When I’ve had a close shave on my bike, I tend to go through a predictable repertoire of emotions.
First, I think ‘That was fine. Well handled. You managed that very well. Nice. Good.’
Then, there’s a brief moment of numbness, followed by an all-over body sweat. Reminds me of a few first dates.
The subsequent shaking can’t be allowed to develop into a tank slapper though, so I tend to switch into autopilot, pretending that I meant to swerve between parked cars and smiling nonchalantly as innocent bystanders express their admiration with their fists.
Only later, at night, do I run through events in my head and panic about all the usual stuff like target fixation and insomnia. That would be bad enough, but I also seem to start flashing back to other such triumphs of the riding art.
Like the time I decided to ride home early from work, merely because of a red ice warning. In November. In Scotland. Twenty seconds down the road, I was congratulating myself on making this mature decision. Twenty one seconds down the road I found I’d just survived a serious rear-end wash out and had convinced myself how cool my ‘drifting’ in front of a crowd of concerned mums must have looked, as they waited by the school gates. How was I to know the front end would get in on the act? I managed to convince the mothers at whose feet I fell, that I was ‘Fine, hahaha, fine’. I rode the few miles home with dna-shaped forks, adrenal glands on fire and a bruise on my hip that resembled the stars and stripes. In retrospect, it was a narrow squeak that I wasn’t arrested or sectioned. Or adopted.
A friend once had a monstrous Norton that I stupidly admired. Even more stupidly, I allowed myself to be peer pressurised onto the pillion. Of course the friend was a Formula 3 driver. Of course he ground the sidestand into the tarmac, executing a PTSD doughnut. It was a loud machine, but I still don’t believe he couldn’t hear me crying and begging for a pitstop.
On one occasion, I astutely judged a road junction to be easily wide enough for a stylish right turn, only for a nagging doubt to creep in. I managed to ride along the opposite, vertical wall for a second or two before my unconscious mind (truly the Guy Martin of ids) grabbed control. It is a much better rider than me, but hasn’t been able to get insurance.
I could talk about my gymnastic save, the day I drove onto a garage forecourt – helpfully repaired with gravel in the form of polished marbles. The crowd at Moscow state circus would not have asked for their money back. They like a good clown, I’m told.
It’s funny how the life of an adventure motorcyclist sometimes mirrors the twists and turns of a glorious, sunlit Alpine pass. But I grew up in Ireland where, two days after gaining my licence, I needed to overtake a mud-laden tractor on a narrow dirt road. A seven series BMW, Wagner blaring on the Blaupunkt, had made a similar decision, but with less clearance. My last-millisecond shoulder check saved me from a fate worse than Tom Cruise. I’m pretty sure Mr Beemer didn’t notice, but the tractor driver left a five metre skidmark. So did the tractor.