After years of riding ATV's..probably 30 years since I first threw my leg across a Honda 90 3-wheeler.. I had my first real wreck yesterday.
I was called to help out in recovering a 4 place RZR broken down way back at the end of Petersville Rd. In my haste I left my helmet in my truck when I switched vehicles to my buddy's truck who was towing the bikes. Eight of us headed out gear up to extract this BIG ATV. We decided that rather than beat the trucks and trailers up we would park past Kroto Crk. and ride the rest of the 32 miles in. All went well and Dave from Alaska Mountain Magic was able to get the RZR into gear (broken shift linkage) and lock it in with wrenches and tie wire. The owner was able to ride it out.
The mood was light as we headed out. Since we were riding out on the road we were smoking right along. I never felt like I was riding above my ability, but I was definitely wrong. I was coming into a corner pretty hot and got on the brakes pretty hard. Unfortunately as I slid around the corner my front right tire dropped into an eroded channel in the trail/road. My machine flipped about the right front corner throwing me into the air. I actually landed on my heels and we found my heel marks in the dirt 20 feet from the last wheeler tracks. The machine ended up 40 feet from the initial start point, facing back where I came from on it's wheels. I figure my speed at that point was about 35 mph.
My first thoughts as I flew through the air was "oh my god, I'm not wearing a helmet". I managed to get my arms and hands up to cover my face and top of my head. Judging from the big bruise on my head and the road rash on the back of my hands, it most likely saved me from more serious injuries to my head. My heels hit first, I slammed to my knees, slammed onto my chest, smacked my face (cover by my hands and arms) into the dirt. At this point I remember something crushing my right leg and passing over the top of me. Judging from my injuries to the back of my calf it appears that one of the racks crushed it.
I struggled to get up, spitting out dirt, because there were still 5 riders behind me and I was afraid of getting run over. My right leg wouldn't work and I end up in ditch with a small trickle of water. This went into my right boot and I was convinced the wet feeling was blood. I pretty much assumed I had a compound fracture and was removing the boot when my friends arrived. Luckily there was no evidence of even a fracture. My toes worked, my ankle worked, and my knee worked. My friend Dave is a fellow fire fighter and rescue guy with me on our department, so we walked through everything to make sure I was able to proceed. We were pretty sure my leg wasn't broken and my neck and spine checked out. I decided to ride the ATV out since the only other option was a helicopter. Within a few miles my senses came back and other than my leg I was relatively pain free.
The ATV suffered mostly superficial damage. All four corners of the racks are bent down 4 to 6 inches, the handle bars were flattened to the seat and there is a electrical glitch to the speedo.
I did a lot of thinking on that 20 mile ride out and felt pretty stupid and humiliated. I have preached for years about wearing a helmet and I forgot mine. I had no business pitching a full sized utility 4x4 ATV through corners like it was a racing quad. They simply aren't designed to suck up the bumps like a machine designed for it. I was definitely riding above my ability at that point and I shouldn't have been pushing it that hard. Had that rack hit my spine, my torso, or my head I wouldn't be typing this. Most likely some of you would have been attending my funeral.
Wear your helmets guys. You'll never know when you might need it. Ride within your abilities and don't let other guys push you beyond them. I get to miss a couple days of work with a HUGE bruise covering my entire calf, road rash on both my hips, part of my head and the back of my right hand. Both knees are burger. I'm too old for this crap
Just in case some folks were wondering in the back of their minds, there was no alcohol involved. None on the trip at all.
Be careful out there folks and come home to your kids