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It's not just that you generally die when you and and your motorcycle part company at any speed over ten miles an hour, it's that you die in such agonizingly interesting ways. I thought it would be informative to catalog and define the top five types of motorcycle accidents so that you'll have something besides insurance rates to think about on the showroom floor. Besides, I'm going riding this afternoon and noding these terms individually could take a lot of time.

Statistically, according to the Hurt Report (yes, the Hurt Report, University of Southern California, 1981), the most frequent motorcycle accident is the

  • T-BONE. This is when an oncoming vehicle turns left directly in front of you. Pretty much no matter what you do, the physics of the matter result in you and your bloody bike forming the (considerably smaller) leg of the Letter T. People just don't see motorcycles when they're making left turns. It's Darwinian. Something happens when a cage driver switches on his directional signal. The Cloak of Invisibility descends upon the motorcyclist and then there's a Bang!.
Next up, assuming we've gotten through that first intersection, is the

  • LOW-SIDE. Basically caused by a loss of traction during a turn, the low-side accident is the one that produces "squids," pink and puce-colored 150-foot-long trails of entrails, as it were, glistening down the freeway semi-attached to a totalled motorcycle. The 600 pound bike slides on its side, with luck out from under the rider, hence the term. A well-trained cyclist rides it out--jaw and sphincter no-doubt tightly clenched--on top of the rapidly decelerating motorcycle, making sure his body does not come between the bike and the pavement. If he fails to do this, well, his arm, leg, torso--whatever-- becomes...a...lubricant? Some riders say they do this defensively, that is to say on purpose, when faced with no other choice, but I don't know...sounds like an accident to me.
Let's say you're on top of things. You've noticed the traffic in front of you is slowing, but the curve you're gliding around so beautifully is tightening (should be a warning sign to you already, but...) you apply the brakes. Unlike in an automobile, sometimes braking on a bike can be hazardous to your noding. Improper Braking can cause a

  • HIGH-SIDE. This is a biggie. Definitely don't want mom and dad to be explaining this one at the funeral because it's such a stupid way to die. You've hit the brakes, but in a turn, with the wheels already making less contact with the road, and the bike starts to slide. You're immediately thinking low-side!, so you release the brake. THE WHEELS GAIN TRACTION AGAIN, but the bike is not pointing down the road. It spins on its longitudinal axis and you, like a chicken tearing free from the barbecue spit it has been rather enjoying up till this point, are thrown over the bike into a tree, an abutment, the pavement, it doesn't really matter, it's a high-side accident.
Note that a low-side can become a high-side. To make the unfortunate transition all you need is something to SNAG the bike during the low-side, an object, say, or the curb, or simply more traction again. A high-side death is somewhat more aesthetic. You're not all tangled up in the bike and there might not even be any blood, but still....

Let's say you're into wheelies. Or maybe you're not even into them, you just twisted the twister a little too quick on a bike with a lot of torque. The hundred horses between your legs leap into instantaneous action and you've produced a

  • FLIP. Not so impressive, maybe, as the others so far. The front wheel of the bike comes up off the pavement before your astonished eyes, puts even more weight on the back wheel, and just keeps coming back at you in the most gorgeous arc. Maybe you did this on your tricycle once. Your tricyle didn't weigh a quarter of a ton. The bike ends up on top of you in a not-very-good way.
The mirror image of the flip is the

  • ENDO. This is the one from the movies, where the rear wheel goes vertical and beyond, pinning you under all those horses again. The disadvantage here is that you're now facing the way you came, with absolutely no way to tell where you're going (except in the most general sense), or how messily you're going to get there.
It's important to note that each of these terms describes the beginning of a motorcycle accident. Once your beautiful machine is headed in an unpredictable direction, any of these accidents can become any of the others. The ensuing nightmare I guess could be termed some sort of compound motorcycle accident, and that's something I don't even want to think about.

Think safety. I know I will.

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