Posted On 29 Apr 2024
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This entry is part 28 of 29 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#28


Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you. So they say on Wall Street. Over this way it’s more likely that some days the Bear eats the road, and some days the road eats the Bear.

Yes, I know there are people who have never crashed. I am not one of them.

Here’s one I remember only by proxy.

I had already had two flats in the rear tyre on my Cossack 650 on the way up to my Mother’s for Christmas, so I should probably have guessed that I’d have another one. But Optimism is my middle name (it isn’t really, my middle name is Richard) so I was bowling along at a decent speed, or at least as decent a speed as the Cossack was capable of,outside Ballina on Christmas Eve when the tyre let go again.

This presented me with a problem.

The road was two-lane blacktop, and there was quite a lot of holiday traffic coming the other way. There was also a party of caravanners pulled up on the shoulder to my left. All I could really do was try to keep the bike upright and thread the needle between oncoming metal and stationary plywood. I apparently did that successfully for a few metres, until we were past the last (or perhaps I should say first) caravan, but by then the pendulum effect of the fl at rear tyre was so strong that when I did pull over, the bike went down with some considerable force and slammed my head into the gravel.

The Bear eats the road.

I woke up two days later – missed my Mother’s Christmas dinner – in Ballina Hospital. I had been awake in a kind of way, but not conscious; all I did was ask what time it was and then black out again. I had forgotten everything up to and including ten minutes or so before the crash, although some of it came back.

I’m glad I was wearing my good helmet, a Shoei.

Here’s one that I do remember.

I’m high in the central mountain ranges of Corsica, coming up on a hairpin to the left. I can’t see the road there because there’s thick bush growing right up to the edge. My rental BMW F 700 GS is coping well with the half-tar, half-gravel and all leaf litter road and I’m setting myself up for a smooth turn when a small car comes around the corner at a fair clip. I make an assessment of our relative trajectories and decide that I’m aimed straight at his left headlight.

This is no good.

I flip the bike upright and counter-steer for all I’m worth and the projected point of impact changes from my front wheel to my left knee.

Still no good. Possibly worse.

I flip the bike more or less onto its right side and the car’s headlight hits my left-hand pannier with a resounding bang as I go down. Later I discover that the pannier has fl own some twenty feet into the bush at the side of the road;

for the time being all I know is that I’m sliding along with the right-hand side of the BMW building up a bow wave of leaf litter and gravel, while the tarred part of the surface grinds away at my leg. Fortunately I am wearing my Touratech Compañero suit, which takes the damage without passing any of it on to my leg, or for that matter my elbow.

The road eats the Bear.

See? Some days the… oh yes, of course, on some days – fortunately most days – nobody eats anything, or for that matter vice versa. Or at least you don’t. For your friends it may be a different matter…

We were on our way up to Newcastle on a Friday night after the pub, to a keg. A thick fog covered the old Pacific Highway – which wasn’t the old anything in those days, because the freeway didn’t exist – and we were actually riding fairly carefully. This was in no small part because several of the blokes were on English bikes, which had just the kind of headlights you would expect from Joe Lucas, the Prince of Darkness. Several people were relying on following the taillight of a BSA Spitfire, which was quite amazingly bright.

Its headlight wasn’t, though, and when the Spitty rider misjudged a corner and left the road, the other bikes went with him. I still remember the wild patterns their headlights painted into the fog as they bounced around in the bush and progressively fell over.

Who was eating whom there? Who knows?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

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