About this time of year, you hear about the injuries riders are suffering from as the season gets into full swing. It’s always a tragedy to hear a rider going down with a major injury but the more involved you are in racing, the more common it is. Unfortunately, if you’re going to ride a bike, you’re going to fall off a bike, so injury is par for the course.
One thing you never hear about is the injuries sustained to mechanics. Often by mid-season, there are tents full of wounded mechanics bravely soldiering on and doing their duty on the pressure washer and the pit board. For those not in the know, below is a list of the top five off-bike injuries incurred by anyone who works on a dirtbike.
5. Contact cleaner in the eye
Pain factor: 9/10
Sideline time: 10 seconds
There you are, cleaning out a throttle housing or maybe flushing out a clutch cable and using the contact cleaner can at top strength. Suddenly, a rogue droplet of contact cleaner hits a hard surface on the bike, bounces back and strikes you in the eye like a Tyson left hook. Totally unprepared as you never saw it coming, you drop to the ground in immediate pain.
You’re like a cockroach stunned by a wave of Mortein, floundering on the garage floor and hollering in pain. It hurt like hell and there’s no obvious remedy. You can’t grab a rag as you can’t even see and if you did find one, you’d smear grease and dirt across your face. But then, as quickly as it came, it disappears. The contact cleaner dissolves and suddenly your eyesight is the best it’s ever been. The years of built-up grime are washed away and it’s like you have X-ray vision. But the previous 10 seconds of hell have scarred you for life and the next time your grab a can of contact cleaner you also don a pair of goggles and a 21-pack of laminated tear-offs.
4. Accidental Burning
Pain Factor: 8/10
Sideline time: 1 week
Everyone knows a motor is hot after it’s been running but often in the heat of battle, when things need to be done quickly, many forget. And it’s not just the motor; I dare you to touch a shock body after a 20-minute moto by any capable rider. So you want to check ride height straight after a moto or you’re testing pipes and you think you’ve given it enough time to cool down. Wrong! It’s still damn hot and the skin of your palms welds itself to the metal you’re touching. In the nanosecond you have your hands on said hot part, your hands start to blister like you’ve done a handstand on your barbecue.
You might think the smart mechanics wear gloves. Wrong again; they’re the ones who’ve already burnt themselves to a crisp from doing any of the above and now take precautions because they know they just can’t help themselves if a rider pulls in mid-moto for some kind of engine change.
3. Skinned knuckles
Pain Factor: 7.5/10
Sideline time: 1 day
You have your 12mm spanner in one hand, an 8mm Allen key in the other and it’s time to switch out the rear chain wheel. You can call it a sprocket if you like. Things are going well and everything’s under control until you don’t quite get full grip on the Allen key, it slips and your knuckles slide down the razor-like 50-tooth rear chain wheel that you should’ve changed 15 hours ago. The fact that you were too lazy to change it earlier has only made the teeth sharper and they slice through your knuckles with ease. Blood starts flowing like a river and the new sprocket you bolt up is now a two-tone red and silver. And just when the job is complete and you think the worst is over, you wash your hands and the ugly incident is suddenly brought back to life in a double dose of pain.
2. Tyre Lever to the Head
Pain Factor: 8.5/10
Sideline time: 2 days
No one likes changing tyres. It’s a crap job and most of us rush through it as fast as humanly possible. The inexperienced tyre changer tries to speed things up by going for big levers and even bigger bites of the tyre when trying to remove the old hoop. With a lever big enough to re-hoop a Kenworth and hoping to get the tyre off with just four swings of the levers, suddenly the cheeks of our tyre changer are in danger.
Rubber is called that for a reason. So when a big chunk of rubber isn’t exactly levered into shape, it rebounds back into place quickly. When the rubber recoils into place, the 30cm lever is then catapulted back and no one within a 15-metre radius is safe. The most common landing place of the lever is usually the left cheek of the pilot driving the lever and it usually leaves a divot — in your head. The lesson to be learnt here is to go for small bites of the tyre and keep the levers under control.
1. Finger stabbing
Pain Factor: 6/10
Sideline time: Get back to work, you pussy
It’s time to do the top end on your rocket. The head is off and you grab a little pick to get the circlips out to remove the old piston. Then the pick slips and stabs your finger like it’s a Coles BBQ pork thin-slice sausage. After the shock of stabbing yourself, the pain is bearable but blood flies from your finger into the bottom end of your motor and then, as you install the new slug, it’s glowing red from your life juice and the flow rate means hydraulic lock is now an issue. Then, six months later, when you need to do another piston, your blood-stained engine cases are a reminder of the ugly incident.