Posted On 06 May 2024
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This entry is part 29 of 30 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#29


We’ve all heard that from at least one of our riding mates. The question is, of course, how true is it?How many people have really laid their bike down, and how many have just crashed?

Let me address that question from personal experience.

I have crashed… a few times. I have also laid my bike down, deliberately and knowing what I was doing… twice.

Or maybe one and a half times. Or one and two halves times, if I include the time I dropped the WLA in… was it Pyrmont? No, I was on my way to Pyrmont. It was in George Street, in the heart of Sydney.

It was, as you would expect, a dark and stormy night. I had, as you would expect, imbibed a few sherbets. I swear I was under the limit, but then again that was .08 in those days. So I mounted the bike outside the Fortune of War, gave the requisite two kicks, found TDC, turned on the ignition and kicked it to life. All went well up George Street, but when I turned into Market Street I hit a diesel slick.

I did not lay the bike down in this case – at least not as such. But I did have the presence of mind to clamber aboard its left-hand side as it spun on its side in the diesel, and sit there like a monkey on a hand organ. This was enough to get me a handsome round of applause from bystanders, and a burn the size of a cigarette packet on my backside from the cooling fin of the rear cylinder head.

So okay, no, not a case of laying it down. Not even a half, really.

The next one was a bit closer to a lay-down, even if it was more misery than misere. It was in Darling Street, Balmain and I was on my way home to my “wretched little fl at above a store” in East Balmain aboard my Cossack (well, somebody had to buy them! And boy, were they cheap!). Just opposite the bowling club, an old geezer in a beautifully polished Kingswood pulled out of one of the tiny side streets that led up from the Colgate factory, saw me and froze. He was halfway across the intersection. I don’t know if he thought the Russians had landed or what, but he was definitely not coping.

The trouble was that this only left me a foot or so in front of his bumper to get past him. I tried to stuff the Cossack into the space, but as I turned, the rear wheel came around and started to slide. Yes, the tyres really were crap; they were made for distance, not for speed. I could see I wasn’t going to make the gap so I pushed the bike further around, at which point it fell over. I had been hoping that it would stay off the deck and maybe jump the kerb, but on sober consideration afterwards realised that that would almost certainly have meant a highside, with me being propelled into the wall of the bowling club at some speed.

Laying it down was a far better option; the bike and I slid into the side of the car and put a dent into its immaculate driver’s door, but apart from that there were only a few scrapes on the bike’s crash bar.

The geezer was another matter; we had to pry his fingers off the steering wheel and lift his frozen body out of the car…

Maybe we can give that a half. You will have realised by now that the only reason I’m carrying on about “halves” is that I don’t have a whole bunch of deliberate lay downs to write about. But there had been a full-on example, a few years earlier.

I was the proud owner of a Royal Enfield Crusader Super Sports Clubman 250, a bike as unreliable as its name was long and its pedigree British. Actually, of course, I’d love to still have it. With its Avon Speedflow fairing it was as pretty a motorcycle as I’d ever seen, let alone owned. One advantage it had was that it was reasonably well protected from damage when dropped; possibly a result of its racing heritage. But Joe Lucas, the Prince of Darkness, provided the electrics and so, among other failings, it had a constant loss electrical system. As a result, I had to bump start it every morning to go to work.

On this morning I was pushing for all I was worth, but it was taking somewhat longer than usual for the single cylinder to fire. When it finally did, the throttle slide stuck fully open. I was getting towards the corner that marked the end of the narrow little street in Surry Hills where I lived– when a cab came around that corner. So there I was, roaring down on this cab with no room to get past it, lying on the Enfield like Rollie Free (except wearing more clothes) and unable to reach the ignition key, which was hidden inside the fairing. Needless to say the bike didn’t have a kill switch.

I had to lay it down, and that’s just what I did… I promise.

Peter “The Bear”

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