Ride and slide!
It was high time I made the 170 mile trip to see my Mother and Aunt in Somerset. On the motorbike this is a 3-4hr journey, depending on the state of the M5 motorway round Bristol. It can logjam so that although one can filter one has to take it very slow. In fact one disadvantage of my Moto Guzzi Stelvio – ‘Vamos’ is the width of bars and panniers, the Centauro I had before was much slimmer. The first hundred odd miles is the best part; from the coast where I live up the valley of the Rheidol over the ridge at Nant-yr-Arian where in the afternoon the Red Kites flock to be fed and to meet and greet each other showing off their impressive aerial skills. I love to watch the way they twist those forked red tail feathers to twist and turn and swoop. On the motorbike I feel an affinity with that smooth flowing turn, the sudden dip and rush of the air. At Eisteddfa Gurig I cross the watershed, behind flows straight down to the sea ahead this little rippling, rushing mountain stream heads inland for many, many miles, joining with others streams and small rivers till it becomes the Wye and then the mighty Severn, I will cut the corners and meet the waters again to cross the Severn in its vast tidal reaches as it opens into the Bristol Channel and holds England at bay. These twisty ‘A’ roads are motorbike heaven. Where cars can only travel at the pace of the slowest the exhilarating acceleration of a big bike can slip past vehicle after vehicle. It’s a drizzly dark morning as I get the panniers packed and then climb into all my warm and protective gear, topped off with a rain jacket, the drizzle will be the kind that soaks by its fine persistence. The road is greasy and the spray from cars and lorries soon has me spitting grit from between my teeth. There are disadvantages with an open face helmet in Welsh weather, I could wear a mask, but unless it’s really cold or the rain very hard I enjoy the sense of interaction with the world, this is what driving a tin box does not have. I find driving a car, sat in the warm enclosed space separated from the smells and feel of the road far more tiring than riding. I am soon in the groove riding carefully because of the conditions but taking my opportunities to overtake. 20 odd miles as I near Llangurig the drizzle seems to be lifting, ahead there are patches of blue sky. My heart soars, a great ride ahead and the pleasure of seeing my Mum and Aunt Janet at the end. I drop down a gear for a bend that I have known for 30 years and which is sharper than it looks. BANG! Bike is down, I am down, sliding the road on my shoulder, leg under the bike. The seconds are like minutes and also like milliseconds, time frozen and fast forwarded. We come to a stop, ‘Vamos’ in the road me up against a signpost. I pick myself up and hope there is not too much damage. Well I seem to be able to stand though my lower right leg is pretty painful and my boot has dents in it, the left sleeve of my rain jacket is totally shredded but the leathers underneath are intact. I feel my limbs and then limp to the bike which is on its side in the road. A car coming the other way has stopped and a gentleman is coming over to me, he seems in more shock than I am. We get the bike up and I push it into a nearby farm entrance to assess the damage to both of us. Brake pedal is bent up around the footpeg, right side pannier is slightly holed but no leaking liquids. I don’t seem to be leaking anywhere either, though I am shaken and stirred. Two hours for a recovery vehicle so when the farmer comes to see what’s up, with his tools and help I get the pedal bent down enough so I can ride. I look at the road on the corner, the drizzle has lifted a thin miasma of oil out of the tarmac, it even feels slippery underfoot. What I really should have SEEN was that the chevron corner signs were bent and mangled. Thus a vehicle had gone off the road, whether it provided the oil or was also a victim I should have understood the possible danger. Live and learn; observation and anticipation are the most important riding and driving skills. I limp home with my tail between my legs. Ring my disappointed mother and gloss over what happened. We are repairable at some expense and some pain, that’s the main thing. Ride safe.