I never thought it would happen again. Probability would state that the odds were in my favour that I wouldn’t hit a deer by motorcycle more than once. I still remember the first time, which happened 10 years ago, so vividly.
This time was different. I was riding my new KTM 790 ADV R to the local trails in Revelstoke when suddenly, out of my peripheral view, I saw two deer emerge from the roadside brush. I slowed as quickly as I could, but as I saw the deer come closer, I prepared for impact. That moment was the scariest: it’s the split-second when you realize something really bad is about to happen, and you have no choice but to endure it.
THUD! It had happened. I blinked. I was still moving on my bike. I turned my head only to see the deer behind me in the air, hurtling toward the ditch. I stopped as fast as I could, my hands shaking as I ran back to the deer. Luckily, my friend, Cheryl, who I was meeting at the trails, wasn’t far behind in her truck. All the memories and fear I had tried to bury deep from the first time I hit a deer 10 years ago came flooding back.
I was sad, outraged and mournful. I was also relieved once again that the deer was dead (which is to say, it wasn’t suffering), and that I kept the bike upright. The mix of emotions clouded my reaction: I had no idea what to do. I picked up the pieces of plastic that had shattered from my bike, and checked it over for further damage. Luckily, a side cover and the front fender were all that had broken; the front end was otherwise fine.
Cheryl and I had planned to meet some friends just up the road to ride, so I decided I would ride up to meet them, at which point I would reassess the bike. Once riding again, I realized how impressively my bike had handled the impact. Through my now-multiple experiences with hitting deer by motorcycle, the 790 felt planted and stable through the impact. It tracked well through hard braking and gave me the torque I needed to lighten up the front-end just before impact.
My friends were quick to wipe the blood off my bike and boots and tape the plastics back together. I sat for a few minutes and thought about how the rest of my day could go — I could leave my friends and ride home, park the bike, and sit at home thinking about that deer; or I could end my day with a happier outcome. I decided to salvage the day and ride with my friends. And, as we rode through the single track, my anxiety and fear dispersed. I left the weight of the near-death experience behind me with the breeze made through my momentum.
Once home, I made the dreaded call to my mom again. Surprisingly, she was much calmer the second time around, and my dad was impressed that I kept the bike up again.
I thought about it a lot after the fact. The first time I hit a deer, I was riding my Suzuki Gladius, a sporty bike, not known for plush suspension, while this time, I was on my 790 ADV R, a bike with a much beefier front suspension made for touring and serious off-roading. Even though they’re vastly different, both bikes had produced the same outcome when colliding with a deer. From what I can recollect from the collision on the 790, while riding down the road at 95 km/h, I spotted the two deer from my left, and hit both brakes, pulled in my clutch and downshifted. Once I realized I couldn’t stop and an impact was imminent, I let off on both brakes, dumped the clutch and went back on the throttle; I expect I was doing around 80 km/h when the deer and I collided.
Now, many would say I’m extremely lucky — and I have no doubts about that — but I do think there were a few things that I did instinctively to help ensure a better outcome for myself. Growing up on a dirtbike helped me gauge different terrain and obstacles, and also trained my brain to assess lines through trails. I think these were the two biggest contributing factors to my two outcomes when hitting the deer. Similar to approaching a log, I slowed my speed, then just before hitting I went on the throttle to lighten up the front-end of the bike, allowing my fork to extend and allow for compression during impact.
Regardless, I’m grateful to still be riding. I’m now working once again on getting over a fear of animals on the road.
Remember to always be alert, and take a dirtbike lesson: who knows, it might one day save your life.