Close to death – the motorbike and luck (or was it skill?)

Close to death – the motorbike and luck (Or was it skill?)


I bet there isn’t one of us who has not a tale or two about death. We delight in in telling our tales. I think they exhilarate us and make us feel more alive. I’ve had a few encounters. This is one of them.

I was chugging along on my trusty AJS 350cc, minding my own business. A 350 AJS is a nice sturdy workhorse of a bike. It’s not nippy or fast. I’d describe it more as homely and steady.

I was heading down a three lane road with a fifty MPH speed limit behind a car which was following a bus. We were all doing a steady 50 mph.

I was in no hurry.

The car in front was. He decided 50 mph was far too slow.

The car pulled out into the middle lane to overtake the bus. Coming towards us was a big lorry. A car simultaneously pulled out to overtake the lorry. The two cars were heading towards each other in that middle lane.

Casually my eyes watched and my brain calculated. I could see that neither of the cars were able to accelerate fast enough to overtake and pull back in. One of the cars would have to slow and cancel the manoeuvre.

Neither did.

It was as if I was watching a film. I seemed dissociated from reality. The cars crawled up alongside the bus and truck respectively and headed for a head-on crash. I was a spectator.

At the very last minute both cars attempted to cut in but neither was sufficiently past and clipped each other and the vehicle they were overtaking. This caused the cars to spin and the bus and truck to swerve. What had been an orderly line of traffic was instantly transformed into chaos. The road ahead was full of spinning cars and veering truck and bus. I was heading straight for it at 50 mph with nowhere to go.

Without thinking I laid the bike down and avoided the spinning car coming straight at me, I pulled the bike back up like a speedway rider and opened the throttle to go in front of the truck bearing down at me, I swerved the other way behind the bus that was heading across the lane almost broadside, and pulled the bike back down, with throttle wide, to accelerate round the other car that was spinning and heading for my side.

It must have taken a couple of seconds but it seemed like minutes. One minute the road in front was a mass of spinning metal and the next I was through into clear road and order.

Everything had been pure instinct and reaction. Somehow I had picked a path through.

I looked in my mirror. Behind me cars were slamming into the wreckage. It was a mammoth pile-up. If I had clipped one of those vehicles I would have been under that mess.

It only takes an instant to transform the ordinary into death.

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