Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1980's

Cycle News 1984 05 02

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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RISK By John Ulrich An essay on crashing The guy walked in the front door, picked up last week's issue, paid his dollar and stood for a moment, scanning The Latest Poop. He shook his head, pointed a finger at the photo of me riding Kenny Roberts' OW69 680cc Square Four and said to the receptionist "They let him ride that bike, and he didn't crash? I wouldn't let him ride my bike." Chances are I don't want to ride his bike anyway; but it brings out a repu- tation I've got for wadding up test bikes. 1guess 1shouldn't be surprised because there's usually a story of one sort or another in a crash, and, being a writer, I usually write about my crashes. But before I get to The Point of all this, which is Risk, let me layout my statistics: Years riding motorcycles, 15; Years testing motorcydes, 12; Years racing motorcycles, 10; Individual motorcycles ridden, 400; Motorcycles owned, 24; Miles covered on motorcycles, 250,000; Dragstrip passes, 5000; Races entered, 225; Average weekly street bike mileage since 1978, 350; Longest one-day ride, 1120 miles; Fastest cross-country ride, four days, L.A. to New Hampshire; Highest speed attained on two wheels, 176 mph; Number of street crashes, nine; Number of dragstrip crashes, twO; N umber of racetrack crashes, 12; Numberof oH-roadcrashes, 30; Number of machines crashed beyond repair, one; Fastest pavement impact speed, 144 mph; Quickest and fastest quartermile without a motorcycle, 10.20 sec. at 139 mph; Most serious injury, broken collarbone. It's a good thing I've been as lucky as I have been in my wad-ups, because until 1982, hospitals made me sick. As in pale, faint, nauseous. My approach to risk was simple: it's called denial. I didn't think about it, ignored it, put it out of my mind. Couldn't happen to me or my friends. That all changed in a hurry when I crashed at Sears Point in May of 1982 and broke my collarbone; a week later my best friend crashed a bike we had built together, and now be's a wheelchair pilot. His name is Bruce Hammer. The combination of my own first experience with broken parts and Bruce's catastrophic injury did a lot 'of things. It taught me what a tough, determined .o.b. Hammer really i ; it cured me of getting sick in hospitals because I couldn't let my buddy lie there for four months without visiting him; and it forced me to define and accept the risks involved in motorcycle riding and racing. To start with, Hammer wa in Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, a place I wasn't familiar with and never wanted to be familiar with. All I knew about it was that Patricia lonker (aulhor of Ihe class1l'ss book "Murtlt"T\'c1l'S, America's Fa\'orill' Blood SPOI:I") uSl'd ils l'xistenet' as Iht, IX'Sl case a~ainst mOlorcycll' ridin~. To read hl'r diatribe. Rancho Los Amigns "'as SltTffed full of hap1l'ss fools ",ho crashl'd mOlOrc\'clt,s and "'l're ruined for life. . Imagine my surprise when I went to visit Bruce and found that he was . the only motorcycle crasher in his spinal injury ward. The guy in the next bed jumped into a swimming pool, hit a raft and broke his neck. The other four guys were all gunshot-injured, victims of Los Angeles gang wars. (None of them were injured in actual street combat. They were blasted while doing such oHensive things as sitting in their living room watchingTV and walking down their own street with their girlfriend). There were other wards: one guy fell against a dresser while wrestling his little brother; a young woman broke her neck body-surfing; an old woman was hit by a stray bullet while attending Mas; a dozen crashed their cars; one slipped (no kidding) on a banana; another fell in the shower. Most of them whined and moaned and complained; Hammer motOred on past them, set a record for learning to dress and eat and function without working legs, with screwed-up arms, He went back to work full-time, getting there in the hand-control van we bougbt him. Meanwhile, my wife and kid were rammed broadside in her car by a drunk driver, sending three of the four to the hospital; one son was hit on his bicycle by a car that swerved to avoid another, errant bicyclist - he spent 14 days in intensive care, three weeks in a ward, and came home missipg part of his pancreas. The diHerence in reactions to the accident was amazing. When I crashed, when Bruce crashed, suddenly co-workers and neighbors and relatives urged and advised and even begged me to give up racing. Some friends sold their kids' motorcycles and helmets. When Trudy and the kids were rammed, nobody advised her to turn in her driver's license. When Damian was hit, the people down the street didn't sell their kids' bicycles. When the guy at Rancho broke his neck in the shower, nobody urged him to give up bathing. Okay. The Point. There's risk in what wedo. It's dangerous. Motorcycles are not the safest way to travel, and racing motorcycles is more hazardous than not racing motorcycles. But riding is fun, racing the most exciting thing I know, and there's risk in crossing the street or opening a door. I'd hate to hang it up and get shot by a vato loco cruising the neighborhood; I'd hate to retire and break my neck in the bathtub. And if the price 1 have to pay for a little fun is crashing, I'll take the odds. • Some ofourfastest Suzulds viDg·faster. just sta During the Suzuki Knockout Savings Sale, it's amazing how fast our '81, '82 and '83 Suzuki street machines start moving. So hurry, GS550LZ save because the only way to get the right price on one of our fast-moving road bikes is to get yourself moving just as fast to your Suzuki dealer. GS750TZ GS850GLZ save $700 $8. Now '1,799 ---:...'1,899-=-- Now $850 $320 Now ,2,l99 fr=~~~~~~'2,J19 $"iO $iil~~ Now GR650D Save Now save il'Sio Now ,.;--:1,299 _ _ Now $6io Now .....:.$3,379---<-_ _--.,;$:-..:l2r:....;;.;499_=___ ___=_ GS650GLZ SIMI $750 GS450TZ SIMI $570 GS450TXZ SIMI $460 JR50RD SIMI $100 '2,0'19 __ •• SUZU

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