What Went Wrong
Sometimes you’re the most dangerous thing on the track
The front straight at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway is 1,181 feet long, and I’d just run the length of it on a 2017 Kawasaki Z650, reeling in the rider in front of me. Turn one is a left followed by a sweeping right, and I was planning my pass. I was on top of the other rider as we poured into the turn, too close and too fast to realize she was slowing down faster than I was. When she bled to the outside, I clipped her rear tire, sending her into a tank-slapper and me into a low-speed highside. She stayed up. I rolled across the asphalt like a sack of f lour. The bike was a rashed-up mess, but I felt fine— until the paramedic had me sit up.
“Yeah, you broke that collarbone,” he said. “It’s pitching a tent under your skin.”
It was the first track day of the season, the second session of the day. I’d warmed up on the Z650, chasing my co-workers around the track and having a blast. The morning was still cool, the bike strong and happy to stretch its legs. It was one of those rare moments when everything feels perfect. It felt good to be back on track after a year of street riding and commuting, good to be out and having some fun with my co-workers after a few stressful months. I was excited, greedy, and, ultimately, not paying enough attention. By the time I spotted a slower rider ahead of me, I’d already started plotting how to get around her and stopped watching what she was doing.
As a rider, you have to keep your head on a swivel. You have to pay attention to everything around you and constantly be in the moment. Sometimes predicting what other drivers—or in this case, riders—will do can save your life. But assuming someone will behave as you would can be just as dangerous. Leave enough space for those around you to be unpredictable, and always give yourself an out. Not doing so earned me a pleasant stay in the local hospital and a pile of plates and screws to hold my collarbone together. Add in two weeks off of work, plus another week working from home, and it’s enough to drive someone mad. Was it worth it? The scars of learning always are.