The angel on my shoulder, and the Devil in my soul…
I recently read a blog from someone I really enjoy following, Christian Mihai. He gives fantastic tips on writing, and is very inspirational indeed to a novice blogger like myself.
His advice was to write about what you know and love the best, and write as if you only have 24 hours left on earth, so I had a think about that and decided, that’s how I will write my next blog.
While getting tyres on my RF900 yesterday the service coordinator at the bike shop and I were discussing close calls, and the advice from Christian echoed through my mind as we chatted about how many close calls I had survived, and narrowly escaped serious harm while riding motorcycles…
We agreed there had to be an Angel on my shoulder…and I also realized… there is a Devil in my soul… and he tends to have more control over my throttle hand than I would like.
I will explain 3 amazing road incidents, and I will tell you what I believe the parts played by the Devil and the Angel were, you good reader can make your own decisions.
Yes, they do speak to me, while I didn’t know it at the time, I seriously recall their whispering voices when I recall these events.
It was a horrible day, absolutely awful weather and I had ridden my GSXR1100 to work. All the way home the Angel was saying that “the wind was harsh, gusty and multi-directional. The road is wet, and the famous Wanui Hill Road is unforgiving sunshine” and of course it lay in my path to warmth and safety at home.
My head was swivelling like a fighter pilot on a combat patrol to check my personal space, and watch for cars or other dangers as I negotiated the motorway, the foreshore at Petone, and as I hit the hill itself, the gusts were very strong and totally unpredictable.
Nursing Suzy (my 1100) through the off camber oil stained broken surfaces of the Hill, I felt a surge of relief, a sense of triumph and achievement in reaching my driveway safely.
This was a 40m long driveway to that stopped at a carport, then garage door.
“HOME, yeah MADE IT” said the Devil and my right wrist twisted with a mind of its own tearing the bike up to a terrible 7,000 rpm and launching me at 100kmh down this short, greasy, leaf covered, wet piece of tarmac! The garage door grew in size at an alarming rate, and in over reacton and sheer terror, my hand grabbed a fistful of front brake….BANG!
Down, lowsided, surfing the bike as it slid along the driveway to come to a crashing halt up against the front wheel of the Ducati in the carport… a 20 meter slide. Broken mirror, scarped fairings, bent clutch lever, and a howl of pure anguish escaping my dry, agonizing throat as I screamed ‘NOOOOOO not SUZY’
What … the …. hell…. was… I… THINKING! Oh Devil, you bastard……. You got me that time.
I also at the time had a gorgeous Ducati SS750. I loved Bess (named after the notorious Dick Turpins legendary black steed) she had volume (wicked, un-baffled carbon fibre pipes) and was just superb to ride.
I had just had a new set of tyres, and chain and sprockets done during her regular service at the dealer I used for servicing at the time. A couple of my mates were keen to have a ride to the Wairarapa and I met them at Paramata, counting the ride over the Haywards hill as an excellent opportunity to ‘scrub’ the tyres in before we tackled the Rimutaka Hill Road, which is a favourite ride for bikers and a challenging road which at the time was under major road works to remove Muldoons Corner, so it just felt right to put a few km’s on the brand new Pirelli Diablo’s I had just had fitted before hitting the twisties.
As we came through Judgeford, the tail end on the bike gave a minor twitch on a straight road… hmmmm….. new tyres??? Must be…. “Harden the fuck up, of course it’s the new tyres” Yep must be…. Devil knows this is true, Angels being a woosey.
“Stoney, stop right now and look over the bike… something is NOT right, please, stop right now and check it out” …
Well yeah maybe…. But I am about to hit the hill and 3rd bike in group of 6…. Cant disappoint the boys like that, can I?
“Pussy, just fuckin RIDE! You’re being a soft cock, hammer down man!”
Yeah it’s just the new tyres, I will make sure I get some good leans on through the Haywards to clean them up before the Rimutakas, I will be fine…. surely?
4 kms later as I crested the hill and started heading down into the Hutt Valley with my good mate Andrew Martin behind me, I suddenly find myself drifting offline towards the wire rope barrier that separates the lanes.
No time to think, no time to worry if its tyres, no time for shit, I slam my handlebars to correct the drift…and it gets worse. The barrier is inches from my knee and approaching fast…fuck me what do I do now…. lay it down? Bail? at 100kmh? WHAM!
I am now in a full skid, back wheel locked up totally (though no brakes touched wtf?????) and… moving away from the barrier (PHEW! Your going to make it stay calm sunshine steer it out) but a new problem…I am skidding off the road, sideways, back wheel fully locked….. FAAARK!
With no idea how, I come to a stop, upright, on the shoulder, and a 50 meter black skid mark is behind me.
Andrew has stopped back near the start of the skid mark and is picking up something, I am shaking, I feel sick, sweating, I’m going to puke, get the helmet off, no, not puking, start to tremble uncontrollably… I need a piss bad.
Suddenly Andrew is here, everyone has stopped and all are off the bikes…. All are running to my help, bikers rallying to a mate in distress… saints in leather and cordura. I’m upright, stench of rubber and something metallic… but I am UPRIGHT!
Andrew calmly hands me my rear wheel nut….. pieces of the jigsaw fall in place… tunnel vision eases, nausea returns, I watch in amazement as my friends all rally round, lift my bikes rear, tools are out chain bolts loosened, axle straightened, nut refitted, and universal anger at the technician that fitted my tyre and chain is unleashed in a torrent of disbelief.
How I wish I had listened to the angel a few minutes before, and I swear I heard the Devil laughing in the back of my sub conscious mind.
“Not bad reflexes for an old fart mate, well done”. “Next time…listen to me I know stuff ok?”
I raised the issue with the workshop.
Processes were discussed, warnings issued, the service center made it right. Was still a huge scare, and an absolute lesson in paying attention to that inner voice, the cautious one…bikes do NOT slip on straight roads. Listen to the Angel son, she knows shit and don’t often speak unless it’s required.
By now I also owned a KTM Super Duke. A thoroughly mental bike – 1000cc’s (ok, 990) of pure fuel injected V-Twin Rotax Fury, grunty is not the right word, try INSANE.
With a top speed of about 220kmh, it was all pure torque with a massive dump of power in the lower revs and incredible acceleration, mixed with Super Motard design, awesome brakes and handling second to none, this machine was just SICK!
So, heading to work one sunny morning I head along the pathetically mundane River Road, passing the horrible Moonshine Road intersection, and sneaking past the slower cars rolling at 60kmh in their tragically compressed rush hour queue, unable to make the speed limit due to the congestion of the 6.30am to 9.00am ‘crush’.
At this time a major barrier install was underway on this pathetically straight road, and there were temporary poles in the center of the road, and as a result some rubble and debris was in the road close to the marked off construction zone. “Rubble Stoney, take it easy the roads dirty”
As I was sneaking past cars on the right, close to the poles, a white corolla ahead of me moved slightly left.
“She’s given you room man, GO HARD! C’mon pussy, Katie can do it just rip it open lets GO, NOW!!!”
Not really enjoying being so close to the poles, yet keen to let the bike do her thing I succumbed to the whisper from my Devil…..
I opened her up and as I passed the nice blonde lady who gave me some room to pass, took my left hand off the bars to give the wave of appreciation, thanks for sharing the road love, much appreciate the room….… BANG!!!!!!!!!!!! And I mean BANG!
“Good thing you wore the QMOTO and armoured gloves son, this…is…going…to…hurt… Stay calm, I am slowing time for you. Hand back on the bar…good boy. Ignore the fact your back wheel is a meter in the air, just steer. Counter that rear sway, push hard left bar, that’s it. Lock elbows now, stabilize, hold tight, let the throttle off, look left (corolla backing off she making room for you son, use it) steer a little left, backs coming down, ok …… contact! Back wheels down but you aint safe yet, your now aware you have a massive blowout so keep your shit together…. Stay calm… Concentrate… ignore the massive kicks in the ass, just steer, steer, hold, DO NOT BRAKE LEAVE IT ALONE… just coast, that’s it, good boy almost safe… head for the breakdown strip, you’re almost there…. almost…. and…stop! You’re OK now…breathe.”
The longest 5-6 seconds of my life to date was spent looking down at my front wheel, and the road that was very quickly seeing come up at my face.
What had occurred is that the lady in the corolla had seen some rubble from the road works in line with her right wheel, she never had made room for the loud, obnoxious nasty orange and black lunatic carrier that was behind her, she just did what any driver would do, avoid a rock on the road.
There was a huge chunk of alloy blown out of my rear wheel, instant blowout and rear end launched into the air enough to have nearly tossed me over the front.
Devil you prick, you nearly got me again, you utter bastard … thankfully Angel was there to slow time, and talk me through the inconceivably terrorizing seconds of pending doom.
So Angels and Devils are heavily involved in the world of motorcycling. This I truly believe (although I am an atheist) and I know for sure they’re my own personal representatives from deep in my subconscious and sometimes not so ‘sub’ decision making processes.
Riding motorcycles has some inherent risks, there is no two ways about it. It’s how we approach the risk, and what voice we listen to in a moment of excitement, crisis, or even when we get that spooky feeling we missed something…. its these factors that effect the outcome.
But with a Devil in my soul, and an Angel on my shoulder, I wouldn’t want any other lifestyle, I would not want to live in a risk free cotton wool wrapped environment of trains buses and cars, and as long as I know that that Devil exists, and the Angel is also there to keep him in check, I will always ride my own ride, my own way, and hope the balance continues to keep me shiny side up. And all I ask is the day it does go terribly wrong, the time that will come when i either fuck it up completely, those who love me and care about me, will know, my Angel did her best.
I have managed to make it through some seriously risky events, and I commit myself to listening to the Angel, and do my best to resist that wicked little Devil… but sometimes, he wins.