Street Savvy - Watch Your Back

MC Garage

By Jason Anania, Photography by Kevin Wing

It was supposed to be a perfect day. The weather was fantastic-just right for unveiling my new Triumph Bonneville SE. Especially since I'd just spent 10 months in a coma after an SUV blew a red light and hit me. But March 25, 2010, was even worse: A commercial dump truck mowed down 10 motorcyclists from behind at a red light, including me. Four died.

I was fortunate to come away with broken bones. I was quoted in the Arizona Republic as saying, "I'm not saying helmets would have saved them, but if I wasn't wearing one, I'd be dead." The impact occurred at such a high rate of speed that by the time the truck got to my number-three position, it was one big collision. There were no signs of braking until the driver had bowled over all 10 of us and hit a few cars up ahead. I guess being high on meth will do that do you.

I felt comfortable nestled in the middle of the pack, idling in neutral. Even if I'd had time to shift into gear, where would I have gone? There were six bikes behind me-I wasn't worried about trouble from that direction. So much for safety in numbers. The last thing I remember before impact was the group leader looking over her shoulder and yelling, "Look out!" That was the last thing she said.

I've had a lot of time to meditate since that day, and now have a pre-ride checklist. The three Bs: Bike, Body and Brain.

I was in the habit of shifting into neutral at a stop. I thought leaving my bike in gear would wear out the clutch prematurely. That seems so insignificant now. I remember talking with a co-worker about rear-view mirrors before the accident. Ineffective ones were a deal-breaker in his new-bike selection process, but that was the last thing I ever thought about. Not anymore.

Now I can't get on a motorcycle without highly visible protective gear. The black-on-black look was overrated anyway. I suffered an open tibia/fibula fracture in the accident when my right boot was ripped off, but at least I was wearing boots! Phoenix is hot in the summer, but I now throw the armored mesh pants on over my shorts, even for local trips. There's no helmet law in Arizona, but I wear mine religiously. I want to see more than my elbows in the mirrors of my new Sportster, so I'm looking for a longer-stemmed set.

Now for the brain: I pride myself on being a very competent rider. These days I focus on situational awareness, keeping track of all the vehicles on the road that could affect me. That day my mid-pack position lulled me into a herd mentality. Group riding may be a sort of brotherhood, but never trust someone else to be your eyes.

I couldn't wait to get back on a bike after that first accident. Nobody was going to take away a part of my life that makes me so happy. But getting back on the horse that threw me was a lot harder the second time. My first ride was terrifying: When an oncoming truck blew a rear tire right next to me, my heart nearly exploded as well! It's taken a while, but the joy of riding is back. I find myself smiling again, and starting every ride in the right frame of mind is half the battle.

One day, I'll be the rider I used to be. Meanwhile, I'm not solely focused on where I'm going. Knowing what's going on where I've been is just as important. Think about the big picture. Most importantly: think. My personal Motorcycle Awareness Day was even more relevant this year. As the bright yellow, green and orange T-shirts I had made to commemorate that fateful day read, "Can you see me now?"

By Jason Anania
Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!

*Please enter your username

*Please enter your password

*Please enter your comments
Not Registered?Signup Here
(1024 character limit)
  • Motorcyclist Online