This wasn't my first dirt bike, I'd been riding off road for 17 years and on road even longer. This was just my first NEW dirt bike and every time I get on her it excites me. On this trip my 11 year old son was coming along. He has a passion for dirt bikes and any reason to get on one is a good reason, even if its just to ride around the back yard.
We pulled into the parking area, unloaded the bikes, paid our fee, strapped on our helmets and off we went. My son hadn't ridden at this park yet so we started off with some easier trails to get him used to the terrain. An hour and a half into our ride that Saturday morning we decided to take on the longest trail at the park, 6 miles.
I learned to ride off road in the mountains of Utah. Six miles up there was not a big deal, you might cover 20-30 miles in a day of riding those old jeep trails or following trails trails over the peaks and into serene hidden valleys. Riding in the southeast is different. It is all narrow groomed trails, dense forest, small hills and a lot of water and mud. It requires a slightly different and more demanding riding style. Six miles thru a national forest in the southeast was going to require some work but we were having a great time and didn't even think twice.
I'm not an aggressive rider. I'm a cautious and casual trail rider. I get passed all the time by more aggressive riders. I'm not into jumps or tricks or high speed maneuvers. I enjoy being in nature, the pleasure of riding the dirt bike, and the occasional thrill of going over hills or maneuvering thru a tough piece of terrain. I like to just explore whats out there and that day started out just that way.
Somewhere along the way I think I must have gotten bored creeping along behind my 11yo son thru miles of trails in first gear. I like riding behind him so I can be sure he's safe and not doing anything dangerous or reckless (he'll have his teenage years for that). But after two hours I needed to stretch a little, I needed to open the throttle, I needed just a little thrill. So on a wide bend in the trail I jumped out ahead of him. Two small hills were just up the trail so I shifted into 2nd gear and went for it.
The first hill was perfect. I went over it smoothly, even caught a couple inches of air, and was coming down just right. I felt the thrill of that little jump fill me and I was looking forward to the next one before I even hit the ground. When I did hit the ground something went wrong. The bike lurched forward, the throttle open wide, and shot me toward the second small hill far faster than I should have been going.
It is natural when riding a dirt bike to grip your handlebars tight when you get scared or caught off guard by the bike's behavior. The problem is that usually you rotate your wrists down and that revs the engine. I teach my boys to watch for this, be aware of it and how to react to it when it happens. It is exactly what happened to me. When I hit the ground after the first hill I was holding the handle bars too tight and the down force caused the engine to rev and launched me over the second hill. If the second hill hadn't been there I'd have been fine but that's not what happened.
I remember the feeling of being out of control. I remember sensing that I was going over the handle bars. I remember wondering if the bike was going to hit me in the back or land on me. And then 15 yards from the top of that little hill I hit the ground; head first, then left shoulder, then left ribs, and finally left hip. And I hit it hard. Wearing the helmet certainly saved me from serious head injury but nothing else I was wearing was going to save me from other injuries.
I broke my collarbone, likely cracked a couple rips, bruised the hip socket, and tore innumerable muscles in my shoulder and down my left side. I was lucky, it could have been worse. I walked out of the forest and made my way to the hospital without the help of an ambulance. I was in a lot of pain, but worse, I was ashamed.
I was ashamed that I had allowed myself to lose control. I was ashamed that my son had to see it happen. I was ashamed that I'd miss two family events later in the day and possibly disrupt a vacation. Mostly, I was ashamed that I hadn't been vigilant.
I had done this so many times. I had so much experience. I knew what to look for, I knew what the risks were, I knew how to avoid them. I knew I wasn't like other riders who risked life and limb every time they got on a bike. But I also knew it was my fault. I had lost focus, got distracted or frustrated, took my eye off the ball. I had stopped being vigilant about my own safety.
It only takes a moment. I learned the lesson while doing something I love with my son, but it applies to other areas of our lives. It applies, as security folks, to our careers. If we lose focus, or get distracted, or drop the ball it may be our companies or our customers who pay the price in stead of us. We must be vigilant at all times. One firewall rule change while testing, one unenforced policy, one new vulnerability notification that we didn't bother to read, one malware patch we didn't feel like applying at midnight on Sunday could be all it takes to open the door to attackers.
|Damage to the rear|
We must be vigilant. We must also be prepared for what happens when were not. In seventeen years of riding dirt bikes I never thought about what steps I would take WHEN I wrecked. Do you think about what steps you will take WHEN you finally get hacked? Have you written down your plan? You will, to one degree or another at some point have a breach. You probably already have and just don't know it yet. It took me fifteen minutes after the wreck to realize my shoulder was where the real injury was. Make sure you have a plan when you discover a real injury in your environment. And be vigilant.