By Ed Brock
Floyd Eure had been riding motorcycles since he was 16 and considered himself a safe rider to the point of being paranoid.
On Sept. 24 his most paranoid concerns became reality as he was on his way to Home Depot to get some screws to fix his front porch.
Traveling north on Interstate 75 on his 2002 Honda CBR900, a cycle he'd owned for about five months, the 35-year-old McDonough man made contact with another vehicle near the Ga. Highway 138 exit and he hit the pavement. It was his first major accident on a motorcycle.
"I never expected that to happen," Eure said.
Eure suffered a badly broken arm, internal injuries and a bad case of "road rash," scrapes and cuts over the part of his body that scraped along the asphalt like cheese on a grater.
Following the accident a helicopter ambulance flew Eure to Atlanta Medical Center where he remained last week with his wife by his side. He expected to be released this week.
But he doesn't expect to get back on a motorcycle anytime soon.
"I think that's it," Eure said. "I was scared before That's it. I'm done."
Clayton County Police found Eure to be the at fault driver and charged him with improper lane change and violation of the basic speed law. Eure said he plans to contest the charges, claiming the other driver cut him off and that he was going within the speed limit.
According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety 103 people were killed while riding motorcycles in Georgia in 2003. Of that number 12 were not wearing helmets.
Over the summer the Clayton County Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (HEAT) Unit participated in the "100 Days of Summer Heat" program. Part of that program involved four operations that specifically targeted motorcycles on the interstate, HEAT Commander Capt. Tom Israel said.
With some help from the department's police helicopter and the Georgia State Patrol, the HEAT unit issued citations to about 45 to 50 motorcycle riders. The top speed they clocked was 140 mph.
A very small percentage of motorcycle riders like to "street race," Israel said.
"When they're doing that they're not only jeopardizing themselves, they're jeopardizing the motoring public," Israel said.
The bikes pose another problem for police, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said. With their maneuverability and small size, combined with their ability to achieve high speeds, the bikes allow some criminals to escape during police chases, at least temporarily.
"But they can't outrun the radio or the helicopter," Turner said. "We always eventually catch the violator."
Sport biking is a growing enthusiasm among many kinds of people and both sexes, said Mike Skelton, an avid sport tour biker and sales assistant for Moto Sports on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro.
"It's more a camaraderie thing than racing," Skelton said of the kind of bikers who buy expensive, fast Japanese sports motorcycles that gather at Atlanta hot spots like the Vortex in Little Five Points and the ESPN Zone in Buckhead.
But then there are also those who get some suspension and brake upgrades and go racing.
"They'll have a course laid out in north Georgia and the loser buys the beer," Skelton said.
But what Skelton likes to do is take off from his home in Conyers and head north, have lunch in Tennessee, cruise through South Carolina and then head home the same day. The trip costs him roughly $30 in gasoline.
His bike of choice is the Honda CBR1100 XX, known in Europe as the Super Blackbird.
"It's a big, comfortable, powerful smooth machine," Skelton said.
The route he takes is common among bikers, with challenging twists and turns on mountain roads. But the best place to go is "Deals Gap," a.k.a. "the Tail of the Dragon," on State Highway 129 in Tennessee.
"If you live in the Southeast you need to go to Deals Gap at least once," Skelton said. "If you want to test your mettle on a sports bike, that's where you go."
Of course, Skelton added that people die there every year.
But in 27 years of riding, 47-year-old Skelton said he's never had a serious crash.
"I've fallen off plenty of dirt bikes, but I've never crashed a street bike," Skelton said. "I've had some close calls but I've just been lucky."
Skelton drives aggressively but he says that he has good skills and good depth perception. He also keeps his cycle in good condition, and he emphasizes the need for good tires with good pressure. Low pressure makes the bike awkward in turns and slow in steering.
And he recommends highly that anybody who is interested in buying a sport bike take the course offered by the Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program. It teaches basic operation and advanced techniques such as threshold braking and counter steering.
The closest GMSP course is held at Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park.
As for just how fast the bikes can go, Skelton's bike can go from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds and has a maximum recorded speed of 182 mph. For comparison to sports cars, a 2005 Chevrolet Corvette weighs 3,118 pounds and its engine generates around 400 horsepower, giving it a pounds to horsepower ratio of around 8 to 1.
Skelton's cycle weighs 530 pounds and generates 130 horsepower, giving it a ratio in the neighborhood of 3 to 1.
"Yes, these machines will outrun and out-handle any car out there," Skelton said.
With current technology street bikes these days have the ability of racing bikes from 10 years ago, Skelton said.
But Skelton and others are very dubious about reports of a Minnesota man who police there say was clocked going 205 mph on a 2002 Honda RC51 in September.
"On a good day (the Honda RC51) will go 165 mph," Skelton said.
Down the road at Tara Motor Sports, part-time employee and sport bike rider Jeremy Dorris of Jonesboro said he doubted the story, too. His Yamaha R-1 is supposed to go 186 mph.
"But that's what the book says. I can't say I've done that or nowhere near it," Dorris said.
Dorris, 26, said he's been riding for 10 years and is very cautious.
"It's just the rush I get out of it," Dorris said. "Not having four doors around you and kind of feeling free."
He's not like some riders who buy outfits that are color coordinated with their bikes. He also doesn't do modifications to his bike to give it more speed.
"I usually just put a pipe on it to get a good sound out of it," Dorris said.
Dorris said he's taken a motorcycle safety course, and Eure said he's taken safety courses, too.
"All bikers are not bad," Eure said. "Some guys are crazy but most guys use common sense because they don't want to die."