Brimming with confidence after a successful race weekend, I underestimated the acceleration potential of Honda’s new CBR600RR and entered Chuckwalla’s Turn 4 (clockwise direction) far too fast and way off line. The following 90 mph low-side was surprisingly violent. The bike pinned my left leg to the track as we slid across the pavement, and once I hit the dirt I flipped and rolled several times before coming to a stop, ears ringing, vision blurred, and body aching.
Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out why you fell–this wasn’t one of those incidents. I made a number of mistakes that morning, starting with my attitude. Yes, it’s fair to say Chuckwalla has become my “home track,” but that’s on my little, underpowered CBR250R. Different day, different bike, different tires. I was excited to ride the new 600RR, but I should have eased into things more gently, felt the bike out better, and given my brain time to adjust to the significant differences between my usual steed and this heavier, more powerful motorcycle. Good advice to heed any time you throw a leg over an unfamiliar motorcycle or one you haven’t ridden in a while.
As it was, I got a good drive out of Turn 3, and pushing up against redline, grabbed 4th gear as I went around the outside of a fellow journalist. The pass put me on the wrong side of the track for the upcoming left-hand turn, while the strong drive and extra gear put my speed well above where it was at this spot in earlier laps. You cover a lot of ground at 100 mph, and between the split second it took to shed that extra gear and my compromised trajectory, I found myself running wide into the ripples created by cars’ outside wheel tracks. The tire locked as I rolled over the first bump, sending me onto my side.
When I picked myself up off the ground and followed the trail of debris from the bike back towards the track, the first thing I saw was the CBR’s owner’s manual, cover up, with the simple warning across it, “Stupid hurts,” staring me in the face. Talk about adding insult to injury!