"There's two types of riders; those who have crashed, and those who will."

Or so the saying goes. It’s not necessarily true, but as motorcyclists, we do have to accept the fact that any ride can end catastrophically. I've had a few that did, and have come out the other side having learned quite a bit. There’s a lot I wish I knew before I started riding, when I was a new rider, and at the very least, before I ever had the misfortune of being in a wreck. Some lessons are to be learned the hard way, I suppose. Here’s 5 things I’ve learned from my motorcycle wrecks.


All the gear, all the time. When it comes to skin and bones making contact with pavement, the pavement always wins. Your gear is crucial. I won’t be overly sanctimonious about it, but take my word for it: skimping on gear is a bad move. I’ve always ridden with a helmet, but in the past I often didn’t wear a protective jacket, gloves, pants, or footwear.

I have the scars from road rash to remind me of my once cavalier attitude. I’ve picked bits of sand and gravel out of my skin. I’ve spent weeks in searing pain with my arms and legs wrapped in bandages recovering from road rash. Hell, I have a wound on my foot that still occasionally bothers me from where the road burned through a pair of Cordura canvas Chuck Taylor's in a wreck over two years ago.

It took a few wrecks to level up my outlook on gear from “some of the gear, some of the time” (SOTGSOTT), to “most of the gear, most of the time” (MOTGMOTT), to full-on ATGATT. The only thing that sucks more than those other acronyms is the consequences of wrecking sans gear. Wear your gear and save your skin, folks.

100% ATGATT every time I ride now. Helmet, gloves, boots, riding jeans, and a good jacket.

Lawyer Up

If a wreck is nasty enough, your bike will definitely be damaged, if not totaled, and you may end up injured. There will be bills to pay and insurance companies and medical providers to deal with. It's a lot of work, and can consume your life if you handle it yourself. Offload that burden by getting a lawyer. They'll investigate the accident and navigate the quagmire of insurance companies and medical providers.

Settling a motorcycle accident claim can take months. Your time and energy over that time are best spent on your physical and mental recovery, not dealing with insurance companies and medical providers. Having a lawyer in your corner allows you to do that. They will help with claim subrogation (which is the process of collecting the money from the party at fault and/or their insurance company) and will negotiate with medical providers to reduce the amounts billed.

Yes, a lawyer doesn’t come without a cost, but you typically only pay out a portion of the insurance settlement, which is typically larger if you hire a lawyer, so it's a wash. With large high-profile motorcycle-specific law firms out there, finding and hiring someone who will go to bat for you is easier than ever.

Insurance, Insurance, and More Insurance

Splurge on your motorcycle insurance policy. Get as much as you can comfortably afford. Don't break the bank, but try to get more than you think you need. An uninsured driver rear-ended me in November of 2015 and left me in a bit of a bind financially. I learned from this experience, and added uninsured/underinsured coverage, as well as medical payments coverage, to my policy.

This turned out to be a wise move when in June of 2017 a driver changed lanes into me which totaled my work-in-progress Suzuki Boulevard bobber and put me in the hospital for three days with five broken ribs, a broken scapula, a partially collapsed lung, a ton of road rash and other scrapes and bruises. Their insurance came far from covering my damages, but my underinsurance coverage helped fill in the gaps. At the end of the day (six months later), I wasn’t out of pocket a single penny thanks to my insurance and lawyer.

It’s Your Fault, Even When It’s Not Your Fault

Say what? OK, so maybe it's not your fault, but in most cases, no wreck is actually unavoidable. Sometimes there's a compounding of factors and scenarios that make it seem like it was inevitable, but that's usually not the case. Analyzing my own wrecks, there's always something I could have done better that would have gone a long way toward preventing them.

We all know we're practically invisible to car drivers, especially in this era when drivers are in a perpetual rush and distracted by a litany of things. We are the only ones responsible for our fates and outcomes. You can't trust people to just not hit you. Improve your situational awareness, lane positioning skills, reaction time and decision-making, and master your machine. Take 100% ownership over responsibility for your own safety and be the best damn rider you can be. Ride prudently and work to minimize risk, rather than adding more.

The Paradox of Fear

The most valuable lesson I've taken away is how to balance the amount of fear felt when riding. I'm not fearless when I ride, nor does fear paralyze me or hold me in its clutches. There's just enough to be comfortable in any situation. It's understanding this paradox that allowed me to overcome the horror of the moment when that white SUV came into my lane and bowled me over at 45 mph. It gave me the mental fortitude to get back on two wheels, take some test rides, and start shopping for a new bike as soon as I had healed enough to comfortably ride again. I was pumped to be back on my own bike by the time I purchased my Kawasaki Z900 RS six months after my wreck.

Thanks to these hard-learned lessons, I actually enjoy riding more than ever. Hopefully I learned them the hard way so you don't have to.

Now get out there and ride.