While there are some riders that can say that they have never had an accident (honestly..?), one of the almost inevitable consequences of riding a motorcycle is that you are going to take a tumble or get re-positioned alongside your steed by a motorist that "really didn't see you" at some stage of your riding years. In this country, that could just as easily be wildlife, a pedestrian, mini-bus taxi or someones uncontrolled domestic pet - but the point is we all face the prospect of meeting tar (or dirt) up-close-and-personal at some stage. While none of us get onto our bikes determined to kill ourselves, accidents happen and how we deal with - and recover from them determines the longevity of our riding lives.
Above the material damage that your bike suffers - almost emotionally worse than the physical damage you suffer, the psychological impact of an accident often puts riders off ever riding again. I suppose this also depends on the extent of the injury experienced, but getting your psyche repaired is sometimes a battle that many just don't want to face. It probably has a lot to do with the 'life flash moments' that accompany accidents and spills and the final and unquestionable realisation that motorcycling is essentially a high-risk activity.
So how do you get over this stage of the accident (for want of a better word)? Well, some say the best remedy is to get back onto the bike as soon as you can and take control of your confidence - which let's face it, has taken a fall five-times greater than the one you just had. After an accident, every bone in your body is telling you that you are seriously unbalanced and mad to get onto a bike again, and that's totally normal. Our fight or flight response systems are designed to make us learn from mistakes we make and to avoid repeating them unless we have a serious mental state, but risk is an integral part of what attracts us to biking in the first place.
After my own serious accident - which resulted in nine weeks of bed and a further six months of rehab, I was very nervous about getting back onto a bike, but I was reminded that there are two kinds of bikers - those that have had an accident and those that still need to experience this unique thrill. It made me realise that accidents are just that - accidents, and that perhaps I needed to understand what led-up to my incident and then learn from it. I made a promise to myself that I would not die on my bike, and my entire riding style - and appetite for risk, changed. I got back on the bike and although the early stages were comical in my attempts to overcome the fear of repeating the fall, today I can say I am a better rider for having had an accident.
A well-known motorcycle mag editor had an almost life-changing accident that left him clutching precariously to life for a while; a colleague has had his accident that has left him permanently disabled and I know of many riders that have had accidents ranging from serious to simply embarrassing. Yet all of them are determined not to let their experience affect their enjoyment of riding or desire to get back on. Many have achieved this goal, while some will still need to get to that stage of riding again, but perhaps the most enduring lesson I have found is that in almost all cases, they have been honest about their role in the accident and have adapted their riding style to address the cause of their fall in the first place.
There are many of course that don't have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes that they make - or to change the circumstances that led to their accidents because they are no longer with us. But to those of us that have come through the ordeal and are able to ride again, it comes down to two things. Firstly, you need to accept that you have had an accident and identify your role in the cause and what you could have done to avoid the situation in which you found yourself. Yes, there are cases where the biker was innocently minding his own business, riding like a gentleman and obeying all the rules when the fickle finger of fate touched them on the shoulder. But generally, they are few and far between and most accident victims will admit to have being doing something above their risk rating when their accidents happened. By identifying these and changing our behavior, we do become better riders and our appetite for unbridled risk becomes tamed as we change for the better.
And the second consideration is to stop beating yourself up about the accident - it happens and we learn. Regain your confidence by getting back onto that bike (or its replacement) and become a better rider from the experience. You have had your accident - and you become determined not to have another, so remember why you started riding in the first place and get on with it. Riding within your boundaries and abilities has a lot to do with it and understanding just what these are helps. By trying to ride outside your 'envelope' you are inviting trouble, and while we all enjoy the thrill of pushing our boundaries and experience from time to time, doing so with an understanding of the consequences quickly puts things into perspective. There are those that just don't learn, getting back into the saddle and repeating the same pattern of errors (and we all have these), but sadly they become statistics and there is just nothing that can be done about it. After all, there's a lot to be said for humility and learning from our mistakes, so don't push it!
Developing a heightened sense of awareness and even a 'sixth sense' takes time, and motorcyclists need these in spades in order to survive. Every day we ride, we share the road with homicidal drivers; wild animals; oblivious housewives; catastrophic road conditions; weather and yes, even fellow motorcyclists. Plan for the worst and accept that accidents will happen - more so if you ride like a banshee! Just minimise your risk by being the best rider you can be and the chances of surviving your accident increase proportionately.
Alternatively, you can decide that the risk is no longer worth the fun and experience that comes with motorcycling, and get a car! There's nothing wrong with that and I suppose that if I had been facing death and permanent disability, my decision would have been just that - and I would have grown old wondering whether I could have done it again. Clearly, motorcycling is not for the faint-hearted or people that have an aversion to risk - just as it shouldn't be a reason to be reckless and patently dumb! So decide what it is that put you on the bike in the first place and if that desire and thrill is still there, grab your helmet and have fun.