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All for a Wheelie

By MS. RUTH ANN REPLOGLE, Staff Writer

Funny how we will do things to impress other people, even at the risk of our own health.

A guy I know was attempting to do wheelies on his dirt bike—a Kawasaki KDX 220—for weeks, and every time he tried, he fell off the back of the bike and strained his left knee. Mind you, after a skiing accident three years earlier, he had his ACL replaced in the same knee.

The last time he tried to pop a wheelie and failed, my 40-year-old friend really did re-injure himself. He said he immediately knew something was very wrong because the pain was blinding. His knee swelled within minutes, and he assumed he had torn his ACL again.

He spent that weekend on the couch, sitting there all day and sleeping there all night, because it hurt too much to move. The following Monday, my friend finally went to his orthopedic surgeon, who immediately sent him for an MRI. Fortunately, the MRI showed that his ACL was still intact, so a second surgery was not needed, but it did reveal he had multiple meniscus tears, impact injuries, and displacement injuries.

He was on crutches for a week. He also had to wait two weeks for the swelling to go down enough for him to start physical therapy, which meant he was out of commission four more weeks. So, not only did this take six weeks out of his life, but it also came at the expense of multiple doctor’s visits and physical therapy sessions. All to do a wheelie on a dirt bike.

The lesson here is not that he was too old to be pulling these kinds of stunts (although maybe it should be). It is that we should always be mindful of the risks and the subsequent consequences every time we climb onto the back of a dirt bike.

As summer is upon us and we want to show off our skills, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and www.MotoSport.com offer these tips when off-roading:

Wear the proper gear. This includes helmet, goggles, long sleeves and pants, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves. While this sounds like too much for the heat of summer, you would rather tear your pants than your skin, right?

Stay clear-headed. Save the drinks for celebrating after the ride.

Know how to handle the bike. Take a basic training class to ensure you have the adequate ability to operate it. Skills you need include throttle and clutch control, balance, body positioning, and mental prep.

Have a wingman. Riding with a buddy means someone has your back should something happen.

Ease into it. Even pros face falling off the bike, stalling out, or losing control when riding or racing. And just because you are experienced, do not attempt tricks unless there are proper safety measures in place should you wipe out.

To learn more about dirt bike safety or to find a course near you, go to www.dirtbikeschool.org.