It’s just old biker suspicion- or is it?

Many of us old bike owners have heard about it- the curse of the green motorcycle. If you rode a green motorbike, it was thought that you were more likely to get hurt or killed on it. Minimal secondary research on the topic performed by me hypothesized that green bikes were used in wars, hence their association with death or injury. I was never scared by this supposed “curse,” although maybe I should have been.

In August of 2016, I went through my second divorce. As is typical when two people who have been married for thirteen years get divorced, there was a big selldown of stuff, including our nearly 6000 square foot house and a bunch of cars. Eventually, after a short stint living in the one bedroom apartment attached to my then shop,  I landed by myself (with my two youngest girls part-time) in a brand new, smaller house we had built to resell. And while I still had a number of motorcycles- a 2012 Honda CB 1100 with Yoshimura exhaust, superbike bars, and a custom body-colored front fender; a Sportster 883 cafe racer with alloy tank, clip-ons, rearsets, humped seat, gaitered forks, and XR 1200 exhaust; a couple 1960s Benellis- a 175 and 250; and a nearly new 1200 H-D Sportster “72” with 12” extended forks and a raked triple tree among other modifications- I still thought I needed to get myself the bike I REALLY wanted: a brand new 2016 Triumph Thruxton 1200. So a few months after the post-divorce financial dust settled and I had more riding time and wasn’t yet completely broke, I started my search.

Tell me an ad like this wouldn’t give you a severe case of wanderlust. Photo by Triumph.

To say I love the looks of these bikes is an understatement. For starters, you could get one in British Racing Green. That color has always caused me to lose all rationality when it comes to vehicle purchases. The absolute worst automotive decision I ever made a few years later was trading my perfect black with brown full leather interior, factory wide body  2003 Porsche 911 C4S with five-spoke Fuchs replica wheels on it for a turbocharged British Racing Green 1999 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur. But that story will have to be for somewhere other than Road Dirt…

Anyway, back to the Triumph Thruxton. I loved everything about these bikes. They have beautiful wheels, forks and suspension, and that vertical twin motor with polished cases is itself a work of art!

We don’t have a Triumph dealership where I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but I located a bike in my beloved British Racing Green at one of the coolest motorcycle dealers in the country, Moto Europa, in downtown St. Louis. For those who don’t know about Moto Europa, it is the hobby business of Steve Smith, a St. Louis architect and real estate developer who is also a major vintage European bike collector and lifelong rider. They sell Triumph, Ducati, and Vespa, among other brands, and are attached to a hotel  that Smith owns with a Triumph-themed restaurant and small motorcycle museum featuring some of Smith’s eclectic collection. It’s an awesome place to visit if you haven’t been there!

The bike of my dreams. Or so I thought.

After several phone calls, I struck a deal with their sales guy, an old road racer himself, for the Thruxton. I had to get mine with the factory body-colored Dunstall fairing option and lower clip-ons, and it took a few weeks for them to get the parts and install them. So by early December, the bike was finally ready to pick up.

My buddy Sam Spelts, who also worked for our design-build construction & development company at that time in the role of “Jack of All Trades” (that was the actual title on his business card!) and a lifelong motorcycle aficiando who helped me with all of my projects back then, headed up to St. Louis with me on a beautiful December morning to pick up the bike. We grabbed a ramp and some tiedowns, and Sam drove my company-supplied F150 the entire 350-mile trip landing us there around 1 pm in the afternoon.

There it was, in the delivery area of the showroom, glistening in all of its new bike perfection!  I’m one of those guys who strives for perfection in all things (well, at least I used to be—can’t claim that now) and this bike was that. The only thing missing were some super cool enameled British Flag emblems I bought in anticipation of the bike’s arrival, which I installed the moment we got it home and off the truck!

My proud pose with the gorgeous, newly-purchased Thruxton.

So we completed all the paperwork and loaded it up onto the truck, and by 3 pm or so were back on the road to Fayetteville. Sam drove fast and we didn’t stop but once, and by 8 pm or so we unloaded the Thruxton in the driveway. I think I rode it up my street and back a couple times but it was getting cold and dark so I didn’t get to test the thing out much. That said, I was impressed with the brute torque of that 1200 cc mill and that night I fantasized about the rides I would soon be taking on it.

The next day, I did my time at the office but by mid-afternoon, it was one of those rare sunny 60-degree December days we sometimes get here in Northwest Arkansas and I was itching to get out for a quick ride on my new bike. So I ditched the office and headed back to the house (only about a mile away) and put on my leather riding jacket with all its armor in place and got on the Trumph for a short ride around town. It had a full tank of gasoline and fired right up and I took off on it to see how it felt.

My initial impressions were it was geared high- higher than most other bikes I’d ridden- and the steering was slow. This thing was designed to go fast, that’s all there was to it. And the turning radius on it was surprisingly wide for a modern motorcycle. It was kind of hard to maneuver when parked compared to my Honda. But I loved it.

Begging to be ridden, so I obliged.

So I rode around town, blasting it wherever I had the space to do so as the students from The University of Arkansas where I teach had already mostly left town. College towns are always especially nice when the students leave. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but you can park everywhere and never have to wait for a table at your favorite dining and drinking establishment. Plus some of them aren’t great drivers- particularly those Texans that we have so many of here now, as I was about to find out.

As I blasted east down Lafayette Avenue on my brand new motorcycle, suddenly a black Infinity sedan shot out of a downhill side street about 20 feet ahead of me. In all fairness, cars were parked on Lafayette and it’s hard to see past them. I was going about 35 when suddenly there he was. I locked up the antilock brakes on the Triumph but it was too late. I nearly missed him but didn’t. I smacked right into the left rear quarter panel of that Infinity and nearly ripped the rear bumper cover off. I also crushed the last two fingers of my left hand between my clutch lever and handlebar when I hit the car. I didn’t fall off the bike. There it sat, with its fluids leaking out all over the street, with me on it. The 19 year old driver felt terrible. He knew it was his fault. I was in shock. My brand-new bike was ruined, on her maiden voyage. I wasn’t even thinking about my hand which was seriously injured and bleeding all over the place.

Some of the crash damage that we snapped while still at the scene. No pictures of my mangled left fingers.

While I sat on the bike I called my friend (and future wife, BTW) who ran one of my businesses and told her I was in an accident. I couldn’t accurately describe where I was but babbled long enough that she figured it out. Our office was only blocks away and she was there in a flash to get me. After I got interviewed by the police officer on the scene and the tow truck arrived for my bike, she took me to the local clinic where my hand was X-rayed and the doctor told me my fingers were broken in multiple places.

Over the next couple of months I had two hand surgeries and a bunch of physical therapy. My fingers got pinned together and infected, and the recovery took longer than it should have. The kid’s insurance company took care of the medical bills, but I never regained full use of my hand.

Bikes can be replaced, but it wasn’t the same anymore.

Of course, I had to replace the bike with another one just like it. It took four or five months to get one in and get it set up like the first one, British flag emblems and all. This time I had it delivered to Fayetteville. By the time it arrived it was Spring, and the weather was perfect for riding. The first good weekend I had without kids I took a Sunday ride to scenic Eureka Springs and back, 111 miles round trip.

But I’m sad to say I didn’t like the bike. Maybe it was because of my crash, but I just didn’t feel safe on it. My Honda CB1100 just seemed so much more nimble and better balanced. I never rode that Triumph again. I put it up for sale on eBay and moved it. And now I know the meaning of the curse of the green bike!



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  1. Lance Oliver

    I never owned a green motorcycle (though I’d be sorely tempted by something nice in BRG, and for a while I considered a lime green Z900RS Cafe) and I never believed in the curse. But damn, that’s one unlucky (and brief) ownership story.

    • Rob Brooks

      I’m not superstitious either, but Mark’s story,…


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