Walking away from a crash
David Booth, National Post Published: Friday, September 05, 2008
It's probably the best thing to happen to motorcycles since the swingarm rear suspension and yet it doesn't make bikes go any faster. You might only ever use it once, yet it may be the most important purchase you ever make. Every bike should have one, but only one does and it may just save your life one day.
Just ask Stephane Perry of St-Jerome, Que. He was out riding his 2008 Honda Gold Wing travelling about 100 kilo-metres an hour along Highway 132 when a gentleman -- we'll describe him as fragile -- pulled his Hyundai Tucson into the road without looking. Normally, this would result in either serious injury or tragedy. Since Perry estimates he was still travelling 80 to 90 km/h when he hit the front fender/ wheel of the Hyundai, he might have been thrown over the car into traffic. And that would have been the preferable choice since the other option would be to perform a face plant into the Hyundai's front windshield. Either would traditionally result in a ride in an emergency vehicle with a bright flashing light, a hospital, of course, being the preferable destination.
Instead, Perry suffered nothing more than a couple of bruises on his legs and a sore shoulder. He was, in fact, in such good shape that the responding police and emergency workers didn't believe he was the accident victim. Considering the damage his mortally wounded Honda had done to the Tucson and the poor Wing lying, now oil-less, on the ground, they were expecting the worst. Instead, here was a fully functioning Perry calmly snapping pictures of the debris and oil spills.
So, why was Perry standing around for the authorities to arrive when he should have been writhing in pain or at least bleeding profusely?
Avid readers of your humble scribe may remember that the 2008 Honda Gold Wing is the first motorcycle to come with the inflatable air bag restraints that we four-wheeled enthusiasts take for granted in any modern automobile. Perry certainly didn't forget. In fact, says the businessman, his last thought before ploughing into the errant Hyundai was of the air bag. "I hope it works as advertised." Indeed, it did.
Instead of hitting the windshield at 80 klicks an hour or becoming one with the pavement at high speed, the entire experience was like "hitting a mattress," so relatively cushy was the impact, Perry says. But it was loud. He says -- as do many motorists who have experienced the same thing in the confines of a sedan or SUV -- that the air bag inflating sounds like a shotgun going off right beside your eardrums.
"The sound was just terrible," says Perry, noting that it really was the only scary aspect of the entire experience other than those couple of nanoseconds when he realized he was going to T-bone a car at high speed.
In fact, Perry's real agony didn't start until (and haven't we all heard this before) after the various debris was carted away and his insurance company got involved. First, it shipped the damaged touring bike to a rural Honda dealer ill-equipped to estimate and repair Gold Wings (and, perhaps most importantly, reinstall the bike's air bags). And when he did finally convince the company to transport the wounded beast to a local dealer better equipped to deal with the repair, it insisted Perry pay for the transportation. Imagine the ire of surviving an accident only to have the wound opened by that which is supposed to come to your succour. Needless to say, he's changed agents.
What hasn't changed is Perry's decision to buy the new Gold Wing as a result of Honda incorporating air bags into the area normally reserved for the gas tank. Sadly, the blue Honda was barely a month old when it suffered its contretemps. A shiny new red one will replace it.
"A motorcycle without an air bag is not an option anymore," Perry says. And he's the first Canadian to be able to say that from firsthand experience.