There is an old saying among motorcycle riders that if you haven’t dumped your bike yet, you will. And after eight years of riding, I dumped mine today. A few days ago, my replacement helmet arrived, and I had it on. The full-head one I got a few months ago had a defective hinge, and after three weeks of trying to fix it, they gave me a new one. New helmets are notoriously tight, and I already had a headache. My glasses were slightly askew and my peripheral vision was distorted. It made objects at the edge of my vision seem closer.
We got gas and after filling up, I was walking the bike backwards to ride into the street. (Motorcycles don’t have reverse gears, you sit on them and push with your feet.) There were two trucks blocking the way to ride straight ahead, so I was pushing back, watching behind for cars pulling into the station. A truck roared past on one side, and a car was pulling in on the other, so I turned the bike at a sharp angle. The back tire hit one of the big refilling lids and stopped, and I gave a powerful push to get the back wheel over the edge.
I now had a back wheel resisting, a front wheel turned at a sharp angle and a bike that wasn’t moving. A motorcycle in motion wants to stay upright, but when it stops moving, it wants to lie down. One more push, I thought, and my foot slipped on a grease slick. My left leg no longer held up its half of the weight, and in slow motion, the bike tipped over with me on it.
I smacked into the cement apron of the gas station with my shoulder and elbow and my 500-pound bike fell on top of my left leg and foot. That left my right foot and leg free to kick the kill switch to turn off the engine. A bike that’s over on one side will leak gas, and you don’t want to keep the engine running.
My husband saw me go over, and so did the motorist in the car that had been coming into the gas station. They both came running and pulled the bike off me. My husband turned the ignition key and pulled it out.
Roll back the clock an hour. I wanted to go for a ride on this perfect day with a big blue sky and no wind. I’d been up since about 6 a.m. and it was 2 p.m. I could get in a ride and come back and work for another three or four hours. But it meant changing from at-home clothes to riding clothes–heavy jeans, over-the-ankle boots, protective jacket with elbow, shoulder and back inserts, gloves with gel pads in the palms, and the full-head helmet. It takes time to put all that on, and I wondered if I needed all this stuff. I hate all the effort it takes to go from sandals, slacks and T-shirt to full motorcycle gear. I grumbled when I put it on. Arizona doesn’t have a helmet law, and I get a lot of flack from riders in flip-flops and shorts. But I own my business, I’m my only employee, and if something happens to me, my business stops. So I put it all on.
Back to the gas station. The guys pulled the bike off me. My boot protected my foot from both the weight and heat. My jacket protected my elbow and shoulder. My helmet would have protected my head, but I pulled it hard to the right and my head never touched the ground. Don’t want to scratch that new helmet.
So, after testing my ankle and knee, I rolled back up off the pavement, and checked the bike over. I’ll have to have the handlebars adjusted and the side mirror re-set, but I got back on the bike and took a ride. I’ll be stiff tomorrow–after all, I’m not a biker chick, I’m more a biker hen, but I’ll be back at work, no worse for wear.
And the next time I grumble about all that gear, I’ll grin when I think of how easy it was to roll over and push off the pavement and stand up. And I’ll be grateful for every piece of it.
–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who loves riding motorcycle through the Sonoran desert mountains. She’s also a writer and a communication trainer who runs workshops in ideaglyph journaling.