My New Moto Guzzi Le Mans! :-)

...and the tragic story of the Crash that followed :-(

This July I took my beloved nasty-black Triumph in to have its 6,000 mile oil change and valve adjustment. The mechanic found massive amounts of aluminum and copper in the oil. This bike, like most modern motorcycles uses the engine oil to also lubricate the clutch and transmission. This meant that every bearing in my engine, clutch and transmission were toast. It simply wouldn't be cost effective to try to repair the bike. Sad.

I went into a funk but Becky, bless her heart, roused me with a "now you have an opportunity to buy the Moto Guzzi you're always going on about." She was right. I had been lusting after a Moto Guzzi Le Mans for some time now and while I hated to see the Triumph pass I admit to being excited about getting a Guzzi.

After several false starts and disasters (one owner crashed a prospective bike within 100 miles of my house on his way up to show it to me) Becky finally found a likely Le Mans in Seattle that was listed on eBay (these bikes are quite rare and hard to find). Now in the past I've generally looked askance at people who buy motorcycles, sight unseen, from strangers from online auction houses. Not anymore. The deal went PERFECTLY! The owner even rode the bike down to deliver it to me. It was a beautiful champagne and red 2002 V11 (1100 c.c.'s) Moto Guzzi Lemans. It's a shaft driven, air cooled, dry clutched, tons of torque, Italian thing of beauty, with only 11,000 miles on it...just barely broken in!

loaded up for our shakedown trip to Bend

I got such an amazing deal on the price that I took the opportunity to finally buy the safety gear that I wanted...a full set of Roadcrafter, two-piece, black on black Aerostitch riding gear. Sure, it was expensive but it is simply the best protection one can buy for motorcycle riding.

Avenue of the Giants in the new Aerostitch

After a weekend ride (400 miles up and 400 miles back in two days) with Becky on her Suzuki and me on my new Le Mans, I quickly discovered that I would need to make some modifications to the Guzzi to truly make it a "Sport-Touring" motorcycle. First off I sent the rock-hard seat off to Rich Maund in Virginia to have him work his magic on it. He reshaped, padded and recovered it and sent it back to me in less than a week. Next off were the after-market carbon fiber pipes that came on it. Too loud by half. They are a sought after item by most owners but simply too loud to tour on. It was tiring. So after making a connection with one of the members of the online V11 Le Mans site I made a trade for a set of stock pipes. Much better.

So the weekend after my new Aerostich arrived, my refurbished seat had been returned and my I had installed my new, stock exhaust I decided to take a Saturday afternoon ride up Highway 299 to Willow Creek (50 miles each way) to test the new setup out. The ride was full of "perfect moments."

I stopped off at the CHP weigh station on the way home where even though they were closed they leave the scales on. So I parked the Guzzi on the scales went over to the window and peered in to get the bike's weight. 550 pounds...quite a porker. As I got back on the bike and pulled out into light traffic things went to hell fast...

From the story told to me by a van that was following (it turns out one of the people in the van is Becky's dental hygenist...a small world indeed) I had neglected to raise my sidestand back up when pulling back onto the highway. From my perspective all I knew was that at the first gentle left hand turn I completely lost control of the bike. It wouldn't respond to anything I tried to do. I tried to stand the bike straight up and hit the brakes (an emergency drill I have practiced many times, nothing. The front end started swerving back and forth out of my control. We both went down on our left sides and the bike slid away from me. We slid for what seemed like ages. I remember being aware of the first time my head hit the asphalt (fortunately my helmet was also as good world class, a full face, Shoei X11). I can remember thinking during the slide about things I'd always heard about crashing, "keep your arms and legs in to prevent breakage and try to slide, don't tumble!"

at the scene

Eventually we came to rest in the tall grass at the side of the road. I was able to immediatly jump up. The van behind me was rolling to a stop to assist before I could even reach my bike to shut it off. A Harley Davidson rider going the other way swung around and came over to help lift my bike back on it's wheels on the roadside and out of the grass (I was worried about fire). The family in the van encouraged me to sit down and brought water, the Harley guy broke out a medical kit and stated wiping my wounds (I had ground off the tip of my middle finger and the base of my thumb on the gloves were my only piece of gear to fail me and they are being replaced by a pair of Helimot Buffalo 365's, already on order). After determining my head was ok, I pulled off the helmet, and with the help of the bystanders called 911 and then called Becky at our home just 15 miles away. Bless her heart there was no panic and after getting directions to where I was, she made arrangements with our visiting houseguest to deal with our dogs and take care of the homefront (thanks Molly)and then jumped into the truck and was on her way...she actually beat the CHP to the scene.

the rear end of the bike with my newly redone Rich Maund seat propped up against the bike after we pried it off with a tire iron

my newly installed exhausts

the engine with the cylinder guard completely ground off of it

broken windscreen and fairing and left handlebar (clip-on) bent to a 90 degree angle

After the CHP arrived and started getting the information they needed Becky started dealing with getting someone to tow the bike back to our home in Eureka. It turns out the towing services we have (MoTow from the AMA and Foremost Insurance) don't really deal with accidents and are really more designed for roadside breakdowns. Finally the CHP officer counselled us to simple use "any" local towing service and that our motorcycle insurance collision coverage (this is the first bike I've ever had that on...whew) would pick up the bill.

We finally made it home and while I was sore and a bit beat up I didn't feel all THAT bad so I put off going to the hospital till I found out how I felt the next day. Well, I hurt the next day. I went to our local Urgent Care and had the doctor check me out. After poking and prodding my sore spots she couldn't find anything terribly wrong but suggested I might want to get some x-rays just to be sure. Their lab was closed (this was Sunday) and gave me a prescription for the x-ray lab the next day. At first I really thought that I'd just take Monday off from work and then return on Tuesday. I could see this wasn't going to happen. I was feeling worse with every day that passed. Monday's x-ray showed a cracked rib and a partially collapsed lung. I felt worse/better about the discovery. "Worse" because this meant no work and pain for at least two weeks (this is during my THIRD week off when I'm writing this...but have hopes of returning to work next week). And "better" because at least I had a REAL reason for feeling bad and I wasn't just being a whiner.

I am still trying to get started on repairing the Guzzi. I want it back. I have started price lists for the parts I know I will need tracking down some options for the more expensive stuff. I am still waiting on someone from the insurance company to come and assess the damage on my bike. I have already ordered some replacements for the gear I ruined (I had only owned the Aerostitch a week and am hoping for some sort of deal when replacing it...I've heard rumors of a 15% discount). I will be replacing each item, with the exception on my gloves, with the identical piece. It all worked that well.

my failed gloves

my Shoei helmet...full faced is the ONLY way to go (notice the hit my chin would have taken)

the left shoulder of my Aerostitch jacket where I first made contact with the roadway

the left inside arm of the jacket (I still can't explain how that happened)

the knees of my pants...they took the most abuse and I had NO pain or damage from the waist down

no, I'm not crying as some have suggested (there is NO crying in motorcycling)...I'm holding my ribs

Three things I learned from this episode. 1) I was lucky 2) Gear is good, and good gear is better. The online motorcycle group that Becky and I are involved most with (Sport-Touring.Net) have a mantra, ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time). And 3) I have the best wife in the world. She has supported me through all my foolishness and has taken care of me through my crash. I owe her big time (again) and I can only hope she doesn't ever read this and find out ;-)


The lovely Le Mans was down for a total of about 6 months while I chased down parts, waited for delivery (often from Europe) and did (and "wrenching" skills are not the best) repairs. It was back on the road during the first week of February 2006. A happy day indeed!

That's the whole happy/sad story so return to Gil and Becky's Home simply click HERE