I ride fast bikes. Here’s what it’s like when they crash
The fastest crash I had was in Italy, in 2002. I was testing tyres for Pirelli. We were trying different types and, naturally, sometimes they’re good. Other times, they’re not quite what you need.
It happened on a very fast left-hand corner – I was probably doing around 250 or 260km/h, and the rear tyre started to slide. Then it bit the road again and the bike suddenly snapped up straight again.
It’s what we call a high-side. I got thrown off the bike and into the air.
The best thing about it was – this might sound funny, but it’s true – I landed on my head and got knocked out.
The next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital room.
What happened with the impact knocking me unconscious was it allowed my body to relax as it tumbled across the ground before coming to a stop.
A friend of mine found my gloves, which came off in the crash. One of the glove fingers had been ripped clean off. He called my mum to tell her I might have lost one of them.
(A high-side. This is not Chris.)
The way I see a bike is it’s not a bike. It’s hundreds of thousands of parts put together, and I sit on them. You’re changing those parts in the build-up to a race – it’s when you don’t feel comfortable sitting on the machine that you start to worry.
You know how when you get a new car everything in it feels different? When you’re riding the bike, every time you ride it, the bike gets pulled apart afterwards – the engine gets taken out, parts get changed, and it all gets put back together for the next day, so it’s a different machine. Before the race it’s all about getting in tune with the bike. It’s trying to get the most out of the bike, get comfortable on it, so I can go fast.
Now I’m riding MotoGP. These are the fastest bikes on the planet. They do zero to 100km/h in 2.5 seconds – that’s faster than any regular Ferrari or sports car. First gear does more than 170km/h.
Where they are particularly quick is, believe it or not, up at the higher speeds. Most machines will slow down the rate they’re accelerating when they get up towards their top speeds. But the bikes move from 200 to 300km/h at a very rapid rate.
The first time I got on a MotoGP bike was on Philip Island, and that was the only time it was a bit scary. The thing just didn’t seem to want to slow down. At the end of the straights it would wheel-stand off the bumps at 330km/h.
Nowadays because I’m riding them all the time I’m obviously a lot more comfortable with it. I’ve never been sitting on a bike thinking “Wow, I’m going really fast – maybe I should watch it” – the day I start to think of that is the day I should hang the helmet up and stop racing.
One last thing - I go fast, but I can only do it safely with a combination of responsibility and the support of many people. I’ll leave you with this:
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