It’s the end of a long love affair. Today I watched as my favorite motorcycle of all time left my yard on the back of a Humboldt Towing flatbed. Even though I was getting close to saying goodbye, this isn’t the way I wanted it to end.
I bought my Triumph Sprint ST in April of 1999 after falling in love with it after taking a test ride a couple of months earlier. Coming from a Suzuki Katana 750, I instantly felt at home on it, but the motor was what made me love this ride. My second triple after previously owning a Yamaha Venturer 850, the torque of it’s motor made it easy to ride, and it had way more horsepower than I could ever use on the street.
I put a down payment on it in late February but on March 15th (Beware the Ides of March!) the company I was working for announced they were closing. So being imminently out of work, I decided to take my name off of the waiting list. But within a few days I had several job offers from clients and so I went back to the dealer to put my name back on the list, only to find out that mine had come in and had already been sold.
So I had to wait for the next red one to come it, because as everyone knows, red was the fastest color.
I purchased it with the trunk and pannier set, as well as heated hand grips, a true luxury, especially after I moved to Ferndale.
I soon found an email list for owners of the Sprint ST (and the RS, it’s brother) and linked up with several local owners for the occasional group ride.
In 2000, we moved to Ferndale, and the Sprint ST got to experience some of the best motorcycle roads in the U.S., such as Highway 36 and Highway 1.
In the summer of 2001, I joined several Bay Area riders to go to a Sprint Rally in Colorado. That was the longest trip I took on the Sprint, as being self-employed it was harder to take long vacations.
Since I worked at home, the bike was mostly used for weekend rides, but since it shared the garage with several other bikes, it never saw a lot of mileage.
After my accident on Christmas Day in 2015, when a garbage truck pulled out in front of me and my KLR650, I found the sport diminished. It took me awhile before I could feel comfortable riding again.
Demands of restoring our Victorian house and taking care of our 3/4 acre garden meant I had little time to ride on weekends anyways, and it almost started becoming a chore to make sure that both bikes were run once in awhile just to run some fresh gas through them.
So it was on a nice Sunday afternoon after having finished a few projects around the yard, I felt I should get the Sprint out. The KLR650 had been out the previous weekend, and broke down, luckily, close to home. It was actually a relief that it broke down because it had been experiencing an intermittent electrical problem that was impossible to diagnose while riding. Turned out to be the clutch safety switch.
I thought it would be nice to ride the Triumph because it’s always been a super reliable bike. My plan was to just go down to the Avenue of the Giants, but the weather was so nice I decided to go out Highway 36 instead. Then the plan was to go to Dinsmore, stop at the store for some ice cream and then turn around and come home. When I got to Dinsmore the parking lot was full and I was still having fun enjoying the bike and warm weather, so I pushed on. The stretch of 36 after Dinsmore is one of the best, full of high speed sweepers and smooth pavement.
When I got to South Fork Mountain Road, I thought I’d use it to loop around and return home. It had been many years since I had been on that section of road, but I had remembered it as being in good condition.
The pavement was in good condition for the first five or six miles, and then I started having to dodge a lot of potholes. It’s a narrow road and I was only going about 25mph so it was pretty easy to drive around most of them. Some were pretty large and I had to go across them, but other than slowing my progress, they weren’t a problem.At 2:45pm, the road was covered in dappled shade, and that always makes riding more difficult as it takes time for your eyes to adjust. Coming from bright sun into a patch of shade, I spotted a huge pothole that covered the entire width of the road. I tried to scrub of some speed before hitting it, but there was so much gravel on the road from the pothole that it was hard to get any traction.
I hit the pothole very hard and momentarily lost control of the front end. Before I could get the bike back under control, I hit a second pothole that was so jarring that it knocked my right side pannier off of the bike. I was not able to correct after the second hit and ended up going off the side of the road.
I was ejected before the bike landed, and fortunately was clear of it. After everything came to a rest I was glad to find that I was relatively uninjured, just a minor twisted ankle, that ended up fine by the end of the night.
The immediate problem was that I was on a stretch of road that it could be hours before anyone drove by. I hadn’t told Lori where I was going, and since I hadn’t planned on a long ride, I hadn’t even brought any water. Fortunately, I did have my SPOT tracker with me, and used it to place a 911 call.
About an hour and a half later a camper stopped and I got a lift back to Mad River. On the way we saw the Southern Trinity Rescue Truck on their way, so I called 911 back with his phone and called them off. In Mad River I called CHP and left a message for Lori. I didn’t have cell service out there so I knew she wouldn’t. Fortunately she was smart enough to stop at the Mad River Burger Bar (just about the only thing in Mad River) and saw me outside.
We went back to the crash site to pickup my luggage and ended up getting home around 10pm. While we were there I took photos of the road again, now that it was in full shade. I also placed a branch across the first pothole to show the depth. Note that the branch was curved and sagged into the hole.
The next morning I made arrangements with Mad River Towing to help lift the bike back up to the road. The plan was to meet them at the junction of 36 and South Fork Mountain Road at 7pm. I got there about 6:30 and an hour later I saw the tow truck drive by. I immediately gave chase but since I was towing my trailer I couldn’t catch them. Fortunately they stopped at the Burger Bar and I was able to catch them.We went back to the crash site and by the time we got there it was about 8:30. It took about an hour and $200 to recover the bike and get it secured into my trailer, and then another hour and a half to get back home. The next morning I got my first good look at the damage. At first it seemed like it was just the three main fairing pieces and a broken turn signal. But the more I looked the more damage I saw. The pannier that fell off before the crash had a lot of scratches and the mounting bracket was bent. The front wheel had some damage. The rear brake leaver was bent. The exhaust was scratched. The two lower fairing pieces were broken. The trunk had some scratches on it.
Some of it I could have lived with, but my feeling was the bike was probably going to be totaled. Yesterday I got the news that it was, and so it was hauled away.
I plan to file a claim with Trinity County to see if I can recover my deductible cost, as well as the towing fee, and mileage to go pick everything up.
The really sad thing is, I was so close to making the decision to sell the bike. This ride could well have been the last ride even if it hadn’t ended up the way it did. I sure would have rather seen a new owner ride off with it than see it all busted up in pieces on the back of a tow truck.