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Why We Keep Riding Despite Injuries

I’ll bet a lot of our readers have been injured in a motorcycle crash, whether it was on street or dirt. Most riders have – that’s where we get the saying “there’s only two kinds of riders – those who have crashed, and those who will crash”. It’s basically inevitable – keep riding long enough, and whether it’s a mistake on your part, the action of another road user, or simply bad luck, something will bring you down.

Some of us get hurt worse than others – the lucky ones get away with a bruise or a few scratches, but not everyone can be lucky.

A couple years ago I was play riding out at Ocotillo Wells with some co-workers, and around midday we ended up at Shell Reef. The Reef is a popular gathering spot at Ocotillo, and the unusual terrain formation makes for a number of challenging obstacles, including some pretty entertaining jumps.

Anyone who’s ever jumped a dirt bike knows that determining the right speed to clear the jump perfectly is a matter of experience, good judgement, and a little bit of guesswork. Well, my judgement must have been a little bit off that day – I hit a big, right-hand whipped step-up on the side of Shell Reef, only to discover that “WFO” in 4th wasn’t quite enough – in retrospect, if I had clicked it into fifth before the lip it would have saved me a lot of trouble.

It probably didn’t look that bad to anyone who happened to be watching – I only came up about a bike length short, and despite the fact that the impact of the landing brought me to a complete stop, I was able to ride away. At least a little way away. Under the force of the hard landing, my legs had given out, and when my ass hit the seat I knew immediately that something was wrong. The pain was so severe that I swear I couldn’t see anything but blinding white light for a few seconds, and only instinct made me click the big CRF450R down into 1st gear and ply the clutch and throttle to get moving before I toppled over.

Turns out I had compression fractured three vertebrae in my spine – T11, T12, and L1, for those of you who know your anatomy. The fractures weren’t severe – in fact, the vertebrae were merely deformed rather than shattered into pieces. According to the doctors, this is about the most minor spinal fracture you can have, with little to no danger of paralysis.

Seven hours later I stood up from the hospital wheelchair and stepped into the car under my own power. Little more than a month later, I was back on a bike.

Telling this tale the other day to a few relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time, I encountered the universal question related to incidents like this: “You’re still riding?” Usually uttered in a tone somewhere between amazement and scorn, it seems to be the universal reaction of non-riders when they hear how we’ve been injured.

To them the question that comes to mind is “Why would he get back on a bike?”. Strangely enough, when they ask if I’m still riding the question that comes to mind is “Why wouldn’t I be?”.

Motorcycles fill different roles for each rider – some use them primarily for transportation, while for others riding is mainly a hobby or recreational pastime. All riders know the feelings they get from riding, though, and though these feelings are difficult to explain (especially to non-riders) they are even harder to forget. That’s why we get back on the bike – nothing else feels the same, and even those who haven’t ridden in decades remember those feelings and long to get them back.

We’d like to hear from any of our readers who have similar stories – how you crashed, what injuries you received, how long the recovery was, etc. Are you still riding, or are you planning to ride again as soon as you have recovered? And how do your friends and family feel about that? Email us and tell us your story – we will create a “Readers Respond” article from all of your emails.