Monday, June 30, 2008

The After-Crash Jitters

Yamaha FZ6Went riding last Saturday with some folks, including a guy on a sport bike.

This guy had the "after-crash jitters". He's actually a cruiser rider, who crashed his Honda VTX a few months ago. He did so by leaning really hard into a curve, and apparently scraped it hard enough to where he lost traction and low-sided.

That was enough to convince him that he needed a motorcycle with more "scrape angle". So he bought a Yamaha FZ6, which isn't really a typical sportbike, it's more like an all-purpose bike. Not a dual-sport, but something that strikes a middle-ground between a cruiser, sportbike, and tourer.

So I figured "Cool, this guy REALLY want to hit some twisties hard".

But just the opposite. He's now a very cautious, and careful rider.

The ride was to Newcomb's Ranch, a popular hangout along the Angeles Crest Highway, a famed road here in Southern California, that connects the Los Angeles basin with the ski slopes near Wrightwood. It's 55 miles of some of the best riding in the Southland, hundreds of 25-40mph sweepers, no tight hairpin turns. You can hit these curves really hard if you know the road well enough.

Though right now, there's a road closure about halfway up the road. Still, the road is open through Newcomb's Ranch, and it's still an excellent ride if you really like to ride.

This guy on the FZ6 decided to pick up the rear of our group. He did ok on the freeway, but when we jumped on Angeles Crest, he just faded away from sight. I slowed it down to about 40mph, which is well within the comfort range for the average cruiser rider. But I still lost him.

I pulled over to the side, and waited. Some cars eventually passed by, and then several minutes later, he finally showed up.

So I continued on with the group. I pulled over a couple more times along the way, until we finally got to Newcomb's Ranch.

He explained that he had become a "changed" rider. But not so much that he had become an advocate of safe riding, just that he had totally lost his confidence. That crash gave him a really bad case of jitters.

He was shorter than I am, and had difficulty putting his feet on the ground. I stand at 5'8", I'd guess he's about 5'6". The seat height on the FZ6 is 31.3 inches. Compare that to his VTX which was 26.5. He could only get his toes on the ground. I'm not sure that FZ6 was such a smart idea.

I told him, "You sure got a great bike for riding the twisties!".

He said, "But I don't like the twisties. I prefer to stay on the freeway."

I tend to think the freeway is more dangerous.

The guy is a really nice guy. I felt kinda sorry for him. I've had the jitters getting back on a motorcycle after a crash, but those jitters go away after a couple of days. His jitters have been around for way too long, and has had a great impact on where he rides to, and having friends to ride with.

So I told him it's actually a really good idea to tackle a road like Angeles Crest Highway, and to hook up with a group. No better way to confront a demon than to face it head on.

And while I enjoyed hanging out at Newcomb's Ranch with him, his riding is so slow at this point that it becomes detrimental to a group of riders of having to pull over and wait every 10 miles or so. It would be ok if he knew the route well enough to get there on his own. But he doesn't know the roads well enough around here.

He needs to spend more time confronting that demon. I hope that at least having ridden with me last Saturday, along Angeles Crest, some of those jitters went away.


  1. Maybe suggest to him to get a dirt bike and tear it up for awhile. After a few low speed dumps and near dumps which invariably happen he would lose the fear enough to get his confidence back.

  2. Stopping and waiting for the guy was a nice gesture, but I agree it gets old after a while.

    I don't know if I'm putting this right, but it almost sounds as if this guy is "forcing" himself. Some folks take to riding like Tiger to a 5 iron. Other's take to it like William Hung trying to sing the National Anthem. Buying a new bike with a 31" seat height when you're 5-6 is not a smart move. An old timer told me once, "Don't expect to be comfortable on your bike when it's moving if you're not comfortable at a stand-still." I think there's a lot of truth in that.

    As you know from us blogging back n forth, I've gone down before and been hurt. When I finally got the bike back out of the shop, I couldn't wait to get going again. There were no jitters. I don't want to make that sound like I'm full of myself, because I'm not. I can't really say why I had no jitters; I just didn't. I can guess that maybe the fact I really love to ride, and that I'm very comfortable on my bike, may have played some role.

    If that guy was a buddy of mine, I'd tell him straight out that him being on that bike is the same thing as rolling up 6" cuffs on his jeans. It doesn't fit. That in my mind is step one. Anyone can have some jitters I guess, but your friend's situation worries me. Any serious biker I've ever known loves to get into the twisties. Him saying he doesn't like them seems a bad sign.

    I hope he will realize he needs to get the bike that's right for him. I hope he can re-discover his confidence. If not, I hope he goes back to four wheels before he goes down again much harder. Better to admit to yourself that riding a motorcycle isn't for you than to be crippled or dead.

  3. I think this confidence problem stems from a bigger problem that's deeply rooted inside. It'll manifest itself in more ways than just riding a motorcycle. Perhaps confronting it head on, will help him in more ways that this.

    1. A lot of new riders are popping up out there. When you strike up a conversation with them, they typically suggest; "It is a blast" or... It is a bit nerve-racking but I think I'll get used to it.

      My response usually is: There are those who belong on a bike, and those who do not. If you find yourself mostly uncomfortable, you should probably reconsider riding a motorcycle. It isn't the talent or style of riding while things are going well, it is what you will likely do when trouble jumps up in front of you.

      Better to stay off a bike if your confidence (and preparation) isn't there.

      No arrogance or ill-will intended.

  4. I agree with all of these comments. I am a new rider and had a heart issue...literally almost died. I am fine now, but I haven't been on my bike in 6 months. I have lost all of my skills (new rider, first bike) that I have learned in my BRC. I bought a bike almost 1 year ago, and I am not ready to sell. I recently hooked up with a guy who is a biker and has offered to get me back on my bike and to coach me. He's the first to do this, and I hope he comes through. I do feel like I need some assistance. I am no way near ready for the highway. Wish me luck, this is my passion and I am not ready to throw in the towel. If I fail, at least I can look in the mirror and know it wasn't for me. Wish me luck. Ride safe!


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)