What Went Wrong

Get­ting the fin­ger from physics

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Will Steen­rod


With bel­lies full of bur­ri­tos and many miles be­hind us, our ad­ven­ture bike test took a turn for the trail­head. A quick uri­na­tion va­ca­tion and a bike swap, and I was back on the Tri­umph Tiger 800 XCA, mov­ing on­ward, through some fast, sandy, and silty hills. Soon I found my­self crest­ing a rise to find some­thing other than the grad­ual dirt de­scents I’d got­ten ac­cus­tomed to. In­stead, there was a steep down­hill gran­ite grade topped in silt. This was a tech­ni­cal sec­tion. I was not go­ing at a tech­ni­cal pace. As soon as I ap­plied some rear brake, my pupils di­lated and I took a big bite out of the seat, my re­quest de­nied. I added front brake in­stead; the front wheel loaded up, found a crack in the rock, slammed the bars over to the steer­ing stop, and the change in mo­men­tum promptly tested my aero­dy­nam­ics. “What’s the best sub-$15,000 ADV out there?” That was the ques­tion we set out to an­swer with three new ad­ven­ture ma­chines and a day set aside for test­ing on dirt and pave­ment. We would start on the high­way, tran­si­tion to dirt trails in the high desert and wrap up with an­other high­way stint home. I was ea­ger to spend a day test­ing be­cause I was still fairly new to the staff. I also hadn’t spent a lot of time on an ADV bike in the dirt and wanted to hone my skills. In­stead, I broke my bones.


Know your bike. Throt­tle and brake re­sponse, tire pres­sure, and ABS de­fault set­tings are all crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion. I had for­got­ten the last one. The of­froad ABS, which turns off ABS only in the rear, wasn’t en­abled, and the Tri­umph de­faults to full ABS when turned off—as it was when we swapped bikes. An­other car­di­nal rule of mo­tor­cy­cling is rid­ing within your lim­its. I was not es­pe­cially com­fort­able in the dirt on heavy ADVS and was go­ing faster than my skills could com­pen­sate for. Com­bined, the re­sult was one bro­ken fin­ger and a les­son I won’t for­get.

This was a tech­ni­cal sec­tion. I was not go­ing at a tech­ni­cal pace.

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