Motorcycle Crash at 80 MPH in Mexico City

My KLR and I went down at 80MPH on the highway in Mexico City. I have a bruise on my hip, and she only has some scratches. Hard to believe it…

An hour earlier I saw a BMW with New York plates fly by me with a wave and a dog on the back seat. It was the first wave in weeks. He must have known I was far away from home, and with the sight of my gear going even farther. He waited up for me at a toll booth and we got to talking. He offered me a place to stay in Mexico City. I hadn’t even planned on stopping there, but I decided to take him up on the offer anyways.

I followed my new found motorcycle touring friend. He was zipping down the road fairly fast, although he wouldn’t know it since his speedometer is broken. I tried keeping up, and suddenly my handlebars started shaking. I loosened my grip on the bars and tried powering through it like I normally do, but I was unknowingly going 80 MPH at this point, too focused on keeping up. The shake wasn’t going away and soon the handlebars were violently turning to the left and to the right, until it was too much and we went down. I just experience a tank slapper.

I slid down the center lane at speed. I have no recollection of vision throughout the slide, only the feeling of the vibrations of the road as I skipped over it and the deafening sound of my helmet scrapping on the pavement. I eventually came to rest and immediately looked behind me to see if a car or truck was barreling down on me. Luckily the cars behind me occupied all the lanes and they were all decelerating and in line side by side. I sprinted to the side of the road, and then looked for my KLR. She was 200 feet ahead of me and had slid on her right side coming to a stop on the grassy shoulder. After I knew my bike was ok, I whipped off my helmet and then I checked myself for injuries. No blood, nothing seems broken.

I ran back out into traffic in an effort to stop the cars from continuing while I picked up my belongings that had fallen off my bike and spilled out of my broken Pelican side case. Drivers got out of their car to help me, and after a the few large items were gathered I ran back to the side of the road and headed towards my bike. The KLR was on the shoulder but not far enough to ensure it and my safety after traffic started back up. I lifted her up to push her away from the road. The muscles in my back went limp and my torso fell forward. I caught myself with my hands on my knees and my breathing was on the verge of hyper ventilating.

I looked over to one of the people who assisted me with gathering my belongings, gave a big grin while shouting, “FUCK!” followed with a chuckle.

Up ahead Marc was stopped on the side of the road about 500 feet ahead. It all happened so fast he couldn’t pull off to the side fast enough after he heard the screeching metal and cloud of smoke and dust.

People were asking if I was ok, and I started ripping off my Aerostich Roadcrafter Suit, pulling up my shirt, pulling down my pants looking for any sight of injury. Only a few red scrapes on my right hip. The police asked if I needed an ambulance, and for the first time in a while I replied correctly in Spanish, “No necesito…”.

My attention turned to the KLR, I tried starting her up. She struggled for about 30 seconds, but eventually she fired back up! Bullet proof these things are. I discarded the broken side case on the side of the road and Marc and I continued with my belongings stuff into extra bags strapped down on our bikes.

At this point we are on the north side of Mexico City, population 25 million, and known as one of the most traffic laden cities. We had to go to the south side where he lived through the heart of the city and it was rush hour. Without being stuck in traffic for hours we had to lane split. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins, and my senses were acute. Ironically this was probably the best time to cut my teeth on Mexico City lane splitting.

I feverishly recounted the events that just happened onto my video recorder (videos to come soon) while splitting through the traffic. Fortunate for me, Marc’s bike was overheating, and we had to stop a couple times to let the BMW and my mental state cool down.

We eventually arrived at Marc’s place. He said, “I hope you don’t mind, we’re having a party tonight for my friend’s birthday.” That was possibly the best thing I could ask for after cheating death. I dropped my gear into the room I was staying in, shed my clothes and took a long and hot shower.

For the rest of the evening, I relaxed, drank and spent time talking to people. Being a pale-skinned, redhead in the middle of a huge (40+) party the topic of where I’m from and how I knew Marc came up. I typically responded with, “Oh, I met Marc at a toll booth 4 hours ago, and then I got into a motorcycle accident at 80 MPH, and Marc offered to let me stay here. So…here I am.”

I didn’t experience the crash like most people seem to in motorcycle accidents (sponsored link). I laughed as I told the story, this whole situation seemed so unreal. Logically the accident was a near death experience, but I didn’t experience the accident as being close to death. I didn’t experience any acute pain. I walk away unscathed. Emotionally the gravity of the situation did not resonate with the practical realities.

People asked me, “So did you have any life changing realizations or a new perspective on life?” It is typical for one to have these after a kind of situation like this. I could have made up something, and spewed out something cliché like, “Life is so fragile, you never cherish it until you almost lose it.” or “I feel re-born, I am going to live life to the fullest.” I didn’t feel or think any of those things. It is astounding to me how mundane and ordinary this experience felt to me. Even days after I expected that I would settle on some profound thought or understanding about life or myself, but it never happened. Now there was rest to be had, repairs to be made, and the whole experience disappeared as quickly as it occurred.

You can check out the damage to my bike and gear here:

  • Kangie

    Good to hear that you’re OK – Coming off is never good. Sounds like you’re making the most of it – Any real damage to the bike, apart from some scrapes? They build character anyway.

  • madjac11

    Thank God your OK. Tough spill, but it could obviously been so much worse. Good thing for your new-found friend! Think maybe you got caught up in the moment trying to keep up and abandoned your normal focus on safety, what with a loaded up KLR on knobbies (as I think you said in an earlier vid)? No disrespect intended, just seriously asking. Be safe, Atlas.

  • Moosepiesandwich

    You are very lucky! Glad to hear there are no serious injuries, looking forward to the rest of the journey!

  • Lone Star Rider

    WOW, I’m glad that you’re OK, Safe journey!

  • chgowiz

    Glad you and your scoot are OK. 80 mph is not a fun speed to hit the road.

    Any idea why you suddenly had the shimmy of death?

  • ChaosFromAbove

    that’s crazy…you felt the same as i did after my first crash, cept mine was a bit worse(was cut off, put into a wall at around 50-60mph)…but hey its all a part of the risk we take riding. A near death experience to us is, well, for the lack of a better term, expected.

    Glad to hear you walked away with little damage.

  • Bucky


    The importance of good gear is demonstrated yet again. That suit and the helmet helped protect you in a bad situation.

    Please know that you have been on the prayer list here for many weeks, and although we could not know you were going to have an accident, you were being prayed for at around 7:30 that morning.

  • dadickin

    So glad to read that you are okay – one heck of a story and you haven’t even left the continent!

  • joebuda81

    Hey Bill. From the look of your diligent efforts it’s been an amazing journey thus far (good job!) I chipped in a bit for the cause. Good to hear preparedness won out!

  • Jack

    Hang in there buddy. You’re doing really well. Relax, enjoy what you see, forgot and complications from home and just enjoy the ride.

    You’re gonna have accidents like these again. Just watch out and keep safe :)

    Take care!

    From Jack – in Ireland.

  • zypp33

    Saw your story when you posted it, I felt sick for you ! I think you may have a guardian angel, just take care .

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  • Daniel981

    Glad to hear you made it out of that situation alright. =) Thanks for the post.

  • Anonymous

    Holy Cow! What caused the tank slapper, just going too fast fully loaded? I’m glad you survived that. You probably need a new helmet.

  • bogfro

    OK here’s my big philosophical question:
    What caused you to crash? Going in a straight line down the highway should never cause your handlebars to start shaking like that. Did you have a flat tire? If not, I’m guessing there’s something wrong with your steering head, wheel, or some other part. You need to find a logical explanation for this. Motorcycles should be as smooth as glass riding in a straight line.

  • Chuck

    the cause of what I call “the death wobble” that leads to the tank slapper was an out of balance front wheel. You couldn’t feel it while riding, only noticeable on the balance machine. Dealer checked everything else first, triple clamp, head bearings, axle bearings, geometry, etc. Checked balance as a last resort.

  • Jay

    apparently you crashed near my hometown, in 57 highway accidents happen all the time!
    glad you survived!

    take care all your way through Mexico, sorry to admit it but Mexico City drivers are the worst among the country, and most of all, beware of bus and taxi drivers!

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  • Gucci

    Might I simply say nice to read a comfort to find somebody who actually realizes just what they’re sharing on the internet. You certainly know how to take a difficulty to light and make it vital. Even more people need to study it and understand it aspect of the story. I cannot believe you’re not very popular as you surely have the gift.

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  • Snikrep Nitram

    With motorbike racing there is never safety unless your bike is equipped with the
    best tires. I feel that there is need for more grip especially for the cases of racing which call for high speeds..someone should check out on my Street Bike Tire for more of what entails good motorbike tires..

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