Monday, April 20, 2009

Rusty skills

The weather has suddenly turned warm. At least for a while between rain storms. When the sunshine comes out so do bikes. Who wouldn't want to enjoy a sunny day by being on a motorcycle? In my case I didn't get to spend much time riding. My weekend was spent conducting a couple of instructor training sessions up in the Portland area. I did, however, have a wonderful ride home last night among the backroads.

Many of the riders who are venturing out haven't ridden for months. Skills particular to riding have become rusty. I don't think folks actually realize how quickly things can fade when they don't ride for a while. The skills needed for driving a car have similarities to riding but there's unique differences. Rather than take some time to ease into riding while letting skills catch up, a lot of riders just plunge right in. Predictably, there's disastrous consequences.

A couple of weekends ago it was sunny and warm. There were a lot of bikes out and about. Unfortunately, we had four fatalities in this area as well. I really hate to see that happen. Today I checked my e-mail and there was the following dispatch from the Oregon State Police.

News Release from: Oregon State Police
Posted: April 19th, 2009 3:56 PM

A Medford-area man was seriously injured Sunday afternoon when his
motorcycle collided with a sport utility vehicle southbound Interstate 5
just south of the Brownsville interchange.

According to Oregon State Police (OSP) Recruit Trooper Tiffany Makin, on
April 20, 2009 at approximately 12:35 p.m. a 1987 Jeep Cherokee driven by
THOMAS C. OLSON, age 52, from Redding, California was southbound on
Interstate 5 near milepost 216 in the right hand lane following a 1996 Honda
Goldwing motorcycle operated by RICHARD R. GRAYBEAL, age 76, from Medford.

As the Jeep moved into the left lane to begin passing the motorcycle, the
motorcycle also began to change lanes and collided with the right rear
quarter panel of the Jeep.

After impact, the motorcycle and GRAYBEAL both fell onto the freeway and
traveled nearly 300 feet before coming to a stop on the right southbound
shoulder. OLSON was able to drive the Jeep to a stop on the same highway
shoulder just south of the downed motorcycle and operator.

GRAYBEAL was wearing a protective helmet and was seriously injured. REACH
Air ambulance responded to the scene and the southbound lanes were closed
about one hour. GRAYBEAL was transported by air to Sacred Heart Medical
Center at RiverBend in Springfield.

OLSON and his two male passengers, ages 14 and 15, were not injured. They
were using safety restraints.

OSP troopers from the Albany Area Command office are continuing the
investigation. Halsey Fire Department and ODOT assisted at the scene. One
lane was re-opened about 2:00 p.m. and both southbound lanes opened by 2:30

Is this a case of rusty skills? I can't say for sure. Things like this happen in a car, too. However, the consequences of a mistake on a bike are far worse than when driving. The reflexes and skills have to be extra sharp. Good judgement is especially critical when riding. It does strike me as interesting that the SUV was mostly past the bike by the time the rider changed lanes. There's no statement regarding the relative speeds of the vehicles. It really doesn't matter. What counts is that nobody in the SUV was injured. In contrast, Mr. Graybeal was seriously injured and had to be taken to the hospital by helicopter. It's also unclear what gear he was wearing other than a helmet.

Whatever the case, here's hoping that Mr. Graybeal makes a full recovery.

There's a couple of reasons why I'm posting this.

No matter how long we've been riding, the basics are important. It's easy to become complacent about them. I see this with experienced instructors in their classes. The basic steps of range control can be somewhat glossed over as not important. You know what, though? No matter how long the instructor's been teaching, range control for safety still matters a bunch. The same applies to riding. Don't get lazy about the things that are vital in protecting us. Things as simple as making a headcheck to ensure our lane change won't crash us into another vehicle.

The second reason is that I would urge you all to offer your riding friends reminders. We all know people who haven't ridden in a while. Heck, there's a lot of bloggers who haven't been able to ride for months, as well, due to snow and ice. Ease into things. Ride where there's as little multi-tasking required as possible. Give the reflexes and motor skills time to shake off the dust and rust and come back up to speed.

I don't want to read about anybody having accidents. Especially not you and your friends!

Miles and smiles,



Anonymous said...

Not to sound an unhappy note. The police report gave the motorcyclist's age, 76. Now between you and me, I figure age 76 is pushing it to be operating a motorcycle, without some awareness training on the part of the motorcyclist.

In my own case have decided it's time to stop riding. However in reviewing other published articles, as we physically and mentally age our bodies often can't handle that which we ask them to do.

Maybe Dan you might think of having a series of review weekends for the older motorcyclist. There are all kinds of pitfalls for the older person, motorcyclist or not.

Here in Ontario, the magic number is 80. You have to have vision and coordination tests as well as attend a classroom session or two
to see if you are able to continue driving, anything.

One or two of my much older and valued friends, all motorcyclists stopped riding their machines at age 80,also decided that they were not mentally prepared to continue driving their cars, and gave up that mode of transport as well.
One had the beginning of Parkinson's, he is doing reasonably well. He and his friend both live on well-served transit lines, so
neither are really inconvenienced.
My other friend though had a fall, at home in his 79th year and really has not been the same since. Although it was his own decision to terminate his right to drive when he reached 80. They both are still quite active otherwise.

As has been mentioned, the time will come when you the motorcyclist will say it's time to stop riding. If the decision comes before an
accident so much the better.

We all get rusty during the off season; just ask your golfing friends who couldn't escape during the winter to a warmer clime to play.

Dan's right though, take your time, be careful and we all hope and pray the motorcyclist in this most recent accident recovers and will live to see another day.

Dave said...

I agree I have seen a lot of bikes out when the temp was up an you can see that the skills are rusty.

I know not every one is as crazy as I am I bought a 09 Kymco Grand Vista 250 scooter on Dec 12.

Today I just rolled 1000 miles on it. I managed to get in three or four rides a month in the last five months
I live in Ohio
This Saturday I will be taking the MFS experienced rider course.

What got me when the warm weather riders were out was the lack of safety gear.

As I was heading out of town a bike with two girls was heading in. No helmets short sleeve shirts an sneakers an one was wearing shorts.

I gave them a modified wave I waged may finger at the driver an then taped my helmet.
She gave me a sheepish look an nodded. Hope they made to wear they were going ok.

Old F

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

I'm finally back out on 2 wheels myself. Quite different than the 3 or 4 we've used over the winter. I'm avoiding heavy traffic for a few weeks.

Unfortunately, the warm-weather riders around here include lots of the local brand, with illegally-loud exhaust. So there's complaining from the non-riding public about motorcycles...

Been having some, um, 'discussions' with people on Craig's List about motorcycle safety, and how noise is not a safety feature. They're not interested in real safety measures (classes, bright helmet,bright jacket), so get upset at me.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad:

My weekend did not unfold as I had thought it might.

Twenty-two minutes into what promised to be a great breach run, a friend of mine dropped his bike, breaking his girl'friend's leg in two places. He is 70, and is riding a BMW GS, an exceptionally tall, complicated motorcycle. He has now dropped this bike 5 times.

I'd say the handwriting is on the wall for him.

Regarding ATTGAT, I go to bed wearing a helmet. Wearing all the gear all the time is like wearing a condom to many people. They just don't do it. In all too many cases, life-chaning results follow. Yet you stand a better chance =getting people to change their sexuality then you do changing their mind regarding helmets and protective gear.

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

Conchscooter said...

It occurs to me from time to time that when I am focused on passing the car in front I need to spend a little more time making sure the car behind me (pissed at me for passing him earlier, and now he knows passing can be done on the Overseas Highway and is eager to prove to the bike he too can pass)isn't getting ready to pass ME. That would put me in the same unfortunate position as the unhappy Mr Graybeard.
My skills only get rusty from all the salt air each winter, of course, though if you think 52F is warm, you need to consider whether or not you might be past it...

Young Dai said...

I wonder what was in the front of the pair of them to make them want to go for the over-take at approximately the same time ?

If so it could be as simple as the rider relying on his mirrors and forgetting the shoulder check / lifesaver before commiting himeself, which is not necessarily age specific

A 'wing is not regarded as a swoop and scoot steed ? Is it just possible that it began signalling at either the same time or just before the Jeep began his maneuver, but for whatever reason the Jeep continued on, hoping to take both the bike and whatever was in front before the Wing moved out.

In the UK certain vehicles seem to attract particular types of accidents, ie super mini's or Impretza's filled with teens and young adults tend get wrapped around lampposts in residential areas at 3am in the morning. The Jeep seems quite an old vehicle could that be indicative of the type or attitude of driver

bobskoot said...

I would tend to think that the jeep was being overly aggressive and was probably exceeding the speed to catch up with the 'wing. It was probably behind the 'wing, in the same lane, when Greybeal did his mirror check and did not see any vehicle in his mirror. The jeep probably "jumped" into the passing lane and floored it and was beside Greybeal when he finally decided to change lanes. Of course being more elderly he did not immediately change lanes at the time of the mirror check which should have necessitated another mirror check to confirm that the lane was clear. of course we are all guessing at the circumstances.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

irondad said...

Thank you for all the comments. I'll come back and reply individually to you, my internet friends. For right now I'm sadly sharing the news that Mr. Graybeal passed away about 3:30 AM today as a result of his injuries.

It just doesn't seem right to mix anything else with that news at the moment.

Please go find someone you care about. Give them a hug and let them know how much they mean to you. Celebrate being alive and take measures to stay that way.

Take care,


irondad said...

We do offer what we call the Rider Skills Practice course. It's a half day of riding to brush up on skills. The hard part is getting riders to realize they need to take refresher training now and then.

Congratulations on the new scooter. I'm no expert but I think Kimco is proving to be a good brand name.

How did the MSF course go on the scooter?

As to those not wearing gear, I have a new question.

What is your Asphalt Tolerance Level?

You have my undying respect for standing up when it's not a popular stance among those around you.

I would refer you back to the T-shirt that Dean W commented on.

If loud pipes save lives, imagine what learning to ride that thing would do!

Take care,


irondad said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Dropping a bike several times might be a sign to at least switch bikes. The worst part for me would be the fact that my passenger is the one who got the worst injuries. Yikes!

I don't wear a helmet to bed, but there are certainly times when it's best to leave the Aerostich pants on. Keep up the preaching. If just one person is reached, it's worth it. Sort of like your analogy. If one less girl has an unexpected pregnancy.....

You bring up two interesting points. You never know what other people will do or why.

Do you find that vehicles corrode more readily there? Since you mentioned the salt air, and all.

Young Dai,
Thank you for commenting. It could have been a scenario like you described. As you saw, the rider got the worst of it. So, no matter the circumstances, we have the greater responsibility whoever's at fault.

I've heard of Mini's. What is a Super Mini?

What you describe could be exactly what happened. I've had that happen to me. One thing I picked up from David Hough is that second head check. David calls it his
"Life saver".

Take care,


Krysta in Milwaukee said...

I've been being VERY deliberate these last few days about check the mirrors, signal, check over my shoulder, THEN move. Even in the car. On the bike in heavy traffic, sometimes I add arm signals.

bobskoot said...

I had that happen to me, sort of. During the winter I was coming home in the car. I came to a RED light. Looked left, then right (mistake was not looking left again) proceeded to take right turn (on the red). after I was accelerating to speed, next to me was a car going my direction but in the opposite lane. The speed limit in the city is 50 kmh (30mph), he must have been going 100 kmh. He was nowhere in sight when I made the turn but suddenly he appeared from nowhere.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

irondad said...

It's interesting how things that happen to other people can have such an affect on us. I had a friend die on a bike because he decided to pass two slow moving cars. Turns out one wanted to make a left turn. My friend got run off the road. His bike encountered a telephone pole guy wire, which broke his neck and killed him. I still think of that whenever I'm thinking of passing a slow car and there's driveways nearby. Maybe the pass will just have to wait for a bit.

I'm noticing more and more drivers who punch the gas pedal as soon as they turn. Not to mention that they seem to drag race between lights. Like your experience, they show up amazingly quickly. You almost have to have your head on a swivel.

Thanks for sharing the story. We all remind each other to be prudent out there.

Take care,


Young Dai said...

First off: My condolences to Mr Graybeal's family.

Super mini, is a term used over here for a small car specced with a larger engine than the others in the range, (although it will still be below 2000cc, which is a major tax and insurance threshold in Europe)

They are sold on basis of a generally sporty image with various bling, bling bits like low profile tyres, trick seats and suspension and loud sound systems that are only on that trim spec.

VW took the idea on from the original Mini Cooper, to produce the Golf GTI, which sold by the acre in the mid 70's and since then every other European and Jap manufacturer had had one in production for our markets. I suppose they are the European version of the Muscle Car of days of yore.

The trouble comes when these cars get to be old and cheap enough to be brought by young inexperienced drivers. The result is that in UK death by road accident is the 2nd most common cause of death for young men between 17 and 25. Driving too fast for the conditions, DUI, car overloaded , not wearing a seat belt or just GTA, take your pick.

Finally, when did you start employing police officers called Tiffany ?

I'm sure it is just the name and she will prove to be very competent, but the name doesn't quite have the same gravel in it as, Stan, Patrick or Joe

Dave said...

Dan here is my ERC experience
My experience was good over all .

It was held in a purpose built range on the grounds of a Honda warehouse facility .

It was a mixed group with three copulas riding two up an every one showed up in full gear with the exception of one guy who left be for it started.

He pulls in no helmet tee shirt raggedy jeans an sneakers .
Ann one of the instructors was informing him that if he didn’t have the minimum he wouldn’t be aloud on the range an they could provide a helmet.

Then he went it to a rant an just about every other word was the F word.
I steped over behind him when he started in about the F en sate of Ohio not having mandatory helmet law.
I spoke up that I am all for choice but at the end of the day it’s a fools choice not to wear one.

Here is were it gets funny I stand six two an weigh 185 he turns around an gives me a dirty look right in my chest he only stood about five five an he just kept looking up an up. : )

Then he stormed off an left at a high rate of speed

All in all for 25 dollars it was a good tune up.

The star in the group was a gent all of 65 years young doing text book perfect figure eights in a 20 foot box.
On a fully dressed out Honda Gold Wing.
I made thru with no problems

Other than how do you feather a hand cultch when you don’t have one ? ;)

Old F