escape route! I have no choice I am going to have to hit the gravel and hope for the best. I know not to brake in a corner and I do not. I also know I am probably going to go down. 

The country lane is narrow with red "X"s to mark where Sharon and the car were
No escape route. Red cross is where the car is and green cross where my bike is. Hit the car or the gravel? I choose the gravel and hope for a miracle. 

I hit the gravel and the bike moves around but stays upright, oh my god I am going to make it, it's ok, its fine... then the bike suddenly loses traction and the bike tips towards the floor, we are going down. 

All this is still playing out in slow motion. Even as the bike tilts over too far it feels like an age as I slowly plunge towards the floor. All I think about is my bike, oh my poor, poor bike. I don't think of me or the danger I may be in.

My right shoulder hits the ground hard, followed by my knee and I am sliding down the road. I think I keep my head off the road until I flip from my side to my front and I chin the floor with a whack. I lie in the road for a second. I am afraid to get up. Not in case a limb has fallen off or broken, no I am still thinking of the bike. I heard her grating along the road, I dare not look at the state she will be in.

I regain my senses and jump up, that is good at least I am up and I feel OK. My friends are next to me asking if I am alright, I nod yes. Ren was ahead of me and he or someone else has picked up the bike. Thankfully she is still in one piece, but poor Envy is scraped and beaten up. Urgh I am totally gutted.

I also feel embarrassed for going down in front of everyone so I just want to get on the bike and continue with the ride. Climbing back onto my bike we carry on but I notice I am aching and sore so we stop for a brew and a breather. I don't think I realised at first how hard I had hit the floor. Now my arm and leg are hurting, particularly my knee, shoulder and elbow. The realisation of the accident also sinks in and I begin to get the shakes. 

I need to know in my own head if the accident was due to my own rider error or was it just one of those unavoidable chance happenings. So I ask to go back to the site of the accident. I am nervous now and sore as I get back on the bike. Especially on the corners I slow right down and gently steer around them rather then just dropping in. The slightest sign of gravel gets my heart rate up and I realise I am gripping the bars I am so tense. Deep breaths Sharon.

We find the offending corner that now bears the marks of my slide. My lever end is there and the label of my crash bungs. The gravel is thick especially at the end where the bike finally lost traction. It looks like a dump from a lorry rather than wash out. All in all it looks like it was happen chance and circumstance. This knowledge is a double edged sword. On one hand I am happy to think I'm not a complete idiot and a poop rider but on the other this means I can not prevent this happening again. It's a lot to try and take in.

gravel spread across the road on the outer radius of the corner
Close up of the gravel shows larger than average and rounded stones, with a boot for scale
The offending gravel. Wide and deep.

We carry on and stop at another cafe but I am hurting quite a lot now. My arm is really painful to raise up and my knee throbs. I decide to call it a day, I want to get home. However Ren and Rob notice my forks are a little out so they straighten them before I ride home alone. On the way home I am fine on the motorway but once off it I'm jittery on corners and any manoeuvres have me feeling very uneasy. 

Ren and I are due to go to Scotland in a week's time. As I gingerly climb off my bike I have to limp into the house. I really, really hope both myself and the bike will be OK to travel. Checking Envy over before putting her away I notice that as well as her bangs and scrapes the front indicator is not working. 

I'm too sore and too tired right now so I will think about repairs tomorrow. A new brake lever will be needed and probably a new cover for the indicator. The crash bung did it's job in protecting the engine and did so by losing chunks of its own self. The front fairing is scraped, as is the bar end and the heat shield on the exhaust is dented and scratched. 

An R&G crash bung. The hard plastic is no gouged and ripped but it protected the engine
The bar end's black paint has been removed and there's deep scratches. The brake lever has the end snapped off
The bright green side panel has deep scratches through the paint to the black plastic below
The polished stainless exhaust scover no has deep gouges and dints in it
Poor Envy 

I have to accept it could have been so much worse. I have to get my head around that I was in a situation I could not control. I know "what ifs" serve no purpose, I have been taught those lessons already in this life. It happened, it was what it was. We know that riding motorbikes has its dangers, today that danger hit home. 

I have no intentions of stopping riding. My daughters' understand my love of riding and I get only support from them to carry on. My knee swells and my leg comes up black and purple. I don't consider getting checked out by hospitals, I see enough of them with my daughter. I will see how it goes.  

Close up of some deepening blue and red and black bruises
Poor me
A bouquet of flowers and a bottle of tia maria from Sharon's daughter
Grateful for my daughters' support and gifts from daughter Beth. 

My bike gear did an amazing job of protecting me. Despite sliding some distance on gravel and tarmac it all survived intact. My Bering jacket shows no signs of the mishap. The Merlin pants I was wearing although looking almost white from gravel dust also have no noticeable damage. My Daytona boots were slightly scuffed and my helmet has a slight scrape and a few light scratches to the visor.  

I know my confidence will be affected. How badly again only time will tell. Now it's time to limp to bed and do some serious recovery because I have a date with Scotland soon and I don't want to not turn up. 

If you have a motorcycling tale of woe to share please click here.

Reader's Comments

Bill said :-
Glad you and the bike only sustained minor injury and hope you are both ok for your trip.stay possitive, your confidence will return.
28/05/2019 11:53:57 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Sharon, - - - t happens, just glad it's not any worse than it is. Crash bung was worth it's weight in, well, crash bungs.
It's going to take a few days for the bumps and bruises to come out but if you could ride well before you will ride well after. Enjoy your Scotland trip, there'll be plenty of bends after the M6 to get back to normal.
28/05/2019 13:42:40 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
That's a shame Sharon but as usual you have a good attitude so I'm sure it won't put you off.

In my experience one of the worst things about this sort of incident is that you can then become nervous - this makes you tighten up which in turn makes your riding less fluid. Threepenny bit corners, jerky stops, clunky gear changes..... But I think you've demonstrated that you're better than that.

I guess you're in Scotland now so enjoy it....
28/05/2019 15:51:23 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Oh God so sorry to hear about your fall. Glad to see you were back up and riding again.

But welcome to my world....

Even something as simple as gravel is a hazard. But you will avoid it better next time it's a good learning curve.

No broken bones only hurt pride is not a bad outcome overall.
28/05/2019 22:46:57 UTC
Henrik said :-
Good to hear you are OK ,... fall happens unfortunately
29/05/2019 07:17:57 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Well, you're a real biker at last Sharon(!), because we've all had off's over the years. Sometimes when you play it all back in your head, you will realise you could have done things differently and avoided the situation, sometimes you realise that there was nothing you could have done. Either way, it's bound to affect your riding for a little while, but the confidence will return quickly I hope.

I hope you and Envy are now fully recovered and enjoying Scotland.
29/05/2019 08:39:54 UTC
Sharon said :-
Wise words everyone so thank you all very much.

Ian those threepence corners you mention. Haa I have heard of them before but called them 50p corners. I had never truly experienced them until after the off but yes I can confidently and unfortunately say I now know how to do them. Not a pleasant or pleasing way to corner.

I did girl up and went on my Scottish holiday. I'll let you all know about that soon.

Onwards we go.

30/05/2019 08:11:19 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Yes, you're too young to know what a threepenny bit is.....

One thing that helps tenseness on the bike is to deliberately relax your arms and shoulders (sometimes called the "funky chicken". It stops you having a death grip on the bars and loosens everything up.

Shamelessly stolen from elsewhere (good artists borrow; great ones steal):

"Funky Chicken
"Tense, nervous, headache." Remember the T.V. advert.? Well, tension in your shoulders while riding a motorcycle will initially cause discomfort, then pain. Worse still, it will adversely affect your riding as you will not be allowing the 'bars to move when the bike wants to balance itself. Another potential problem is that if your shoulders are tense you are far less likely to steer easily, and you will tend to feel that you are 'fighting' to get the bike to go where you want it to be.

Unfortunately, you can't stop tension happening, or just make yourself relax. What you can do is 'mark' your tension level, on a 1-10 scale. By being aware of tension you can start to overcome it.

So, you need to watch for the signs of tension - a 'death-grip' on the bars or straight arms and tense, raised, shoulders, for example - then tense even more and release. If in doubt, do the 'chicken' to check: your arms should be 'loose' enough that you can 'flap' your arms!"

30/05/2019 12:04:06 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Sharon, you know we want a video of the funky chicken riding technique.
30/05/2019 16:19:43 UTC
Snod said :-
There is just one question with this, how did everyone else get past it? Did they all do the slippy slide dance but stay upright? Did they manage to run wide because there was no oncoming car for them? Many of the Z250SLs that turn up for sale have been up the road, usually with about 3000 miles on them and as an owner I can see why - they're a nervous little beast that seem like they're always looking for somewhere to have a nice lie down!
31/05/2019 22:56:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I had passed the gravel and I'd had a slither upon it. I however did not have a car to dodge and my line took me around the worst of it. Due to The car Sharon's line went through a particularly treacherous patch, the bit that finally did for her.

The rest of the riders were behind Sharon and had time to stop as she went down.

However I find I must agree, the Z250SL has razor sharp steering and is rather twitchy on poor surfaces. It wouldn't be my first choice for off roading let me put it that way. I don't believe it is unsafe, rather if you're used to lardy slow steering street Hondas as I am then the Z250SL feels flighty.

It feels like a very sporty 125 but the sheer grunt and willingness of the motor puts you into and through the bends far quicker than expected. With the light weight and sharp steering the bike requires far more respect than many (even experienced) riders might think. It's a hell of a machine.
01/06/2019 00:26:26 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I sometimes wonder if older bikes with narrower rubber tend to plow a furrow through gravel rather than floating on the top like modern wide profile tyres Ren.

And before anyone asks, no, I'm not going to do any practical investigations to support my theory :-)
02/06/2019 09:12:24 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I would doubt the 250 in question has wide tyres, I think I can see the back is a 150?
I think Sharon's luck just run out, she was just damn unfortunate to be at that spot at that time, we have all (haven't we?) been out on a ride and thought s--t that was close and of course once your luck runs out it's just s--t. The roads are probably no worse than they've been for years but once all the factors are stacked up against you all at once, bend, oncoming vehicle, thick gravel, no alternative plan available, then it's just your time. No amount of planning and thin tyres will make any difference.
I also think the experience card can be overplayed, I know some drivers and riders who have done both for a very long time and are still appalling at both. Training trumps experience every time.
02/06/2019 10:29:05 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Sorry for saying Trump.
02/06/2019 10:30:29 UTC
Snod said :-
The rear is a 130, I still consider it quite wide though as it's the same as the rear of my K100! The front is a 110 which is actually 10 wider than the K100..

The lack of sag at the rear also makes it a nervous/chattery ride, which will be made even worse with Sharon's lack of weight. Anyway, well done on getting straight back on, it's the best thing to do!
02/06/2019 16:46:46 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Sharon and I are fortunate to live where we do... in one way at least. Nearby we have Kais suspension. They're involved with some top racing teams and I am told "they know their poop". We also have the option to travel not too far from Maxton either. It wouldn't be cheap but they're the guys who could "set up" Sharon's suspension for her, erm, diminutive proportions.

Might be worth considering if she's feeling flush. In the mean time I know she's still not quite on top form but seeing her ride today her speed is just fine despite her self reproaching. I have said she doesn't need to bring herself down, I'm here, I'll do it for her.
02/06/2019 22:36:55 UTC
Snod said :-
And so, with 16243 miles up (13000 covered by myself) my own Z250SL went slip sliding down the road in the rain this morning. Bugger. I was braking in a straight line to try and slow enough to pull into a layby to pull on my waterproofs, hit the floor at maybe 20mph and slid for a short while.

The only upside is that it went down on the same side that the first owner smashed up so it looks no different! The rotten exhaust is even louder now though, ha. Now, the handlebars might not enjoy being straightened a second time.. Anyone know where I can buy ridiculously narrow bars?
04/06/2019 20:09:34 UTC
Sharon said :-
Oh nooooo Snod,

Hope I haven't started a trend and I hope you are not too badly hurt.

What with you coming off your Kawasaki Z250SL and Ren telling me after taking my bike out for a ride.... That it is twitchy and aggressive.... I think I am suddenly afraid of my own bike.
That bike that was a dream to ride who loved to corner has become a skittish colt ready to dismount it's rider at any given opportunity.

People say bigger bikes are easier to ride. I know I found the MT07 I used for my bike test a pleasure to ride. I found u turns far easier on the MT07 than on my 125. IS it the weight, the wider tyres?. Damn it, that very weight is what makes it impossible for me to manhandle it. I need I light bike to be able to maneuver it but would a heavier bike be and feel more solid and grounded?

It's a dilemma.

05/06/2019 12:07:06 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Sorry it happened, have these evil bikes got ABS?
05/06/2019 13:36:34 UTC
Sharon said :-
Mine is on a 16 plate and no ABS. But u am aware later models have it.
05/06/2019 14:23:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Gosh darn it Snod, must be something in the water. A friend of ours has also had a very minor spill with a few scratches and bruises, nothing serious thankfully.

Sharon's was the last year really where they did not require ABS Upt', from what I know of Snod's I don't think his is ABS either, it was an option back then.
05/06/2019 16:57:32 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Thanks Sharon, that'll explain it then, sounds like the front folded on him.
05/06/2019 18:14:05 UTC
Snod said :-
No ABS and it did indeed fold, the surface is actually very worn/smooth right there and the Continental ContiTwist SM is apparently not an excellent gripper in the wet! I'm just glad it was already far from mint.

As for stability and more weight and all that, I just can't shake the belief that small bikes should certainly come with 18" wheels as all bikes I've tried with them have not had such a need to fall over, and if the front does lock they seem to skid a good deal longer before going down. Not that I make a habit of it, ahem.
06/06/2019 18:15:00 UTC
Åsa said :-
Great that you went straight back on your bike. Don't beat yourself up about your crash and don't feel guilty for riding more cautiously for a while. If you're a thinker like me, this experience will live with you for some time and slowly give way. Best of luck in Scotland, a good long ride will help your mental healing!
11/06/2019 09:53:02 UTC
Sharon said :-
Thanks Åsa,

Yes I am thinker too :-)
12/06/2019 21:32:49 UTC
Bill said :-
Sorry to hijack the post but feel this is worthwhile
13/06/2019 10:43:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I doubt this blog would exist if it weren't for North West Air Ambulance :)
13/06/2019 12:49:47 UTC
Upt'North said :-
You can also purchase a resplendent T shirt from WEMOTO, £13.00 posted which funds air evacs for the Isle of Man. Good cause and damn good T shirts to boot.
13/06/2019 15:47:15 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Handy to know Upt'
13/06/2019 16:05:28 UTC
GJ said :-
Sorry to read about your accident Sharon.

But a few bruises to you and a few scratches to your motorcycle is a good outcome in the circumstances.
Your gear did a job in preventing worse injuries in the accident.
You had to take the least worse option and brace yourself.
At least you have a recollection of the incident in question.
Get well soon.
16/06/2019 20:34:33 UTC
Cherri said :-
Been there last October in Denmark Sharon. I was 1500 miles from home so as the bike was ok. Just bent and scratched I had to ride. Confidence does come back as the other option is don't ride ,, but the only option is get back on and ride.
It doesn't matter if it was our error as happens or the road you just have to get back on.
You will be fine. Xxx your a biker you ride you tour as I do you don't just visit biker cafe's.
The pleasure overtakes the worry. X.
21/06/2019 10:42:19 UTC
Sharon said :-
Yes I dressed for the slide not the ride fortunately and as such the gear did an excellent job in protecting me from more serious injury. As you say could have been worse.

Maybe we need a new bike slogan, We Ride, We Slide. Err no maybe not. Haa hopefully both of our experiences are one offs literally or a least very rare occurrences.
I remember my first have a go session on a big bike and I dropped it as I got tired towards the end of the session, stupid front brake grab. It was the first and thankfully last time I dropped that bike. My instructor was a no nonsense guy that I liked a lot. He said get up lass we will have no tears or upset just get back on. I did and it was good after that. So yes I never really thought twice about getting back on my bike after my slide as it was rideable. Confidence is creeping back now slowly for me but that's fine it can take its time, there is after all no rush.

25/06/2019 10:07:04 UTC
Martin said :-
Hi Sharon,

I have been away from the blog for ages so only just read of your mishap. I have been fortunate that in 50 years of biking I have only fallen off a handful of times and luckily never had more than a little gravel rash. It probably means I have not been trying hard enough! As I mentioned to Ren I will finish paying for my Z250 in August and because I have been so busy and away from the bike for so long I still have not taken it for the second service. I think its on about 1600 miles if I recall correctly. I am really looking forward to this virus being out of the way so I can get my bike down to where I now live and start to enjoy it properly. I hope neither you or your bike have suffered lasting effects from your spill and continue to enjoy good times together. I do enjoy reading of your exploits on the Zed.

11/04/2020 11:28:17 UTC

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