Two days ago I learned that IFBB professional and fitness instructor Joan Smith had unfortunately been involved in an accident. According to her own Instagram and Facebook posts, she suffered a broken leg, foot, and hand, and skin abrasions.

In response, I posted to Facebook and Instagram, wishing her a full and speedy recovery… which I reiterate here! Get well soon!

I feel Joan’s pain.

As an adventure motorcyclist and motorcycle tour leader with 40 years experience riding, I’ve had my own share of accidents and broken bones… During California Highway Patrol training, I’ve watched videos of police and medics gathering up the brains of those who rode without helmets… I’ve known some of the world’s most experienced and safety-minded riders (Sam Manicom and Ted Simon, are you listening?) be injured or killed… I’ve watched others on group tours I’ve participated in as a moto-journalist push their luck too far by trying to keep up with the fastest riders… Plus, I’ve visited motorcycle tour clients in hospital, even done a medivac, and in January 2019 had one couple (RTW riders Anabela and Jorge Valente, of DiariesOf fame) and their BMW 1200GS do a double flip somersault through the air when a dog ran across their path and hit their front wheel while they were riding downhill at speed on a tour I was leading in Cuba. (Anabela and Jorge were lucky to escape without serious injury, or worse!)

As with Anabela and Jorge, typically when things go wrong it happens in a heartbeat and is entirely beyond control. The odds of such an occurrence are multiplied many-fold when riders perform stunts on the highway.

Apparently, Joan has many years experience riding motorcycles, and likes to post images and videos of herself doing long wheelie runs on her enduro bike down Miami’s urban streets and highways. The only protective gear she wears is a helmet. She rides in gym workout clothes, with bare arms and shoulders. I’ve admired Joan for her professional accomplishments for several years. But every time I’d see her photos and videos of herself doing wheelies, I’d recall those police videos of riders who’d slid down the asphalt on their bare backs (often after attempting failed wheelies), and/or caused an accident involving innocent people. So, my reaction was: “Jeez! That’s stupid and irresponsible! Unfortunately, one day this won’t end well.”

Given that Joan mentioned “skin abrasions,” I quite reasonably assumed that she’d been involved in a motorcycle accident, possibly involving a wheelie. Thus, concerned to spread the message of “SAFETY FIRST!” to fellow riders, my Facebook and Instagram posts included one of Joan’s own videos of herself doing a 200-yard-long wheelie on the highway. I pointed out that “when you do stupid sh*t, sh*t is going to happen” and that when it does, being dressed that way is not going to be pretty when skin hits asphalt at 40mph+. I ended by suggesting that fellow motorcyclists forego doing stupid stunts like this, especially on public highways… and to remember the golden rule: ATGATT. All the gear, all the time (ie. no bare skin; wear full protective clothing every time you ride).

Unfortunately, Joan may not have seen or registered my expressed wish for her full and speedy recovery at the end of my “SAFETY FIRST” message, which I wrote with all good intent. Hence, it didn’t take long to receive a needlessly less-than-friendly Facebook message from Joan. In it, she claimed that her injuries had nothing to do with a motorcycle accident. I took her at her word and did the honorable thing: I apologized and took down my Facebook and Instagram posts.

Whatever the cause… I wish her a full and speedy recovery, and safe riding in the future!

But that doesn’t change the fact that stupid is as stupid does…

So my advice and request to Joan and fellow riders is: DON’T DO THIS! Wheelies are an accident just waiting to happen! They’re also totally irresponsible when done on public streets, where you’re likely to involve innocent people in accidents and that could lead to their being injured or worse.

SAFETY FIRST!

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Christopher P Baker

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Christopher P. Baker, one of the world's most multi-talented and successful travel writers and photographers has been named by National Geographic as one of the world's foremost authorities on Cuba travel and culture. Winner of the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 as 'Travel Journalist of the Year,' he has authored more than 30 books, leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions, Edelwiss Bike Travel, and Jim Cline Photo Tours, among other companies, and is a Getty Images and National Geographic contributing photographer.