paulr

79 months ago

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A Deer Story or How to Kill a BMW F800R

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

A good view of the front-end post encounter with the deer kind

A good view of the front-end post encounter with the deer kind

I was initially reluctant to write about my recent motorcycle ride and close encounter with a deer. Too morbid, I thought. On second reflection, maybe a few people would find it enlightening.

Although I live in Ontario, I often ride the back roads of north central Pennsylvania. I have done this for over thirty ears. A once a year pilgrimage is to the land of twisty backroads, unblemished pavement, little traffic and no OPP radar traps. However, this story could happen anywhere. Take your pick – eastern Ontario, New England, Muskoka, the Catskills or Tail of the Dragon.

My annual fall ride to Pennsylvania

My annual “fall ride to Pennsylvania” includes an invited group of like minded motorcyclists. We relish the same kind of riding for four days in the fall. We aren’t sport bike riders or cruiser riders. We are the guys in between. A few “naked standards”, a few adventure bikes and a few sport touring riders.

The plan each day of our riding is to do about 250-300 km of twisty back roads through scenic Pennsylvania highlands. We ride in groups no bigger than 7-8 motorcycles. While we don’t really respect some of the posted speed limits, we rarely go over 110 kph (70 mph) and are most often happy at 90 kph (55 mph). We follow a few unwritten rules. Everyone rides in proper riding ear, we don’t drink alcohol while riding and we only ride at a pace everyone in the group is comfortable with. Lastly, we ride spaced out enough to allow for a “space comfort zone” in front and behind each rider. Riding in tight groups is so unsafe!

Our ride started around 9:30 AM as we waited for the mist to lift and the school buses to be off the roads. Wednesday’s ride was to go south on Hwy 144 to a small Pennsylvania city called State College and then return on the same road after a lunch stop. My group was made up of five motorcycles. We didn’t get as far south on Hwy 144 as we had planned due to some road construction. After a late lunch, our group began the ride back north on Hwy 144 to Wellsboro, Pa.

Although a significant portion of Hwy 144 runs through state forests, the group hadn’t encountered much of any ‘wildlife’ on the morning part of the trip. Most motorcyclists know to beware of deer at dawn and dusk.

My BMW F800R

As the guy with the route map, I was lead rider on my BMW F800R. The BMW would be considered a naked standard bike. I bought the F800R model as it was optioned up with heated grips, ABS, “stop on a dime” Brembo brakes, centre stand and hard saddle bags. The “r” model has minimal bodywork to keep weight and bulk minimal. It handles and stops with more than enough go at 80+ horsepower.

What the hell just happened?

At around 3:30 in the afternoon, the group was spread out with around 10-12 metres between each rider, as we rode the twist and turns of Hwy. 144. We were in the centre of the vast state forest. The road surface was smooth and “flowing” enough to get into a riding “rhythm”.

I rounded a slight downhill turn and could see for at least a few kilometres ahead. No cars in sight, no wildlife on the road ahead and perfect riding temperature of 21 degrees Celsius according to my BMW info centre.

One second I was scanning the road ahead. The next second I was looking at the grey/brown fur of the side of a deer at eye level. A second later and I am laying in the gravel shoulder of the road.

I had no time to brake, take evasive action or do anything. In fact, my first reaction was “what the hell just happened?”.

I was laying on my back in silence. Moving legs and arms slightly confirmed I was okay to try moving. Turning my head, I was immediately aware that there was a large deer laying on the ground a few metres away from me. I watched as the deer’s life ended.

My riding companions had by now stopped and were pulling off the road. Friend Doug organized the guys to block traffic.

The eight horned buck, RIP

The eight horned buck, RIP

The deceased BMW F800R was so far into the forest we could not see it from the road

The deceased BMW F800R was so far into the forest we could not see it from the road

Observing the scene

Once I was able to sit up and get my helmet off, I surveyed the scene. I had landed about a metre off the paved road surface. My BMW had continued into the woods and was nowhere to be seen and was not running.

I sat up and determined that I had hurt my left leg, but could stand. There isn’t much traffic on Hwy. 144, but everyone who did come by stopped and asked if they could help.

About five minutes after my get off, a large pick up truck stopped to offer assistance. I advised them that I was mostly okay, they asked about the deer. “If you hit it, you are entitled to keep it”. I replied that we were all on bikes. “Mind if we take it?”. The big obviously Mennonite guys jumped out of the truck, ran over to the deer. After admiring its eight point rack, they picked it up, carried it to their truck and drove off like they had just robbed a bank.

At this point, I wondered how my BMW had faired. I could not see it and asked Terry, one of my riding companions, about my bike. Apparently, after the deer and I were launched into the air, the BMW went off into the woods. It was far enough off the road that it later took the Pennsylvania State Trooper two attempts to find it. Trooper Campano reported that he found a trail of broken BMW parts to follow into the woods.

So here I am sitting at the side of the road with no way to continue, a dead motorcycle so far into the woods I can’t see it and a leg, knee and hand that had been injured. Add in no cell phone service, plus a swarm of bugs that sensed fresh meat.

Only due to a trail of stuff were we able to locate the F800R in the forest

Only due to a trail of stuff were we able to locate the F800R in the forest

I decided to assess my injuries

While swatting away bugs, I decided to assess my injuries. My premium full face helmet had not hit pavement, but had hit down on the ground of the shoulder at 90 kph. No concussion or headache but the helmet is now toast. My textile TEKNICS jacket with upgraded armour (elbows, shoulders and back protector) has a few rips from me landing hard on my back, but it did its job. I’ll take a slightly stiff back over the obvious much worse outcome had I not had that multi-layer aftermarket CE approved back protector.

My TCX armour riding boots are scraped up and show that my left foot hit something on the way to the ground. My purple toes and foot pain tell me that the boots likely saved my foot from broken bones. Why do some people think running shoes or sandals are proper motorcycle footwear?

My riding jeans are from a small volume seller, Safari Impex of Toronto. The pants have hip and knee armour as well as reinforced thread construction. My knee took a big hit and the pants didn’t rip and the CE approved pads meant the difference between swelled and stiff versus tendon damage and road rash. Sure padded leather pants might have been a bit better, but I am not sure of a better outcome with them.

Earlier that day, I had changed from my normal leather gloves to a pair of summer grade/hot weather leather and mesh gloves. While they did provide some protection, they wore through on my left hand and I had cuts to my fingers. My right hand hit something hard and swelled up. Lesson learned, no more mesh lightweight gloves for me. I’ll take sweaty hands over road rash or broken bones any day.

The deceased BMW F800R

The deceased BMW F800R

While my riding gear saved me from serious injury, there was a good bit of luck involved

One of the things we now take for granted is cell phone coverage. None of our cell phone worked. No cell phone coverage means no call for help, or a ride to the hospital. You can’t always rely on help coming.

A motorcycle stopped while we were sitting. They offered to help. The passenger on the back was wearing a sleeveless top, capri pants, sneakers and sunglasses. The young female passenger was leaning back against her helmet which was fastened to the back of the seat. We thanked them for stopping and implored them to be careful and put on that helmet. “She is drying her hair” was the reply before they rode off.

Bikers stopped to help, ironically the pilion was not wearing a helmet to "dry her hair"

Bikers stopped to help, ironically the pilion was not wearing a helmet to "dry her hair"

After sitting for about an hour batting at bugs and cursing Mr. Eight Point Buck, a car stopped and offered me a ride to the local hospital in South Renovo, the Bucktail Medical Centre (1001 Pine St, Renovo, PA 17764, USA) was close by. Mary was on her way back from seeing her daughter and knew the roads. Mary had a very calming voice and chatted with me about local history and her family. She delivered me to the small local hospital about forty minutes north of the crash site.

At this stage, I should point out that my leg, ankle and hand were pretty swollen. The hospital Emergency staff were friendly and professional. They checked me out, did a bunch of x-rays and pronounced me damaged but not broken.

The Pennsylvania State Trooper who came by at the hospital to do the accident report did a surprisingly thorough report asking questions about all of my riding gear.

While my riding gear saved me from serious injury, there was a good bit of luck involved. It could have been a lot worse. The rider directly behind me was a witness to the whole scene and proclaimed that the “deer jumped straight at you, maybe it was suicidal”. Terry reported that he observed the deer launch itself into the air and the resulting cloud of dust, motorcycle parts and bike/rider/deer.

Time now to buy a new helmet, a new pair of gloves, a new jacket and, of course, a new motorcycle. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my riding companions who retrieved me and my bike.

It took four guys to carry the F800R out of the forest

It took four guys to carry the F800R out of the forest

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lanhet

79 months ago

@lanhet

lanhet

79 months ago

@marina

SuperchargeR

79 months ago

So you're some kind of super hero? @marina told me the doctor in the hospital asked if you didn't think you were a bit too old to be riding motorcycles! Ha! Thanks for the inspiration. Enjoyed the read.

alex

79 months ago

Having ridden with you (and also quite a bit in the same area), I'm 100% confident that there was nothing you could do to avoid this. We were down in the same area a few weeks ago and encountered a few deer (also on 144) and a black bear down near the Turkey Ranch. Luckily, nowhere near as closely as you did...

It's great to hear that the gear saved you, too, though from what you wrote it sounds like luck was definitely on your side. Still, gear they sell at the store. Luck is much harder to come by.

It's also a great story to share. While I wouldn't wish a crash upon anyone, it's nice to hear that everyone was so supportive, even the Troopers.

paulr

79 months ago

<span>First of all......thanks to everyone for your good wishes and offers of help/motorcycle loaner/etc. after my unfortunate accident. You guys are the best! I</span><span> wanted to give everyone an update on my journey to replace my deceased motorcycle. I narrowed my replacement choices to three bikes. A Triumph Speed Triple from the guys at Sturgess Cycle, a Yamaha FZ10 demo through friend Chris and another BMW F800R from one of the BMW dealers who had left over 2016s. I liked the idea of the Triumph being so light weight and of course it would let me wear all that triumph gear again that is in my closet. I loved the FZ10 as a wonderful modern 'naked' ride. Thanks to Chris, I got to ride it for a day and wow what a bike. Fast, smooth, great engine sound and so many adjustable features.The insurance company kind of made my choice for me. They wouldn't insure any Triumph and the cost to insure the Yamaha was $600 a year more than what I was used to paying. That left replacing my BMW with another one. Jean helped me get a price out of a Quebec dealer that allowed me to get a super price on the last one Budds in Oakville had. So now I have an offer in on a 2016 BMW F800R. Not a lot different from my crashed 2011. Just as ugly and not a lot of improvements over the older version but still a solid ride. So let the unreliable BMW comments begin! </span>

marina

79 months ago

@alex @teramuto @bruce @mcaers You'll want to check this out.

marina

79 months ago

Hey @Paulr Terrible to hear the story but so cool that you are totally fine with only a few bruises. What surprised me was the size of the deer that can do so much damage. It looks small. And, how incredibly far the bike dropped from the road. How do you think the bike got that far into the forest while you landed right on to the road?