2015-09-15 22:27:19+0000 - New York, United States of America

I ride a 2001 Suzuki SV650. I've had it for 3 years and love it. I've been riding for 11 years.

I chose an Arai helmet because it's the only one that truly fits my head well. I found out this year I was wearing the wrong sized helmet and was fitted for the proper size (and style) at the Montreal bike show. I used to wear a Small, but after a proper fitting with an Arai representative at the Montreal bike show, I discovered I actually needed an Extra Small. The new helmet I have is an even better fit (hence, I feel even safer wearing it!).

The helmet I crashed in was a Small Vector 2, which is made for an intermediate oval head. I now own an Extra Small Signet-Q, which is made for a long oval head.

Before my accident, I never thought that much about the safety aspect of the helmet. I knew it was important to have a good helmet, but I bought my Arai because it felt like it had the right fit for my head.

Arai is a great helmet and I have always purchased this brand because of what they protect: your head, neck and face. To me, it is, and has always been, a great investment. I was fully geared up for the ride too: Full-faced Arai helmet, leather Dainese riding jacket with full armour and a back protector, leather gloves and Doc Martin boots. I was, however, wearing jeans, not protective riding pants.

Sunday, September 7, 2014, it was beautiful and as soon as I saw it was perfect riding weather, I decided to go for a ride. I usually ride with my guy and motorcycle journalist, Costa [Mouzouris] when he's around, but that day, he was on his way from the Fundy AdventureRally (in New Brunswick) to tour the Gaspé area with Mark Richardson. So I was alone for the ride, which is fine, since I enjoy riding alone. I've only started riding alone a couple of years ago.

I mapped out a loop taking me from Montreal to Lachute (highway 158 West, which turns into 148 West), to Weir (highway 327 North), to Morin Heights (highway 364 East), back to Lachute (highway 329 South) and eventually back to Montreal (highway 148/158 East), about a 300km loop. I've done this ride a few times before (alone and with others) and love it, which is why I decided to head in that direction that day. Most (if not all) roads are country roads, single lane and twisty.

Twisty Montreal to Lachute Loop

Twisty Montreal to Lachute Loop

This loop is a terrific and popular twisty motorcycle ride from Montreal to Lachute (highway 158 West which turns into 148 West) to Weir (highway 327 North) to Morin Heights (highway 364 East) ba ...

Classic Target Fixation

As I headed north on highway 327, I entered a left-hand curve, which was tighter than I had anticipated, and even though I was not exceeding the speed limit, I just wasn’t looking far enough ahead. I ended up looking to the outside of the curve, which is where I eventually ended up. As I approached the edge of the road, I got on to the gravel shoulder all the while looking at the ditch beyond the shoulder.

As I started running wide, I realized I was losing control, and all I could think of as I rode off the end of the shoulder was "be a rag, be soft" so as to not break too many bones. I rode off the shoulder down into the ditch and unfortunately I collided with a tree face first. I never thought I'd hit a tree, let alone with my face. I never lost consciousness and remember every detail vividly (almost too vividly). I honestly think that my adrenaline kept me awake and aware. I was in survival mode.

The Helmet to Tree Impact

My face and head took the greatest impact with the tree. I took a direct hit in the face which lead the doctor to proclaim that I was lucky to be wearing a full-face helmet. The Vector 2 didn't crack, the visor didn't break. My cheek bones weren't crushed or bruised, my spine was fine, my neck was only slightly sprained, my teeth were intact!

The impact with the tree broke my nose and cut me above the left eye, which filled the inside of my visor with blood. I couldn't see or breathe. I tried lifting the visor unsuccessfully. What I didn’t know was that the visor got jammed under the helmet, which prevented it from lifting. My next reflex was to remove the side covers that keep the visor in place so I could remove it while keeping the helmet on (for safety reasons). I began to panic, so I decided to remove the helmet.

I assessed the situation and the damage. Standing in the ditch with my bike on it's side, I could feel pain on different parts of my body. The most obvious pain was in my face, my nose was broken and I knew it, I just didn't think it was as bad as it was. The first thing I thought of was to call 911. I grabbed my phone, but when I looked around and saw how deep the ditch was, I realized if I couldn't see the road, nobody could see me in the ditch. I decided to get out of the ditch, which I would later find out was more than 2 meters deep.

I tried calling 911, but there was no cell signal. I had to flag someone for help. I flagged down a car, which pulled over and helped until a group of motorcyclists pulled over and helped me as well. The motorcyclists not only checked on me, but someone rode ahead until they got a cell signal and called 911 to get an ambulance. The riders stayed with me until the paramedics showed up. I was very lucky they stopped and even luckier that they stayed with me. During the wait for the paramedics (which was about 45 minutes), the police showed up and filled out a police report.

The Injuries

Once the paramedics arrived, they checked me out to make sure I was fine, put me in a neck brace, loaded me up on the stretcher and off we went to the hospital in St-Jerome, which is about 70kms away. I was awake and alert the entire time.

At the hospital, the doctor ordered a bunch of tests, including scans, X-rays, blood tests, my injuries consisted of a broken nose, a 1cm (more or less) cut above my left eye above the bridge of my nose (between my eyebrow and bridge of my nose), a fractured ankle and a very sore neck. I also felt a fair amount of pain in my left arm. The doctor put glue to seal the cut above my eye and referred me to an ear-nose-throat specialist for my nose. One of the nurses set my left foot in a half cast and I was told to wait a week before seeing an orthopedist to treat the fracture.

At about 5-6pm, the doctor said if I could eat and if I could walk with the help of crutches, I could go home. I was starving and relieved to not have to spend the night in the hospital. I just wanted to go home. Costa wasn't anywhere near home yet, so I called my friend Samantha and asked her to come and pick me up at the hospital. She gladly did and I am beyond thankful I could count on her and her boyfriend JP (who is a longtime friend of Costa's). By the time everything was said and done, I was home at about 11:30pm. Costa got home shortly after that.

Resetting My Nose

The next day, I found an ear-nose-throat specialist and went to see him to have my nose fixed. I had no idea what I was getting into until he started examining me. It was extremely painful. I then had a choice to make: he could give me an appointment in 2 days to go see him at the hospital, where he could reset my nose with anaesthesia, or he could do it here and now without anaesthesia. I didn't even think about it, I told him to do it now. Without anaesthesia. I just wanted to get it over with. I knew it would be painful, but had no idea just how much. I thought it was painful when he was examining me, boy was I in for a surprise! He reset the bridge of my nose (which was shaped like a C) by manipulating it with his bare hands and then reset the septum with a tool. It was the worst pain I'd ever felt in my life.

The Recovery

I had 2 black eyes for almost a month, a nose bandage/cast for 3 weeks and an air boot on my left foot for 7 weeks. In late September, I started physio on my wrist, which had been hurting since the accident. The physiotherapy was at a frequency of 3 days a week (1 hour a day) and I started ergo therapy (I believe that's occupational therapy in English?) about 2 months later at the same frequency. I did this until mid-January. My therapists recommended I have an MRI because they felt something just wasn't right with my wrist. The swelling wouldn't go away and the mobility wasn't returning completely. I had the MRI in February, now 6 months after the accident, when I discovered that I had a very clear fracture on the Scaphoid bone in my left hand (a small bone at the base of the wrist); this is an injury that is very hard to diagnose, the bone fracture usually shows up a couple of weeks after the trauma, so even though I had my wrist x-rayed a week after the accident, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary at the time.

During the time I had a cast on, I was prescribed and fitted with a portable ultrasound machine for additional treatments to rebuild bone density and help the fracture heal faster. Exogen Ultrasound Bone Healing System is a treatment using ultrasound waves applied to the affected area once a day for 20 minutes. This increases blood flow to the affected area and helps rebuild the bone. This treatment went on for about 16 weeks.

On May 20, I had the fibreglass cast removed and learned that the fracture was 80% healed. The Exogen treatment proved very effective as it shortened considerably my healing time.

I started ergo therapy in June, one hour 3 times a week. About a month later, I started physio therapy at the same interval. I'm happy to say that I can finally see progress in my mobility. I'm still working on strength and the pain is slowly subsiding.

What I learnt

When I visited the scene of my tango with the tree, two things became clear. It only took one or two seconds for target fixation to set in. And, if only I had kept my eyes on the road, even if the corner was outside of my comfort zone, I would have been OK.

I wasn't able to ride my bike this year, but I have been for a ride and was able to get back on a small bike to see if I was scared to ride, which I'm not. I look forward to riding next year!

Editors Note: We're thrilled Roxanne was able to share her story and will be back riding next year. Target fixation is one of the main causes of single vehicle motorcycle crashes among riders. When riders target fixate, they are prone to steer the bike in the direction of their gaze which is often the ultimate cause of the collision. Look where you want to go, trust the bike and don't roll off the throttle as that will stand the bike up. Don't be afraid to talk to yourself, say "look", and look where you want to go. Ride safe and wear your gear.

8 Comments
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Scroll...scroll....scroll...[sees helmet] "DAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMN."

 

Was not ready. Haha.

 

Roxanne you weren't lucky to be wearing a full face helmet (and a darned good one at that!) Unlike many riders, you made a conscious, educated decision to purchase your helmet as the best protection you could and it worked as advertised. I am glad to have read your story as I am looking to replace my old Shoei RF1100 next season and was looking to save afew bucks. Hmm, maybe it's time to trade up instead?Keep riding Roxanne, thanks for sharing your story...I will.

 
  • marina
  • 2015-09-18T05:19:56-04:00

I went hot in to a left hand corner in Wellsboro once and as my stomach sank and I was looking at the wall of granite rock I thought for a second "I can't do it", "I'm not going to make it". In that same instantly I remembered the advice I received earlier from an ex-instructor, Doug Mann. If you think you're going to go down, PUSH as hard as you can into the corner; it takes less than you think to tighten your turn and you have nothing to lose.

That's what I did as I yelled out loud into my helmet: "PUUUSH, PUSH!" and I came out of the corner heart racing but unscathed. Now I know to stay cool, stay calm and push!

 

@Roxanne Whew! I thought I was going nuts for a second there! :-)

 
  • Roxanne
  • 2015-09-16T10:49:03-04:00

 @Egon Thanks! 

 
  • Roxanne
  • 2015-09-16T10:48:26-04:00

@Dave5150 thanks for pointing that out. The part about target fixation was missing. It's there now.

 

Is it me, or is there a huge part of this story missing??? It was supposed to be about target fixation. The article goes from "I only started riding alone a couple years ago" to "After I hit the tree..." There was nothing leading up to that at all. 

 
  • Egon
  • 2015-09-16T07:31:35-04:00

Glad to hear the recovery is going well.  People all the time get into car accidents, and have no problem getting into a car to go home.  Motorcycles are no different.  Pray you recover soon to start riding again, and keep wearing that gear.