Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!

Nothing is as exciting as a race with two-wheeled vehicles My first experience with motorcycle racing was at Summit Point Motorsports Park, in Summit Point West Virginia. Mac-Pac member and fabled BMW wrench Tom Cutter was competing in a WERA-sanctioned event, and a bunch of us made the trip down to cheer. I will never forget standing at the midpoint in the first straight-away, as men and machines streaked by at 150 miles per hour. The sight was incredible and the noise was almost three dimensional.

Racer and fabled BMW wrench Tom Cutter with Jack Riepe at Summit Point.
Next to getting laid, this is alleged to be a high point in Riepe's life.
Riepe is riding Blue Balls, before it was destroyed in the crash.
(Click to enlarge, but stand back.)

But two-wheel races don’t have to be confined to triple digit speeds to be exciting. And they can be as quiet as the sound of dripping sweat or the clicking of a Shimano derailleur flipping a chain over the rear cassette. Bicycle racing calls for the instincts and reflexes of a leopard, with the stamina of a steam engine, and the muscles of an Olympic contender. And occasionally, they call for the assistance of a motomarshal.

These are the incredibly cool individuals on motorcycles herding the bicyclists around. In professional and sponsored races, they sometimes carry photographers and television cameramen, while escorting the riders through traffic. In charity events, they assist the bicyclists through traffic, and provide other assistance and services for riders confronted with mechanical challenges. It is sophisticated work requiring no small amount of skill.

Motomarshals must often ride and maneuver at slow speeds. The races and rides take place on public roads, so there is traffic and pedestrians. They may find themselves mounting and dismounting in confined spaces -- often. Their bikes may be balanced precariously on the edges of narrow roads. And their topcases and panniers will be stuffed with first aid kits, water, bicycle tubes, patch kits and pumps. (Actually, aside from the bicycle inner tubes, most Beemer riders carry this stuff anyway.)

Many Mac-Pac members have volunteered for this kind of duty. At least nine of the club’s members joined Kimi Bush at the Multiple Sclerosis 150 PA Dutch Ride this past July. They were Corey Lyba, Charlie Gilman, Jay Scales, Tom Byrum, Mike Evans, Georgina Texeira, Doug Bennett, Jim Corry, his son Jameson, and Carl Millhouse.

Mike Evans demonstrates the perfect riding posture expected of a motomarshal.
Training is provided by the Federal Motomarshal Program
(Click to enlarge)

But this story goes beyond recognizing those dedicated souls who ride simply for a good cause. It is the tale of Mike Evans, and proof that no good deed goes unpunished.

On Saturday, September 6th, 2008, Mike Evans was motomarshalling in the fast-paced Univest Grand Prix, in Souderton, Pa, on his blue 1999 Suzuki Bandit. This race was one of only 13 Union Cyclist International (UCI)-ranked professional road cycling competitions for men in the United States, drawing 150 riders from 16 countries. It was also the day when a few thunder boomers would sweep the area.

Motomarshal Mike Evans on his rare 1999 Suzuki Bandit
At the MS 150 Pa Dutch Ride
(Click To Enlarge)

Thirty miles into the race, Evans got caught holding traffic while the entire race procession went past him. He had been assigned to ride in the lead, but realized there was no way he could get ahead of the pack from behind now.

“I considered my options and realized the best one was to veer from course, take some side roads, and come out in front of them,” said Evans.

This was the moment it started to rain. “The drops were petite at first,” said Evans, “About the size of Green Giant LeSeur peas. You know, the ones that come in the silver can. They had that clean, fresh rain smell to them. But they got bigger and there were a lot of them.”

The raindrops started out about the size of LeSueur Peas

Evans turned onto a quaint road that quickly became a steep down-hill, complete with running water. It was then he discovered he had absolutely no traction with either wheel.

“The front wheel slipped momentarily and I let up slightly on he front brake. Then the back wheel started to lock up and I let up on that as well,” said Evans. He continued putting light pressure on the front brake and toggling the back, desperately seeking traction on a road surface that rivaled wet glass. Fighting panic, this veteran rider fishtailed his way down this hill in typical mountain bike descent fashion. (Fishtailing is where the rear-end sways uncontrollably.)

“Nearing the bottom of the hill, I realized I was not scrubbing off enough speed to make a 90-degree right turn coming at me,” said Evans. “Straight ahead was a field of waist-high weeds and grasses. I left the road surface behind for the salad bar.” But if he thought the road was slippery, the wet vegetation was worse with his street tires. Evans made it a good way into the field, bouncing over and through ruts until finally the front wheel just lost bite altogether and zipped out from under him.

“I went down on my right shoulder and side. The wind was knocked out of me instantly.”

Evans lay there for a moment, listening to the raindrops landing on his helmet, punctuated by the occasional report being blurted out over the race radio he had with him. He took a mental inventory of what hurt or felt strange and worked to get air back into his lungs with some regularity.

“I began to feel around and move my limbs a bit and gradually sat up. From where I lay all the weeds were taller than me so I could not see the road, nor could anyone from the road see me, not that it mattered as no one came down this road for the balance of the time I spent there,” said Evans. He reached over and turned off the bike.

He got up, walked around a bit and began carrying various items up the
the roadside. Then he went back for the bike.

“My right shoulder was screaming but I was able to lift the bike in the correct manner without putting too much pressure on the shoulder. Then I pushed the bike up through grass back to the road,” said the shaken rider.

On-Site mechanical damage summary:
• various plastic scrapes and cracked fairing
• right side mirror knocked loose.

“A nice scrape and gash in the side of my helmet was right behind my ear. A cool guy cruiser salad bowl helmet likely would not have helped in this case,” Evans reflected. “Otherwise all seemed well. I pulled out the tools, tightened down the mirror and climbed back on. A quick blip of the starter brought the Suzuli’s engine back to life and off I went back to catch the race.”

The damage to Mike Evans 1999 Suzuki Bandit
Waist-high grass hid a minefield of debris.
(Click to enlarge)

Evans noticed that his sore shoulder seemed to have a good range of motion with some tightness and dull pain, until he put any pressure on the bars. Then it felt as though a knife were sticking in his neck. He guessed he had a broken collar bone. He guessed right.

The typical broken collar bone
(Click to enlarge)

Nevertheless, Evans got back onto the course ahead of the race an led the racers for another 50-plus miles at that point. Once in Souderton, he elected to park it in the pits and be done. Faced with the option of getting treatment or lunch, he headed for the food tent. While sitting there enjoying his chicken, ribs and deserts, he started to really stiffen up.

“Once the race was over, I climbed back on the bike and rode my way home to Kimberton, where I removed the many layers of riding gear and got dressed to drive over to Phoenixville hospital,” said Evans.

Evans attributes his Arai full-face helmet, FirstGear Mesh Jacket and
FirstGear textile pants -- plus nylon rain suit -- with preventing more serious injuries. The emergency room confirmed the broken right clavicle.

“I am getting tired of telling the accident story though, especially to those who are anti-motorcycling and who respond with, "Those things are soooo dangerous... Serves you right," said Evans. “They usually follow those comments with "I bet you're not going to get on that thing again."

At this point I spout back,"That's the same thing the doctor said to your father, referring to your mother upon seeing you pop out of her womb."

Evans does see a silver lining in this cloud.

“Surprisingly the arm sling does garner some attention from sensitive women. I was at a party over the weekend and several women at the bar went out of their way to ask about the injury,” said Evans. “For those that didn’t, I bumped into them and began screaming as if in great pain. Their nurturing instincts took over and they would want to caress the pain away. I can work with this. They sell the arm slings in Aisle 7 of Rite Aid if you want to try it out.”

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)


ADK said...

Glad you survived with a relatively minor, although I'm sure rather painfull, injury. Maybe we should get together sometime, I have a few ankle and knee splint tactics I'd be happy to share.

By the look on your face it would seem that Blue Balls is both the affliction and the cure.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Adk;

Your opinions are very important to us. At the moment, all of our operators are busy. Please hold the wire until they are through ordering the pizza, chatting with their friends, or looking at porn.

If you prefer, I'll be happy to send you an exciting form letter that will reiterate these sentiments.

Did you ride Hepatitis into work today?

Fondest regards,

ADK said...

No ride into work today I'm ashamed to say, temps in the thirties this AM and I just wasn't prepared to ride this soon in cold weather, although Kazanis and I did rip up the back roads of Black Brook yesterday, me on his Suzuki SV650 and Lee on the Mighty VFR.

Lee said he hadn't had as much fun since he saw you getting humped by Harley (a friends dog now sadly deceased) as you tried to exit your Suburban and simultaneously hold onto an ice cream cone.

Very entertaining!

As we speak Lee is setting fire to all his BMW's for the insurance money, then he's buying a VFR.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Adk:

Lee just called to let me know that he didn't want to hurt your feelings. He told me that he just wanted to ride the VFR before it was worth 85¢, sometime next week.

By the way, the bund called me this morning. They wanted your name and address. Probably to put you on their mailing list.

Fondest regards,

Charlie6 said...

Glad Mike came through the accident relatively OK. I was struck with a few similarities with my own crash. He however held his bike up much longer than I did....I just went down after hitting ice, similar damage to the bike and helmet though, only separated my AC joint however, nothing broken.

Like Mike, I credit wearing ATGATT with preventing serious injury. The silver lining, I got a spare bike's purchase approved by my wife as part of the "healing process".

Not that I recommend crashing your bike to get a spare!

I only wore the arm sling for one day, perhaps I should have kept it on longer.....

The crash

Jack, thanks for the pic of you and Tom Cutter, good to put a face to the name I see regularly on the Airheads email list.

safe riding


Sojourner rides said...

My heavens! All that riding AFTER the mishap--wow! The pain had to be great. Amazing. I loved your telling of the story. It had a very nice flow-oh, and thanks for that graphic example of fishtailing but I think it was more an example of "shakin' a tail feather" IMHO.

BTW, what year and model was BB?

Sojourner rides said...

BTW, Jack. Tell Mike that I agree with him that FirstGear gear is the best stuff! I never leave home without my FG jacket and FG pants. Well, truthfully, I do switch to other gear when I need to clean the FG. Still, the FG is my #1 choice and all time favorite gear that I don on every single multi-day trip.

Hope he's back on the road soon.

John said...

Those storms that went through that day were rough. I remember sitting in the nice dry house saying, "I sure am glad I wasn't caught out on a bike today". And this is why. Speedy recovery Mike.

Joe said...


A great cronicle of another heroic mac-pac effort.

Ride Safe,


Mike said...

For the record, I never was a big fan of peas.

- Mike Evans

DC said...

Herculean effort by Mike to complete his VOLUNTEER duty to the cyclist racers. His tiring of telling the tale to non-riders is understandable. I challenge anyone to say they've been to a cocktail party and been enthralled by anyone telling a tale of how safely they live their life - safety cap this, bubble wrap that, never drive during 4-6pm, zzzzzz.

Mike not only has a riveting tale to tell, he is living life, and has extended the horizon of what he can accomplish.

Jack, you're ability to tell any tale is, well, it needs some work, pal. Keep trying! ;-)

Best wishes,

IanA3 said...

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Mike. Thanks for another story well-told go to Jack.

Ian MVF#200543

niteowl said...

Hope Mike has a fast recovery. Loved your fishtailing link. There should be more fishtailing of that sort and lest of the MC type. Enjoyed the story.

Kinoko said...

my hero! no he never liked peas.