Lieback’s Lounge, December 2018: I Can Finally Breathe Thanks to a BMW F 850 GS

I was maybe 13 or 14 years old, and I was trying to impress a girl.

The goal was to launch a snowboard farther than the others that gathered on School Street—a hill my hometown borough never plowed because it was too steep for cars to safely pass when the white stuff compounded. Plus, all the neighborhood kids gathered there during snowstorms, which gave the cops a slight break; the bulk of the rowdiness was corralled into one area.

I had helped build a jump about three-quarters of a way down the hill, and I was going to hit it with every nerve I had to impress the girl. Problem was, I wasn’t a snowboarder and the board wasn’t even mine. Plus, a few locals had flasks with vodka, so I was warm but not all there.

Lieback’s Lounge: Fixing a Deviated Septum Via BMW F 850 GS
Shortly after the second nose break…flat rim and some cleaner gauze.

I successfully landed. The problem was I landed backward and horizontally, my feet gliding back and my toes eventually sliding along the smooth icy surface. Next were my knees, stomach and face. Well, nose to be exact. A trail of blood tracked my route to the bottom of the hill where, thankfully, the girl wasn’t sitting.

More vodka, and a roll of paper towels later my nose stopped bleeding. Yep, it was broken, and I had deviated my septum, which led to a life of rough breathing and snoring.

There was always a possible solution of re-breaking it, though I could never convince myself to allow a doctor to break my nose, especially since it wasn’t a guaranteed fix.

I had no plans of ever re-breaking my nose, but something interfered those plans in early November—a 2019 BMW F 850 GS. While on a press launch for BMW’s middleweight adventure-tourer near Moab, Utah, I rebroke my nose. A few days later when the swelling subsided, I was able to actually breathe normally again, something that hasn’t happened in at least 25 years since that snowboarding incident.

I didn’t crash the BMW. In fact, except for totaling an R6 during a Yamaha Champions Riding School back in 2011, I had never crashed a press bike. This was more of an extremely rough landing that destroyed the skid plate, flattened a portion of the front wire-spoked rim, and cracked all the plastic pieces holding the upper fairing and lighting together. I said never-crashed, not never-harmed.

The incident occurred after some serious technical riding. I had lost my rhythm once, but was able to quickly recover. Towards the end of a gnarly technical section, the trail opened up and so did the throttle.

Unfortunately, there was a blind descent that had a trough cut out for water at its base, something not so typical on East Coast trails. I basically rode off a five-foot ledge.

The GS bottomed out hardcore. I also smashed my Klim Krios Karbon helmet on the GPS unit and windscreen, which shook me up. I kept things pinned to keep the weight off the front, surprised at how well the bike recovered. When I met up with one of my Group A riding buddies, Ryan Adams, I was physically shaking and asking if I was bleeding.

Adams thought I was okay until I took my lid off and my nose was draining blood. The red stuff was all over the inside of my helmet. The taste was horrible—a unique mix of blood and sand, something many of us off-road riders know all too well.

While the nose was bleeding, I didn’t chip any teeth, which was my only worry.

The F 850 GS impressed with a flat front tire.
The F 850 GS impressed with a flat front tire.

As for motorcycle, the front Continental TKC 80 was completely flat. I finished the remainder of the ride to lunch, about 30 miles or so, without issue. All the water-crossing photos included in my review in this issue were taken with a flat front tire.

The rims and tires did their duty and, had I been alone, I’d be confident to ride 100 miles home. Luckily, though, BMW had another bike for me at the Sorrel River Ranch—a resort and spa overlooking the Colorado River.

As for my nose, well, it was definitely broken, swollen, and throbbing. Still, in my non-expert opinion, I was ready to finish the day’s ride.

It was supposed to be cold, so I figured I’d leave my windscreen cracked a bit. Who needs a cold compress when you have Colorado air in the 30s and some snow falling?

That kept it numb for the day. When the ride ended, wine at the hotel helped keep it numb for the remainder of the evening. Though numb, I could breathe better.

A few days after I returned to Pennsylvania, the swelling subsided and I could breathe even better—a process I totally forgot about after all these years. This brought me to my second non-expert opinion: the impact from that incident fixed my deviated septum.

I’ve always said motorcycles are magical for mending the psychological mind, and this incident further confirms that sentiment. I never knew that motorcycles were also magical for mending physical parts. I just hope I don’t have to confirm that sentiment ever again.

Photography by Kevin Wing