Why I Crash.

I just returned from a beautiful couple of track days. I know a lot of my “virtual friends” were also out on the tracks around the country and around the world. Unfortunately some didn’t fare quite as well as I did. Sorry guys. It happens as we all know.

Fortunately no reports of serious injury, mostly just broken bikes and bruised egos.

We’ve all been there, and if we haven’t, we most likely will be. And personally I think we should be. My motto has always been, “If you’re not crashing, you’re not trying hard enough.” (it’s right there on my front page even). I think pushing ourselves is important, but we shouldn’t do it mindlessly, or carelessly. That’s just being irresponsible.

So why do these crashes happen. Very rarely are we riding our bikes or tires over THEIR limit. We simply are not that good, just admit it.

Sure sometimes it wasn’t avoidable. We can have a mechanical failure that results in an fall (could still be our fault…) And every now and then someone else runs into us, falls in front of us, or pushes us off track. But in my experience a majority of the time it’s as simple as this most famous quote:

“Your ambition outweighed your talent.”

Casey Stoner to Valentino Rossi

I ride with Penquin Racing School quite a bit, and Eric Wood always makes it a point to say “Our bikes don’t crash themselves, we pull them down with us.” It’s true. Most of the time we only have ourselves (mostly our ego) to blame.

But WHY do we crash. That’s the point here.

After I fall I take some time to think about what I did that made me end up testing out my pretty new suit, and wrecking all those shiny bits I put on my bike. Here goes my top 3, you might find yours are different:

  1. Not concentrating – whenever I find my mind wandering even a little, I pull in and refocus. My worst crash was because of a momentary lapse of concentration, just prior to a difficult corner. I don’t go out rushed, or without taking a minute or two to focus on what my goals are for the session.
  2. Focusing attention away from where you are GOING – related to concentration. I’ve crashed because I was focusing my concentration on something behind me, or thinking too far ahead. It’s OK to think ahead, but only when the situation allows you to take a little focus away from the then and there, or the very immediate future. Like on a straight.
  3. Passive or reactionary inputs – this is when I react to a situation rather than anticipate and make intentional (and precise) inputs to correct errors. My most recent crash happened from adjusting my line mid corner, as I was trailing off the brakes, as a reaction to realizing I was going to miss my apex. I should have accepted my current trajectory and planned for what I needed to do on exit to mitigate my mistake instead of trying to correct it immediately and compound it greatly.

So, what can I take away from my experiences crashing? It’s always mental. Either I didn’t prepare or my focus was somewhere other than forward.

I didn’t get to these conclusions immediately, trust me. I tried to blame cold tires, or a cold track, or a patch of pavement….sometimes friends helped me rationalize even “Oh you must have hit that bad spot” or “Yeah the track temp wasn’t up yet” etc. Maybe they are preparing to rationalize their own upcoming crashes, or past ones, but the truth is, I wasn’t focused. It was 100% mental.

So what can I do? What can all of us do? Practice. Ride more. Take things slowly, build your speed. Focus on ONE thing per session, one corner, one part of riding position, brake application, brake release, throttle control, etc. ONE THING at a time. Most importantly stay focused on what you are doing out there.

“Failure is the Greatest Teacher”

-Udai Yadla

The good thing is that crashes teach us something about our riding, and about ourselves. They test our resolve and our commitment to getting better. They bring us together as riders. And eventually, in a weird way they make us proud. I know the first thing I do when someone finds out I ride on the track is show them my Crash Video.

Now go ride!

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