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This Mouse Needs Rider Skills Training

Narrow squeaks

Yikes, Doc, get it together! This is why the rest of us soak up all the rider skills training we can get.

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.

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