By PETER CRANTON, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, TexasJune 1, 2011
I was riding my first motorcycle, a Suzuki GSXR 1000, that I’d bought about a year earlier. The previous year, my girlfriend bought me motorcycle riding lessons from a Harley-Davidson dealership as a birthday gift. She knew how much I wanted to ride. The four-day Rider’s Edge course helped me a lot. One of the lessons we were taught was how to properly secure items while riding. Cruiser-type motorcycles, such as Harley-Davidsons, often have saddlebags or even trunks to carry gear. However, on my Suzuki sport bike, I was pretty much limited to whatever I could strap to the gas tank or rear fender.
As I got ready to hit the road that morning, I used a spider bungee cord to strap my travel bag to the rear fender. I checked and double-checked the bag to make sure it was secure before heading out. As I pulled onto the highway, everything seemed normal. Periodically, I reached back and checked the bag to make sure it was still there. I’d only gone about 20 miles when things suddenly changed.
I was riding in the right-hand lane at 75 mph when the engine light came on and I lost all power. I didn’t have a clue what was happening, but I felt like I was riding on ice as my bike skidded at least 100 feet into the fast lane and stopped. Fortunately, my motorcycle training had taught me to not panic, so I didn’t lose control.
My mind was racing. Here I was at “0-dark-thirty” on the highway with traffic rapidly overtaking me. I got off my motorcycle and started pushing it into the emergency lane. However, as I pushed, I noticed the bike was difficult to move. When I got into the emergency lane, I checked the bike see what had happened. At first, I didn’t notice anything. Then it struck me " “Where did my bag go?” Then I saw where it had gone. The bag I thought I’d properly secured had fallen and become jammed between the motorcycle’s fender and rear wheel. That’s what locked up the rear wheel and sent me skidding across the road.
As I stood there, my heart was pounding in my chest. I realized how bad the situation could have been had I not been trained to properly handle motorcycle emergencies. Beyond the initial training I received from Harley-Davidson, I’d also taken the Military Sportbike RiderCourse. In an emergency, good training pays off.
I learned that day it is essential to properly secure any bags or luggage when riding a motorcycle. I should have known the spider bungee cord I was using wasn’t up to the job. Since the accident, I have looked into buying a tank bag. Had I been using one that morning, I’d have been enjoying the day with my girlfriend instead of doing the “bag-drag boogie” on the interstate.