Jumping off the bike in 300 km/h

Crashing is something motorcycle drag racers do not talk or think about. But they should do to be prepared for it, as it can happen to anybody. It happened to Kalle Lyrén this season at Tierp Arena, and the multiple EDRS Pro Nordic MC Pro Stock Motorcycle champion knows for sure that he escaped serious injuries not only by wearing the right safety equipment, but also the fact that they talked a lot in the team about ‘what to do when you crash’. Kalle Lyrén looks back at what happened, the moments after the crash and his comeback in August where he ran 7.0 seconds in his first run after the crash, in the same lane where he crashed two months before. The crash also made him think about what is most important in life.

The crash

The 2017 season for me didn’t exactly start the way we wanted, and most already know that I crashed my bike and jumped off directly after the finish line in Tierp at the first race of the season. It was a very good run with a 7.0 at the finish line, but straight on the finish line my front wheel just disappeared. I was just about to put the brakes on, but never had the time, since this happened the same time I let go of the throttle. The bike was starting to lie on the side and started to slide against the wall in high speed. It was all happening so fast and I could never see it coming, since the run before this happened was very nice and straight, and I was very comfortable and it felt really good. First I tried to get the bike straight again, but felt that the speed was too high and the wall was coming to me really fast and it wouldn’t straighten up, so I decided really quick to jump off the bike instead. The only thing I know I thought about during this, was that I do not want to follow the bike into the wall and that it is much better to jump off than to be crushed and have the bike around me when we hit the wall. It was crystal clear in my head to jump off and I never hesitated, and this is something that I am very proud of that I did. I think this was one of the biggest things that made this go as well as it did with me. To crash the bike is something that you normally never talk about and it almost never happens for most people in this sport, but we have always talked in the team about that this can actually happen, since we are racing in high speeds and not playing chess. But just to talk about it and know before what to do is not enough to know that when this MAYBE happen one day out of the blue to actually do it and do it fast.

Photo: Lena Perés

When I jumped off the bike I remember I thought to myself that “ouch, this is going to hurt and I am really crashing right now”. The first hit took quite hard on the side and I started to tumble around. I was thinking in my head that “I know I have good protection and that I will probably just slide”, but this never happened. I was just tumbling and tumbling and this was actually one of the longest times ever. I took my arms, head and legs and crouched in to take the hits on my body instead, and I remember that after every hit I thought for myself that “this must have been the last hit and I should stop now”, but it felt like it never stopped. Then when it finally stopped, it took some seconds before I understood that it was over. I started to feel some pain in my hands, legs and foot and this moment I thought that it was a good sign. But since I am working as a part-time firefighter also, I have some medical education and know that it is important to be very still since there can be damages to my neck and back, and this is the most critical. So I knew that I just needed to lay still and wait for the ambulance. This was also something that I am proud of that I did it, and didn’t try to get up myself.

Medical center

The safety group together with the ambulance did a fantastic job and did exactly what they were supposed to do. They took me to the medical center at the end of the track and started to undress my leathers and go through all my body to look after damages. The only thing they could find, despite a lot of scratches on my body, was that my right foot and left hand could maybe be broken or had some cracks in the bones, but otherwise it was just bruises and scratch marks. I had to stay there for some hours since as soon as I stood up and tried to walk a bit, my head was getting dizzy, so I had to rest a little bit more. I remember that I quite fast after the crash started to think about that I needed to get in contact with my wife, since she wasn’t with me this weekend at the track (and this was probably good…). The thing was that we had just got our second daughter 2 weeks before the race and we were actually never sure to be able to race at all. But the baby was feeling so well and everything was working fine at home, so we gave it a shot to go to the race. I thought a lot about how to contact her and tell her what happened without her getting upset and worried. Roger came up to the medical center quite fast when I arrived there and he was quite calm and said that the only thing he was interested in at that moment, was that the people around me knew what they were doing. He had called to my mother right when it happened and the thing was that my wife was sitting right next to her when she got the message and she said she understood right away that something had happened.

Back to the trailer 

I was back at our trailer after a couple of hours to see my team again and look at the bike to see how bad it was. The bike had actually also made it quite good since it had only touched the wall and got back on the track again and went straight down to the sand, but unfortunately never stopped there since it was too light without a rider on it. So it flew over everything and landed in the pile of tires after the sand. I knew that we had to go through every millimeter of the bike before even thinking about getting it back on the track, and the first thought at the moment was that the season was over.

Back home

I went home to my family on Saturday and this was so wonderful to see my girls again. The crash really made me think about what is most important in life. I still had a lot of pain in my hand and my foot and with the knowledge of the doctor saying that it might be broken, we decided to go to the hospital on Sunday morning. I will never forget the face of the nurse when explaining to her what I had been doing two days ago and in what speeds. They took me straight in for more investigations and some x-rays, but luckily nothing was broken and no cracks. After a couple of weeks I was almost feeling like normal, except for my left hand that I still have some issues with.

Repair of the bike

It took some time before we decided to strip the bike and see how bad it was. We sent the engine directly to Vance&Hines so they could check everything and use their machines to repair what needed to be repaired, and we focused on the bike. We took the bodywork to Kenneth at Swecomposite and he started with the repair of the body. We had been so lucky that the frame didn’t have almost any damage at all, except for the steering stops. The only thing that was really broken on the chassis was the front wheel, fork with handlebar etc. and the wheeliebars. We ordered all the parts we needed, but we said that we would try to get the bike together but this time we needed to check everything and make the bike even better than before the crash before we race it again. We found a lot of things that weren’t perfect on the bike and did a lot of updates to make sure and avoid more things to happen.

The first run

We actually got the bike back together again for the last race of the season at Tierp Arena. I really felt that I wanted to get back on the bike as soon as possible, to avoid any mind ghosts coming. I was never afraid of getting on the bike again, but of course all the thoughts of what happened come all the time when you are at the track. The weather on Friday for the first qualifying was not perfect and it started to rain on and off all the time. We had to sit in the lineup for a very long time, and one time we even were about to start the bike when we had to roll back again. This of course made it a little bit worse when you have so much time to think about it again. But the goal was just to let go off the clutch and take it from there. If I felt comfortable in the seat, I would keep the throttle, but if it didn’t feel good, I would let go off the gas.

Finally it was time to start the bike and I was actually doing my first run in the same lane as I crashed in, so this also was a bit strange. But I did exactly the same as I used to do before the crash and I did let go off the clutch and the bike went very smooth and straight, so I kept the throttle wide open and the run was very nice and straight. I was down in the 7.0 seconds directly and it felt like normal. Of course when I passed the finish line at the same spot the crash happened, I was thinking about it, but I was only focusing on getting the bike down the track safe and so I did. I was really proud of myself taking it so good. Then the race didn’t end very well for me in the competition and there were probably a lot of reasons for this, but I was very happy in the end that I got down the track a couple of times after the crash.

Three reasons

My reflections now, after the crash, is that the biggest reasons for me to get out of the crash as good as I did, are the high quality leathers made for drag racing, gloves, helmet and back protector. Expensive to buy, but it really helped me to get out without big damages. Cheapest insurance ever. Than the mental preparation and education about that this can actually happen and what to do if it happens, and last but not least the fantastic safety and medical staff.

Respect for speed

We still don’t know exactly for 100% what happened on the finish line, except that the front wheel disappeared. We have found some small things on the bike that could have been one of the reasons for it, together with some small bumps on the track. It was probably a very unluckily combination of all this that made it happen, and both me and the team have learned a lot about this, and especially that we need to have much more respect for the speeds. We can admit that we have not spent enough time on the bike or the preparations for the racing during the winter season before it started, since we have so much work to do to be able to race in the summer. We also sold the bus to buy a trailer which had taken a lot of time. Nothing on the bike was broken or so and it had worked great last season without any problems, so it is not that the bike was bad or anything. Just that we need to make more room for the racing in our schedule if we are going to do this on this level. Everything needs to be 100% perfect and not 99%.

Some things always happen for a reason

Now we are focusing on the next season and will try to get our trailer more finished inside and the bike will get some more love before the season starts. I think that some things always happen for a reason and someone was trying to tell me something that I didn’t understand before. I have learned a lot about this experience and I hope that I will do exactly the same thing if something like this happens again.

A big THANK YOU!

I would like to thank some people also that really have helped us during this. My family and my wife that had to take care of me too when I came home, even though she already had two kids at home. My team that took care of the trailer and tent after the crash since I went home to my family. Our main partner VEIDEC for understanding the situation after the crash and that it was hard to compete for the championship the rest of the year. Safety group and the medical staff for taking good care of me when this happened.

Kalle Lyrén  

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