Dress for the crash, not the ride

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jerry Lindquester
  • 7th Munitions Squadron
It was a beautiful day in Abilene, Texas. I had been home about a week after a six-month deployment, right in the time frame statistics report accidents are most likely to happen post-deployment.

After discussing my "need" for a new motorcycle with my wonderful wife, Diana and I made a trip to one of the local motorcycle shops.

After eliminating about 90 percent of the bikes on the sales floor, and 30 to 40 minutes of conversation, while I sat on each bike drooling over most of them, I decided to take a test ride on a 2007 Yamaha Warrior; the one my wife thought looked the coolest, had the best factory paint scheme and the most "character" of all the bikes on the sales floor. It was flat-out sexy.

My riding history

In 2006, I had been a street bike rider for 10 years. At the time, I owned a '78 BMW R100RT and an '86 Yamaha 650. The only other street riding experience I had was for a year or so I borrowed my friends '79 GL1000 Gold Wing. The rest of my riding experience was strictly off road on dirt bikes and ATVs.

The test ride

The salesman gave me a quick rundown on the controls and a very insistent warning about the amount of power the Warrior had compared to my 650. Remember, this would be the first bike I had ridden that was made after the speed limit changed from 55 to 70 mph in Texas and the first bike with an engine larger than 1000cc.

At the time, I was unaware of the Warrior's four NHRA Factory Drag Bike championships. After wiping more drool off the bike, I rolled out of the parking lot. There was a traffic light at the corner where the dealership is located and the light was red. The light turned green and as I let out the clutch and applied a little throttle, I enjoyed the powerful pull of the massive V-Twin engine without any problems, yeah I mastered first gear.

As I was changing from first to second gear my testosterone must have peaked, and my inner stupid made its debut, my lizard brain forgot which bike I was riding. The change from first to second gear was not as smooth as from stop to go.

Luckily, I already had a death grip on the handle grips. I was nervous as heck, having never ridden a new bike before, let alone one this powerful. The Warrior eagerly launched itself forward in response to my generous twist of the throttle and rather quick release of the clutch.

The huge 200mm rear sport bike tire gripped the road like they were one entity. My head, aided by the weight of the helmet, whipped backwards. My rear-end went from the operator's seat to halfway onto the passenger's seat, and I was suddenly accelerating quite rapidly. I pulled my head forward as I released the throttle and got the bike at or below the paltry 35 mph speed limit.

All this took maybe a full second, but it was long enough for me to experience this strange feeling of fear and elation at the same time. I learned to respect the bike's power rather quickly and kept my head in the game for the rest of the test ride.

After the test ride I was sold and bought the Warrior. I rode home with a smile on my face and the proud owner of my first brand new motorcycle. When I got home I went to read the owner's manual and realized I didn't have it. Bummer, as I actually enjoy thumbing through them, no really I do.

Saturday, Sept.16, 2006

I woke up early and couldn't wait for the dealership to open so I could ride my new bike to pick up the manual and spare key. When the time came, I geared up and started the 20-mile ride to the dealership. The ride there was uneventful, other than the persistent smile on my face from "testing" the bike's performance.

Upon arriving at the dealership, the salesman approached me with a concerned look on his face, which I immediately dispelled when I told him why I was there. He grabbed the manual and key, and we talked for a few minutes.

I got back on the bike and left the lot heading north as I had during the test ride. I was caught by the first red light. As I approached the next light it was already red. I coasted toward it, going through my mental checklist getting ready to stop.

When I was still about 100 yards from the intersection, the light changed to green. I was the first vehicle in line. A truck was behind me about two car-lengths back in the left lane and I was traveling in the curb lane.

At this time I noticed a black Chevy truck heading south pull into the turn lane on the other side of the intersection getting ready to turn left into a convenience store. I immediately let off the throttle and started to coast with my fingers hovering over the clutch and brake handles.

When the truck came to a complete stop, I looked at the driver and noticed it was a male. It appeared he was looking right at me. Thinking we had made eye contact I rolled on the throttle smoothly; and then it happened.

Just as I was entering the intersection, the driver of the truck hit the gas and was suddenly crossing my path of travel. In a split second I cursed, noticed I was about 20 feet from the truck, and checked my mirror; the truck behind me was still a ways back and in the left lane. I applied both the front and rear brakes, unfortunately too aggressively, as the rear tire rolled a short distance and then started to skid.

In the riders course, I remembered they said if the rear tire locks up, don't release it, as doing so can throw you off the bike on the high side.

With the rear skidding in a semi-straight line, I concentrated on the front brakes and the truck, which was fully blocking both northbound lanes. Just as I thought, I was going to be able to safely stop the bike with room to spare, the front tire locked up. Once the front tire started to skid the bike washed out from under me. It went from good to bad so fast I barely had time to register what was happening. The front tire went right and I was thrown left. The rest, I must admit, is a little fuzzy.

I remember hearing the very loud crack of my helmet's chin guard hitting the asphalt. I don't remember putting my hands out to catch myself, but by the marks on the gloves, I did. I don't remember the bike landing on my left foot and dragging me along, but the wear marks on my steel toe boot said it did.

I remember rolling and watching the bike screech and scratch as it slid on its side. I saw it spinning around so the rear fender and tire ended up hitting the truck between the rear tire and rear bumper right on the exhaust pipe. I remember the terrible sound of metal smashing against metal and my overwhelming feeling of loss as I sat in the middle of the road with my new ride mangled. After sitting there for half a second, I came to the sudden realization, I'm in the middle of the road!

I immediately checked behind me and was happy to see traffic had stopped; duh I would have been road kill by now otherwise. I tried to stand and my left knee told me to think again Evel Knevel, you aren't walking anywhere. A sharp pain had shot up from my knee as soon as I tried to use it. I started to drag myself toward the curb when a long-haired biker dude from the truck that was behind me in the other lane and his lady friend sprinted to my aid. They pulled me into the parking lot by grabbing me under the arms.

In the meantime, the truck, the one that cut out in front of me, had parked as if nothing happened. The driver and passenger were getting out with really confused looks on their faces staring in my direction.

The young male driver started walking my way, while the woman stayed by the truck. When he got halfway to me, I asked him as nicely as I could, "What the _____ were you thinking?" to which he asked, "What are talking about?" I kindly filled him in on how he cut me off. He denied it of course, until I pointed out the dent in the truck and his bent tail pipe. His reply, ready for this... "I didn't see you." I know none of us have ever heard this reply before.

I sincerely thought my knee was broken and he wasn't within reach, so I couldn't grab him by the throat and choke him out of the gene pool. I also had a desire to pull on his head in a swift twisting motion in the hopes I can help him remove it from his posterior. I remember screaming a few choice profanities to and about him, probably concerning his lineage and driving abilities.

At this time he made the smartest decision of the day and retreated into the store. While this was going on, my new buddy, the biker guy, had my back as he stepped between me and junior. I picked up my phone and called 911 for a ride to Hendricks Medical Center and then notified my work. I held off the most difficult phone call to my wife for last, as the Abilene Fire Department EMTs rolled up.

"Honey, first off I'm alright, a great way to start a conversation with a loved one by the way, but I've had an accident and I am going to Hendricks." Now you must understand, we live 20 miles from where I wrecked and the hospital is maybe six miles from the wreck. The wife was there to meet the ambulance.

Diana is a wonderful woman. Truth be told, when I called her, the ambulance's siren was barely audible off in the distance and the fire department EMTs were playing 20 questions for a long time, which I got to answer a second time when the ambulance arrived. Great people all around, thank you very much.

My lessons learned

Pull your head out of the clouds and pay attention while riding. Just because it looks like they see you, ride like they don't. Odds are, they didn't.

Take refresher training as often as you can. Five years is too long. I had taken both the basic course 10 years before the wreck and the advanced course within five years of the wreck.

It isn't a matter of if you are going to crash or wreck a bike, it's a matter of when ... sorry if you think otherwise.

Dress for the crash, not the ride.

Gear lesson's learned concerning

Nolan Modular helmet: the kind where the chin guard flips up, functioned as designed.

Mechanics gloves: wear leather palms and fingers not suede, functioned as desired; high quality riding gloves should have been worn and are designed for motorcycle accidents in mind.

Long sleeve T-Shirt: was not adequate, the small bit of road rash on my elbow can testify to this fact.

Icon Reflective vest: still have it, abrasions and all. Failed to attract drivers' attention, but held up and saved my back from road rash.

Jeans: road rash still managed to reach my skin, but the jeans took the brunt of the road rash.

Steel toe boots: worn properly...aka properly laced, without a doubt, saved my foot from serious injury. For those who think unlaced boots look cool, think again, as the boot can't help you when it isn't on your foot. Besides, you don't look cool; you look like a lazy fool who can't dress themselves properly in my humble opinion.


The accident happened for several reasons. I assumed the driver of the truck had seen me when he hadn't. The 15-year-old kid driving the truck wasn't observant enough. I didn't know the bike well enough to respond to the situation. My instincts reverted to my training and experience.

Unfortunately, this was inadequate by the fact my instincts reacted as if I was on my 650cc rather than the 1700cc Warrior A 23-year-old bike vs a 24-hour-old bike--things aren't equal. The magic reflective vest helped me in a way not intended. It gave me a layer to slide on tougher than the shirt I was wearing. Its high visibility selling point, and the primary reason it is mandated by the Air Force was totally useless and failed miserably to attract the attention of the other driver.

Finally, I complained about having to follow the PPE requirements mandated by the Air Force prior to Sept. 16, 2006. Now, I tell anyone who asks about how wearing PPE saved me from serious bodily injury. Wear your gear, drive defensively and the best ride is the one you arrive home safely from.