Duke's Den – You Can't Help Getting Older…

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

But you don't have to get old!

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”

—George Burns

Birthdays used to be full of big dreams and far-off aspirations as milestone years – 16, 18, 21, 30, 40 – were clicked off. Today is yet another anniversary of my birth, and I’m realizing that my outlook on life and living has been metamorphosing.

I was jarred into this transformation two weeks ago when I fell and broke my hip. Yes, my hip – such a typical injury for old people that it’s become a cliche. Okay, so I didn’t fracture the bone slipping on spilled Metamucil or anything, but neither was it anything glorious like a lowside while trying to outbrake another racer for a roadracing championship.

The origin of my injury became somewhat controversial. I had taken my kid out for a spin on her new inline skates at our local park. As a former hockey player, I’m quite adept at rollerblading, and I was enjoying the graceful feeling of arcing a corner while skating backward on a handball court – it’s a lean-into-a-turn feeling akin to riding motorcycles. Then, suddenly, a stray rock removed all grace from my lean, and I crashed down on my left hip. There was pain, of course, but I’d been hurt worse. However, some yet-undetermined damage to my chassis prevented me from getting back to my feet.

Duke’s Den: Risk/Reward

So I call up my wife to tell her to dust off my old walker and bring it to the park for me. A fracture to the femoral neck of my hip required three new screws to be added to my internal hardware collection and two nights in the hospital. It also forced me to bow out of a much-anticipated shootout in which we’d be riding sporty bikes to Monterey and back.

I began to hate rollerblades, and the injury elicited some internal controversy for me. Is an activity like inline skating too dangerous for a dude past middle age? Skateboards? And, if so, how old does one have to be before hanging up their moto card? That’s a question I hadn’t pondered during my first 40 years of riding, and it has profound ramifications for what is expected for and from a well-considered life.

Closing up my hip required my first foray into staples…

Dirt riding is among the most fun things that can be done with clothes on, and it’s how I fell in love with motorcycles, so I certainly can’t give that up. After all, riding off-road doesn’t have to involve pushing limits to exceedingly high risk factors. Riding motocross, however, poses more frequent threats to bones, so perhaps I don’t need to bring my screwed-up hip to another MX track.

I’ve largely kept away from motocross since I exploded my ankle at Glen Helen back in 2003 after coming up short on a double and landing on the face of the next jump. Four surgeries and six long months of non-weight-bearing non-action were tough to take, but I was at least able to avoid the amputation idea that was bandied about when my wounds were painfully slow to heal. Thirteen years later, I’m still getting physiotherapy to treat range of motion restricted by about 70%.

Just five months after demolishing my ankle, and still with a walking cast on my leg (necessitating the odd oversized footwear), I was riding Ortega Highway at the domestic launch of Ducati’s 2003 Multistrada. I had to keep lifting my right foot off the peg so it wouldn’t drag in corners.

I had to flash back to the 2012 Husqvarna media launch to determine the last time I tackled the challenge of a motocross track. And, even then, I also had to test trail bikes that day, so my time on the fairly mild vet-style track (a replica of the old Carlsbad circuit) was less than two hours. Would I like to ride another MX track in the future? Yes, definitely. Do I want to bust up another ankle or hip? No!

But can’t I do one without the other? Possibly…

These are things I pondered while laid up on the couch last weekend. Instead of being at Laguna Seca for the World Superbike races with a portion of the MO crew as part of a cool multi-bike shootout, I had to resort to tuning in to BEin Sports coverage on the tube. While I’m happy that Greg White’s commentary is sounding better than ever and Jason Pridmore is proving to be the most astute color guy among the several former racers who have tried with middling success to fill that tough job, I instead was wishing I was riding sporting motorbikes up Highways 33, 58 and 1 with my boys to see the races in person.

So, if I’m wishing I was riding motorcycles while enduring a throbbing but mending hip, it’s safe to say that I’ll be back aboard a bike just as soon as possible! We all have to determine how risk will or won’t rule our lives. While it’s true I could one day break a hip when crashing a motorcycle, the pain of living an inauthentic life and not riding would be too much to bear.

Anyway, I guess I’m still not convinced I see a good reason to act my age. That might actually make me old. Ride on! They say the first 50 years of childhood are the toughest…

Kevin Duke
Kevin Duke

More by Kevin Duke

Join the conversation
2 of 34 comments
  • James Stewart James Stewart on Jul 16, 2016

    Duke - really? That's the best cover story you can come up with? Dang man - I would have fabricated something involving Glen Helen, a KTM450SX, and making a last lap pass to win the REM Championship or something...After careful study, I have determined that males over 50 re-living the glory of their teen years do more to support the American orthopedic surgeons/Physical Therapists than any other demographic. So we need to keep it up - otherwise the entire American medical system will collapse !

  • Ozzy Mick Ozzy Mick on Jul 17, 2016

    Get better and back on a bike, any bike, quick smart Duke.
    Looking at the last piccie, I now know where the Motogp guys learnt their leg-hanging out technique from.