In Feb. 1911, a rider submitted a piece to Motorcycle Illustrated on safety measures for riders which started out by asking why it was that a drunk man and a child might take a fairly nasty fall without breaking bones. He quoted a surgeon who said it was because both were limp when they landed and that bones usually broke when the limb was stiffened before the fall. I’ll leave off the rather lengthy introductory part of the article and take up at the point where the author began to describe various obstacles a rider was likely to encounter in 1911.
Disclaimer: This piece is reproduced purely for its historical merit. It is not meant to be taken seriously with regard to safe riding. When this article was published bikes were lighter, had far less horsepower, and one could travel great distances without passing another vehicle.
“…They used to advise us to stick to the machine as long as possible when an accident seemed inevitable. That was good advice for an automobile racer, but it does not answer in the case of a motorcycle. The main point, when one has hit anything fairly hard, is to dive gracefully over the handlebars, taking care to dive away from said thing you have hit and the machine. I invariably land on my left shoulder, but I always land limp and, although I have had many a merry tumble, I have never hurt myself seriously and certainly have never broken any bones.
In the case of side-slip or a fall sideways, it is always best to fall quite clear of the machine. I have no fancy for frying my manly chest on a hot cylinder or to have my pants chewed up by an over-zealous engine sprocket which will not quit work. Besides, if one gets knocked about on the road, one always prefers to put up the good old ‘standby’ of ‘attacked by a whole band of hoboes and put ‘em to flight’. Well, this yarn won’t go when your face is all oil, your shirt has a grilled pattern burned over it and your pants show unmistakable signs of a glorious battle with a chain.
There is quite a selection of things on the road to hit if one feels so inclined. I must admit to having only sampled a few of the possibilities, but as I am ‘still going’, I may gain further experience. I once hit a cow amidships by way of an experiment. The cow said “umph!” presumably some kind of cuss word in cowese. After that experience and others I cannot recommend cattle or horses as things to hit. Once I hit a policeman. It was in this way: The cop strolled out from behind a bush to stop an automobile, and as I was coming along the other way he walked into my front wheel. I am glad to say that the automobile escaped, for that cop’s comments on myself and the world in general were painful, to say the least.
I strongly advise my Southern brothers to avoid mule teams. It is somewhat undignified to be seen hanging over a mule pole. The things which want hitting in the South are real estate dealers and politicians. If you can coax a few of these into the roadway, let her rip and charge straight upon them. If you are killed –, well, it’s a glorious death in the interests of your country, and what more would you ask?
When one kills a hen and no one is about, do not imitate the man in the play and whisper ‘What shall I do with the body?’ If she isn’t chewed up too much take the chicken home and ‘bile’ her. If the rider meets a flock of sheep in the road, the only thing to do is to get off and walk through. If you don’t, you are bound to be thrown off, as sheep are the most fat-headed animals in the world for getting in the way. I once came across a small army of little pigs. They were scared at the noise of the machines of my companion and self and started up the road in front of us, spread right across, with their sides touching. There was no getting past this, so we slowed down and kept just behind the little regiment. At last a cross road was struck and those piglets wheeled in military order round the corner and our road was clear.
Did anyone say dogs? I wonder whether there is a motorcyclist of any mileage, so to speak, who has not had various arguments with dogs. There is something in the sound of the exhaust which seems to irritate the best behaved dogs in the world. I know that I nearly wore out a strap before I could educate my own trusty hound to bow to a passing motorcyclist instead of chasing him! Yet, if one is thick enough, the dog is easily left way behind before he gets a chance to do any damage. Naturally the worst type of dog is the one which deliberately ‘cannons’ into one’s front wheel. If the rider happens to be gripping the handlebars tightly at the time, and the dog by chance hits the rear part of the wheel, it often happens that ye hound is shot ‘like an arrow in the air’. Yet, sad to relate, there is another kind of dog which is like unto a sack of coal. This is the heavy, leaden type of beast which will not do any kind of ‘arrow’ act, but will surely bring us ignominiously to the ground and, having accomplished this feat, will frequently do its best to devour us alive as we lie in the roadway. Beware of this type, oh my brother, for he is the ruin of many a confident expert.
I have only once hit a horse and then I wabbled clear and did not come over. Therefore, it is somewhat difficult for me to preach on the subject, yet common sense will tell us to keep clear of the hoofs if we fall. I have heard of a rider who let the machine go and clasped a horse affectionately ‘round the neck’. History goes on to say that the horse was scared out of its life because the rider had ‘one of those faces’, but anyhow the motorcyclist saved himself that time. Carts, buggies and so forth must be strictly avoided. They have protruding parts everywhere and, if hit, they generally ‘leave their mark’. One night I was riding a very well-lighted machine down a dark hill. Presently a strange, ghostly glimmer kept dancing from one side of the road to the other. I could not make it out at all; it looked like water, but I knew there was no water anywhere in the district. Anyhow, I proceeded warily. When I overhauled the ‘glimmer’ I found it was a glass-backed hearse with no lights on. Such action, on the part of the driver of the grim equipage was criminal.
The whole matter may be summed up thusly: ‘Keep a steady head, choose the softest spot to fall, fall properly or keep up, and, lastly, learn a bit of ‘First Aid’; it’s handy.” – Motorcycle Illustrated. March 1911.
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