It’s funny, but people who see and recognize us crew members from Café Racer often remark that we must have the best jobs in the world. I’ll insist that title belongs, inarguably, to the guy who gets to measure Beyonce for her mini-dresses, but sure, testing and building fast motorbikes for a living can be a blast.
But as a career, it can also have unforeseen dangers.
During the shooting of the series, we had a few mishaps that placed riders squarely on their butts, and as a veteran of a few crashes- some bad, some just plain embarrassing- I can tell you that getting horizontal on two wheels is never fun. Viewers will see one bust-up during the series, while a few others I witnessed were, mercifully, not captured on video. The odd thing about the crashes I witnessed this year was that nearly all of them could have been avoided. Statistics show that a great many motorcycle accidents were caused by rider error and that surely seems to be the case in my experience.
After concluding one shoot involving a group of café racer riders, we decided to head off en masse for lunch. The riders represented all different ages, makes of motorcycle and riding styles. I generally ride alone, because years of road riding in groups has taught me that you’re only as safe as the least skilled member of any riding group. All it takes is a novice or someone who hasn’t ridden in years with rusty skills to put everyone else at risk.
That was the case during our group lunch ride- a biker who seemed in perfect control of his Triumph managed to panic brake in a tight, decreasing-radius turn, launching man and machine into a guardrail. Leading the group, I had the sickeningly familiar experience of looking into my rear-views to see no one following behind me. Returning to the scene, I was relieved to see the rider wasn’t seriously hurt, though that’s more than I could say for his poor Bonneville which had twisted forks, a dented gas tank and exhaust pipes that looked like they lost a battle with a transformer robot.
In the aftermath, I resigned myself to start riding alone again, and to stick to my rules about recreational riding. Though it may seem a bit of a buzz-kill, I’ll insist on making it a point to chat a little before heading out on the road, with everyone involved. It’s better to ascertain their individual riding skills, whether they’ve had a few beers or even if their motorcycle is properly maintained before finding out the facts in the middle of a fast corner. And knowing what’s up can only make the ride safer and more fun for everybody.
– Mike Seate