Grim Rider's Websites
A site dedicated to long distance motorcycling &
home of the Grim Riders MCC; the British Long Distance Riders;
and the Moped Challenge
Well, I have ridden bikes for 23 years and covered several hundred thousands of miles in that time, with no serious accident, so I guess by the law of averages it had to happen some time... Saturday 15th November 2008 was a bright sunny but cold day. The previous weekend I had finally put on the last parts needed to complete the 1973 Yamaha TX750 I had bought six years before - a brake master cylinder cap and a left hand fuel tank tap - each part had taken me nearly 2 years to acquire so I was eager to see if the bike would still work. I gave it a quick service, checked it over and it fired first time and ran up and down the road fine. So I went home and booked an MOT for the following Saturday morning at Gov'nors Bridge in Atherstone. I was only going a few miles down the road but as it was cold I still put on my Cold Killers undersuit, BMW Tourance suit, and winter gloves and boots - I was to be very glad of this decision, although in the next few weeks I often regretted going out at all!
At 10.25 am I left my garage, rode out of the village and the next thing I can remember is hearing some bangs behind me, the bike not feeling right, and then there was a huge bang as I hit a car head on. I came to lying in the middle of the road on my left hand side with a terrible pain in my right leg. It felt like my leg had come off and was at a very strange angle, and I could feel an awful pain in my heel but it didn't seem to be connected to the ground. Looking down the road I could see the TX on its side about 12 feet away, with bits of it scattered all across the road, and a red car still moving down the road and coming to a stop about 100 yards away. I could hear myself screaming as several other drivers ran up from behind me. The next half an hour seemed to last a hell of a long time as we waited for the paramedics, and I was shivering from the cold of the road. I remember taking my helmet off and looking down at my leg - I could only see that the outer layer of my trousers was ripped and my foot seemed to be at a strange angle. There seemed to be a lot of people around, including several police officers. At last the paramedics arrived - the doctor put me on my back and proceeded to cut off all my clothes. Thankfully she also injected me with ketamin and the next hour passed in a series of very weird hallucinations.
I started to come around as the air ambulance landed at Coventry University Hospital. I was strapped to a board and could vaguely see and and hear the rotors of the helicopter but could not make out faces - all the people around me still looked like aliens! Over the next few hours I drifted in and out of consciousness as I was X-rayed and transferred to a ward bed. I had snapped my right femur about 4 inches above my knee, and there was a big gash across my knee with some possible damage to the knee and my heel. Later that evening I had a 4 hour operation to put a titanium pin right through my femur, held in by 4 screws. I was in hospital for the next 10 days. After the first five days the hospital was closed to visitors because they had the norovirus bug on most of the wards, which made time drag even more! I have now been home for another 9 days and the physio tells me it will be 6-12 weeks before I can bear weight on the leg without crutches. At least I know I shall be fine in a few months, and feel lucky knowing it could have been far worse - and I met several people in hospital who cannot say the same.
I still cannot remember any details of the crash. I had thought at the time that the car had come across the white line and hit me but the police reconstruction shows that it was I that crossed the line and so caused the accident - the bangs I heard was my rear inner tube deflating, presumably causing the bike to change direction. If there is a lesson to be learned it is that you can never predict when something bad can happen on the road and how important it is to be prepared - I am so glad I took the time to make sure I was wearing all the right gear, but wish I had considered the age of the tyres and inner tubes before hand - I had checked them but thought, let's see how they do on the MOT. Paul at Gov'nors Bridge told me the bike is pretty much totalled - the forks were snapped right through (same as TZ ones so very difficult to obtain again) and the handlebars, switchgear, tank, seat, engine covers and probably frame were all bent, one exhaust was ripped off. The car I hit was also a write off - the impact took the driver's front wheel off. I told Paul to scrap the bike and sell off anything that was worth recovering.
As I write this (February 2009) I am still laid up but starting to get about on crutches and planning for this year’s rides. I have devised three new rides – one is an SS1000 which involves photographing ten ancient monuments across Britain; one which involves travelling to all the national parks in Britain; and the third, a much harder challenge, which involves visiting all the counties of England. I am also looking forward to this year’s main challenges – riding in the rallies I won last year, the Welsh, Brit Butt and Irish Butt rallies – here’s hoping!
Update - March 2009
After four months since my accident (November 15th 2008) I am at last back on my feet (just about!) and can walk short distances without crutches or a stick. Have also started to think about what happened, having blocked most of it out for the last few months. Began by looking over the pictures from my X-rays:
Taken just after the accident but when my leg had been stabilised in an inflatable splint - shows the break quite clearly! Then spent 6 hours in surgery having the bone straightened out.
These were taken 6 weeks later after the bone had been stabilised with a nail through the length of the femur, with two screws at the top and two at the bottom above the knee. The bone had not really started healing yet.
Ten weeks later these are the titanium screws taken out of the top of my thigh. Under local anaesthetic until I passed out with the pain!
Found a bag under the stairs today - this is all that is left of my BMW Tourance suit. After the accident there was only a slight tear in the outer skin above my knee - by the time the air ambulance doctor had finished there was not a lot left - I remember vaguely trying to tell her it was just my leg but she cut straight through my jacket, Cold Killers thermals and t-shirt - including through the zips, buttons, and armour!
My recovery has been greatly helped by the generosity of the staff at Arley Sports Centre who have let me use the gym facilities whenever I could, without charge. The first time I sat on an exercise bike in January I could only push the pedals back and forth but not round - that came a couple of weeks later. Gradually I built up my strength using the exercise bikes and the stepper machine and can now even manage the running machine (at walking pace!) as part of the 45 minute programme I have been following every other day.
Rode the bike for the first time at the end of March - my first ride was to take the bike for its MOT since it had expired while I was laid up. This meant travelling exactly the same route I had been taken when I last went out, on the TX - I felt very nervous, especially going thtough the serie of bends where I crashed, but reckon it was probably the best therapy. A week later I completed my first long ride, down to Nailsea to stay with my friend Phil Weston, and took part in the first South West Peninsular Rally the next day and then rode home, riding 600 miles that day. My leg felt fine although I was very tired and then slept for twelve hours!
Over the next few months I got stronger and carried on riding. I went back to work after the Easter holidays, although only for four days a week for the first month or so. A year on the leg is not as it was by any means and I still walk with a limp and get tired if I have to walk any distance. My consultant is talking about possiby taking the pin out middle of next year (which is making planning next year's rallies difficult!), but they may even end up leaving it in - I see him again in January.
Update - July 2011
Since that first ride down to the South West (commemorated with a certificate for the SWPR and a speeding ticket from the Avon & Somerset police for doing 53 in a 50 zone!) I have carried on riding over the past two years and competed in a number of long distance navigational rallies. This has included three more IBA UK 36 hour Brit Butt Rallies (2009, 2010 and 2011), all of which I won, and two IBA Ireland Bally Rallies (2009 and 2010), both of which I came second on. I also completed the South West Peninsula Rally again in 2010, the Welsh Rally in 2009 and 2010, the National and Scottish Rallies in 2009, and the Round Britain Rally in both 2009 and 2010. In the summer of 2009 I rode to Norway and took part in the biannual 24 hour Camel Rally, finishing in third place.
As well as completing an IBA SS1600km on the way to Norway, and an LDR 1610km ride on the way back across Europe, I rode an End to End Gold ride in the summer of 2010 - this comprised riding 1000 miles between Lands End and John O' Groats within 24 hours, and was completed with an Australian friend, Margaret Peart aboard the Suzuki V-Strom she is riding around the world on. I carried on to complete an LDR 1500 mile ride on the way home.
I am still riding the same BMW R1150GS I have completed all my long distance rides and rallies on, and continued to make changes and additions to it.
Following my accident I decided to try and raise some money to support the Air Ambulance which had picked me up - especially after I later heard from the paramedics that they thought at the the time I would probably lose my leg, and may welll have done so but for the Air Ambulance helicopter. This led to me setting up the British National Parks Ride, taking the idea from a Dams Ride in the United States I came across while looking into many different ideas for rides when I was subsequently laid up. Hence Grim Riders Motorcycle Club and this website. We continue to arrange a charity ride each year, as well as a number of other rides around Britain, and four challenge rides through the year.