A series of unfortunate events could be the title of my life at the moment, from not getting paid to not riding the bike for a while, those are just a few of things that have built up for me in the last couple of months. This has led me to take a look at why things just seem to go from bad to worse and how we sometimes do and don't pick up on the clues around us. It can't all be luck, good or bad, so I thought I would take a bit of time to just ramble though the woods of my mind, waffle on a bit and ponder this issue.
Let's take one day some time ago when things went from mildly annoying to life threateningly dangerous, it started with a mysterious misfire on my then ride, which I had bought for a ridiculously cheap price from a friend of mine called Wobbly Bob, it went like a scalded cat but handled like a stoned badger on an ice rink, it was a Kawasaki Z1000ST with stage 2 Moriwaki conversion, it had been bored out to 1175cc with an almost straight through exhaust and Z9 bars. The misfire drove me mad for a few hours then just disappeared, on taking it out for a test run it immediately managed to get a puncture in the rear wheel. 30 minutes later the puncture is fixed and I start off again only to coast to a stop as the engine died completely. Puffing, panting and generally unhappy I pushed the bike back to our workshop in Leatherhead and shouted at it for a bit. Brian then leaned over and pointed out that the vacuum pipe for the petrol tap was hanging down under the tank… after shouting at myself for a bit I tried once more and was rewarded with a run down to Boxhill that, aside from the iffy handling, was good fun.
On returning home as I pulled back into the garage I dropped the damn thing by not making sure the side stand was completely down, no damage except to my pride and the fact that half a dozen mates were standing there pissing themselves laughing. Being a Wednesday it was decided to have a run later to the Mucky Duck (The Black Swan) for a pint, so I headed off home to get dinner and around 8pm I thought it was time to head off for the pub. So I head out for the M25 at Junction 9 and quickly blasted along up to around 125mph just to check the engine was not misfiring anymore, coming to the slight uphill section, a line of lorries was completely filling the inside lane off into the distance, so I had dropped my speed down to around 70mph to enjoy the ride as the traffic was getting a bit heavier. I glanced in my mirror and noticed a black Lexus? (Maybe) with a bloke on his mobile (flash for them days and about the size of a brick) very close, he was about a cars length behind me and I was just going to pull away from him to open the gap when the engine misfired, a slight feeling of panic wafted over me, if the engine died he would run into the back of me before he had a chance to react. So I cracked open the throttle in the hope I could clear the fault, the bike took off and as the revcounter hurtled across the dial I moved into the outside lane and shut the throttle down a bit, nothing… it didn't move, the bike was still accelerating, I glanced at the speedo which was approaching the 135mph mark and tried to pull in the clutch, that didn't move either!
The bike was still running as if the throttle was fully open, I squeezed the brakes to try and reduce speed to get near the hard shoulder, as the speed dropped to nearer the 100mph mark flames suddenly appeared between my legs… I let go of the brakes… I had a full tank, about 4 gallons of fuel on board!! Because of the lorries in the nearside lane I had no chance of getting on to the grass verge at this speed and there was now vapour coming from the fuel cap and my arse shouted, "Get off now!" so I jumped…
The idea was to jump straight up on the pegs and let the bike go its merry way, bend me knees and roll with the impact, I should have realised this was not my day, as I tried this the bars twisted in my hands and sort of Irish‑whipped me over the bars in front of the bike, which promptly crashed on top of me, I looked at this flaming lump of metal that was crushing my ankle into the tarmac and put my hands down on the road to try and drag myself from under the bike, this worked but I was still moving at well over the speed limit as my right glove was torn off and I watched a line of my skin and blood appear on the tarmac, the bike carried on down the motorway and as I came to a stop I realised I was still in the fast lane! I half dragged half rolled myself under the barrier of the central reservation as cars came pass with brakes squealing. As I lay under the barrier there was an almighty "wooommppphhh" not an explosion as I had expected, like someone slapping their hands over your ears as the bike blew up, it covered both sides of the M25 in burning petrol.
Laying there, I could not feel my right leg from the knee down, my left arm would not move and as I raised my right hand to lift my visor I took one look and put it down again, I could see it had no fingertips, part of the palm was missing and I could see tendons and bones in the wrist joint. I thought I would just keep still and wait for an ambulance. Strangely at this time I felt no pain, just numbness all over. I heard someone shout, "Quick, get his helmet off!", I shouted back "If you touch me I'll fucking kill you!" and someone else then knelt down and asked if I was alright! Silly bastard! Things got a bit hazy after that, and the next thing I can clearly remember is being put onto a backboard, then as I was put in the ambulance the pain hit, I never want to feel like that again.
Final score, shattered collar bone, ground off right kneecap, ripped and torn right hand/wrist, just under a pound of flesh gone from right buttock, and an unbelievable number bits of flesh removed from various bits that hit the deck; both ankles, elbows, and shoulders. You name it, I scrubbed it; and I truly believe the Aria Giga I was wearing saved my life. The only things salvageable off the bike were the front brake callipers and, weirdly, the tail light bulbs. I found out a few months later that one of the cameras on the M25 had videoed the last few seconds of the accident, I declined the offer of a copy.
The point of this tale is to try and decide at what point I should have written the day off as a bad one, do you think that maybe the bike had been warning me all day with its little foibles. I don't believe in fate or any other of that predestined shite, if life is predestined then there is no point to it. Yet somewhere in the back of my mind I do feel that something was warning me not to use the bike that day, do I heed those warnings these days? Nope, because I only recognise them as warnings in hindsight and that's where this all becomes annoying, you have all had the feeling when riding that you know something is wrong, sometimes it's a slight tremor through the bars that indicates the bike isn't that well, sometimes it's a feeling that you should slow down or turn off of the road you are on, mostly I think we take those feelings seriously and do consciously or unconsciously change the route, slow down or stop the bike and take a look at what could be wrong.
To illustrate this I was once chasing a mate on our Bonnies through Battersea one night, when Dave just pulled over and stopped, I pulled in behind him and as I did a car came straight through the lights we would have been stopped at and smashed into the shop on the corner, he would have taken us out had we not stopped 50 yards short of the lights, Dave could not explain why he stopped and was completely puzzled. I have no explanation either and probably never will. We hear about this kind of thing all the time, but it is nearly always in hindsight we realise what has happened, realise is the wrong word we associate the event with the warning after the fact, although how many times do we have the feeling and nothing happens, as bikers our senses are much more attuned to the world around us, we have to be if we want to survive out there, millions of tiny little bits of information are processed through our brains every millisecond and even more when we are riding at speed, this subconscious information is also processed as move through the day, stuff that we never realise we had even picked up on consciously, it must be enormous amount, we could never bring that information to the forefront of our minds as our conscious minds would collapse under the pressure of it all. It's like breathing, totally automatic and hidden in the background.
So do we really sometimes have visions or thoughts that are warnings of future events? Do our brains process unconscious information then past it on as a felling of unease? Or is it all just co‑incidence? I don't know but I wish it worked with the lottery numbers…