Tuesday, I talked about about my weekend ride — a celebration of perfect Southern California weather. My girl and I hit the Hideaway in Kagel Canyon Road in Sylmar, then moved on up the Angeles Crest highway toward Newcomb’s Ranch.
Halfway up the hill, a motorcycle approached, and the rider tapped his helmet. I don’t see this one too often here in California, but knew he was warning us that a cop was ahead. But I didn’t need to adjust my speed too much, as I know those mountain roads can be treacherous for the speeding biker who doesn’t know them intimately. Sure enough, a few miles ahead, there he was: a motorcycle cop, waiting for the unsuspecting and biker. We rode past, and continued on our way. (He was on a motorcycle; was I supposed to waive? Nah.)
Next stop, Newcomb’s Ranch. About ten miles from our destination, however, we started getting signals again from bikers coming in the other direction. The first gave us a thumbs down. To be honest, twenty years of riding, and I wasn’t entirely sure what he was trying to convey. He was on a sportbike, and we were riding a Harley Wide Glide. I doubted it was a “diss,” but wasn’t one-hundred percent sure. Was he telling us to slow down? Another cop, perhaps? The next biker, just a half-mile later, approached us waving his arm in a downward direction. He was telling us to slow down. Another cop, I figured. Or maybe that meant the first rider was telling us something worse? I hoped not.
Sure enough, a few miles up the road, we saw the traffic had come to a stop. My stomach turned as a saw what was going on. A mangled Suzuki sportbike was in the middle of the road. Worse, a crowd was gathered on the side of the road, looking down over the railing. Understand, these roads wind up very steep mountains, and the drop from beyond the railing is treacherous. We parked and approached the crowd, only to confirm my fear. The Suzuki rider had gone over the edge. Emergency crews were on the way.
Based on what I could see and the others I talked to, what I believe happened was that this young (twenty-year old) rider was coming down the mountain like a bat out of hell. As he rounded a bend, he came up on a van that was crawling — probably less than twenty-five miles per hour. Because of the Suzuki’s high rate of speed, the van might as well have been stopped in the middle of the street, just past a blind turn. The crotch-rocketeer tried to evade the van with a quick left swerve, but immediately lost control of his bike. The bike hit the ground and slid into, then bounced off of the railing to the left, ending up in the middle of the street fifty yards ahead. The bike may have bounced off the rail and ricocheted — the rider however, did not. He went over the rail.
We later learned that the rider was ok — at least, ok considering the situation. He had a compound fracture to one of his legs. And he should thank God that’s all that happened.
Now, I can’t help but get preachy. Talking to the bartender at Newcombs, this “rider over the rail” is very common occurrence on the weekends. As a motorcycle accident lawyer in Los Angeles, I see far too many tragic accidents. Some cannot be avoided. Many can. Please ride within your skill level. And speed kills. If you want to tear it up, do it on track day. There’s enough idiot cagers out there to make riding in California dangerous. Don’t make it worse by racing on the streets.