Down there where rubber meets road

The irony of a little prang last week is that I was heading to the pharmacist to fill my regular blood-pressure medication prescription.

The Afrikaans have a wonderful saying that, when translated, boils down to “I know the difference between crap and butter… and this ain’t butter”.

There is no potentially calamitous situation that can develop so suddenly that there isn’t time for the thought to flash through your head though sometimes, if disaster is particularly imminent, it can be abbreviated to a single four-letter word.

I had time for both last week when a young man turned a bakkie at right angles in front of me and my motorcycle, a wonderful 225kg BMW R1200GS adventure bike named Miz Rose, and stopped dead. It was at the latter moment that the expletive version of the Afrikaner’s prophesy of impending doom registered.

I’d seen the kid approaching from the front and indicate his intention to turn across me into the driveway of what I can only assume is his parents’ home.

Picture: Jim Freeman/MotorradSA
Picture: Jim Freeman/MotorradSA

Close encounter on the residential road

It being a residential area, I was already doing only about 40km/h and – because I automatically assume the worst from other road users when I’m on a bike – slowed further.

There was nothing I could do when, less that 20 metres apart and his eyes locked on mine, he made his move and stopped when he was completely blocking my side of the road. If you’ve ever run full tilt into a wall at about 20km/h, you’ll know it’s an experience not to be repeated or recommended. That’s what the effect of t-boning this bakkie would have been, with the added joy of being catapulted forward and having the handlebars slam into my pelvis or thighs.

(Researching an article on accidents last year, I was told casualty staff could tell the kind of bike people had been riding from the nature of their worst injuries: adventure bike, upper leg to lower ribcage; damage from midriff to chest meant a cruiser; broken necks and crushed skulls for roadbikes.)

I missed him… only because 48 years of biking experience caused me not just to brake hard but to drop Miz Rose on her side and slide. Still, as the Duke of Wellington said after the battle of Waterloo, it was a close-run thing. I’m no saint on a motorcycle and, over the decades, I’ve come off many times with varying degrees of severity.

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Picture: Jim Freeman/MotorradSA
Picture: Jim Freeman/MotorradSA

Navigating traffic and near misses

Only two incidents, however, have included other vehicles (including last week) and just one involved appreciable contact. “But I indicated I was changing lanes,” she wailed as I lay on the ground awaiting the arrival of an ambulance. What she didn’t say was that I was right alongside her when she switched… or that she was on her phone when she did so. I confess, too, that I filter between the lanes in peak-hour freeway traffic. My defensive driving techniques, though, get switched to hyperdrive and I never go above third gear.

Picture: Jim Freeman/MotorradSA
Picture: Jim Freeman/MotorradSA

Few things horrify me more than seeing a motorcycle flying between two solid streams of slow-moving traffic at 120km/h simply because that’s the posted speed limit. All it takes is someone in a “cage” – biker parlance for a car – to spot a half-gap and, before you know it, there’s bits of bike and rider heading at great speed up an exhaust pipe en route to the manifolds. Still, I think there are few better ways to explore the countryside than on a bike and while I put the bike down, the incident won’t put me down.

The irony of my little prang last week is that I was heading to the pharmacist to fill my regular blood-pressure medication prescription. He peered at me quite queerly and I looked down to where blood was trickling from tar-grazes on my elbow and knee. I also knew – because this has happened before – that I was going into muscle shock and had probably broken at least one rib. “You’d better add some painkillers,” I said.

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