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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A lapse in concentration

When occasionally riding the 160km down from Coromandel to Hamilton, I travel on a variety of back roads for most of the journey because it's more fun and is a good opportunity to keep your skills up.

Normally when setting out on a decent run, particularly solo; I kick the ride off by talking myself through the "12 second rule" observational process for a short stretch as I find it helps to bury it in the subconscious, especially if I haven't been on a run for a time. This particular trip to have new tyres fitted was no different and I soon settled into a decent pace in clear, cool conditions feeling content with the world.  Closing in on Hamilton, I was dog-legging down country lanes that I wasn't all that familiar with.  Now you might think that it would call for a little extra vigilance being on unfamiliar territory and you'd be right.  Looking back, my concentration at that time might have been mainly directed at figuring out what turn to take next.

Anyway, I was bowling along at open road speed down one of the country lanes and noted a low humped bridge spanning a fairly small creek in front of me.  It was a straight road but the bridge hump partially obscured the immediate far side.  What I should have done and didn't, was to ease off until I had unrestricted vision.  Whether it was figuring out where the next turn was, seeing the straight road stretching out or whatever; I hardly backed off at all.

This was a BIG mistake because as I got onto the bridge, it became apparent that in my previous blind spot, someone had dug up the road and there were several metres of broken-up road surfacing mixed with some fairly big lumps of under-surface dirt.  Pleased to say that the training kicked in - no panic and certainly not hitting the brakes - far too late for that.  As soon as I hit the rough stuff, the front swung way out of line but I steered into the slide then the back kicked out the other way, correcting itself as I countersteered and then we were through it.  I must say that the Triple handled it magnificently but it might have been entirely a different story  with the mass of my old Blackbird swinging about.

It all happened too quickly for any fright but for the rest of the journey, I mentally beat myself up for poor judgement.  I think any experienced rider is far harder on himself or herself than anyone else can be; which is only right and proper.  It was a powerful reminder that no matter how much you care about your riding, you can never, ever afford to be complacent.

I've left the fact that there were no warning signs out of the equation as you should always ride to the conditions.  I didn't and the fault was entirely mine; getting away with it being partially a matter of luck.  A few years ago, a very experienced friend of mine wasn't so fortunate.  He entered a blind bend and encountered loose gravel which had not been properly cleaned up after resurfacing.  That wrote his Hayabusa off and gave him 6 weeks away from work to recover from a number of injuries.  The message is that you can never risk lowering your guard for an instant.  We get away with it on most occasions but as previously mentioned, that is largely a matter of good fortune.

Ride wisely, Guys and Gals!

A few hundred metres from home and all is well!



8 comments:

  1. Geoff:

    glad to see you unscathed, but what is that large "sail" at the rear. It was probably your stabilizer .

    I had the same problem last year when we came to the end of the paved road, without warning, into a few inches of loose pebble gravel which continued for a few kilometers. I am not used to loose gravel but it all worked out. I still have nightmares about it

    bob
    Wet Coast Scootin

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  2. Geoff,
    I too am glad to hear that everything worked out okay. Thank you very much for the warnings and the lessons that you've passed on with this post. I like to read about situations that crop up while riding and how people get out of them and more importantly how not to get in them. I think because of the scariness of what could go wrong, these lessons have a better chance of getting engrained in the noggin and can be recalled when needed.

    This lesson is a biggy for everyone, "It was a powerful reminder that no matter how much you care about your riding, you can never, ever afford to be complacent." So true! Ride safe!

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  3. Thanks guys!

    Bob, I'm not a gravel fan either, especially on modern radials with relatively little tread.

    Mike, you're absolutely right. On further reflection, I think I'd got a bit too cocky because there was virtually no traffic and I was enjoying myself, but wasn't in that subconscious "Zen State" that allows you perform almost flawlessly. Almost like someone was looking over my shoulder and decided that a bit of a fright was in order to reinstate a bit of common sense. It certainly did!

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  4. Geoff - Been there, done that, so I can relate. (Although in my case I wasn't quite so lucky - not bad, but I managed to pitch myself and passenger down the road a bit.)

    This is an issue I face here almost daily. Our country roads all have loose gravel shoulders, some of which invariably finds it's way on to the travelled portion, usually in a blind corner. As you can't always ride as if you're on marbles, some close calls are inevitable. But still, anticipating the worst means you're at least looking for an exit strategy.

    Good post.

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  5. Canajun:
    Glad to hear that you came out of it relatively undamaged, although it never feels like that at the time.

    We have much the same conditions in NZ rural areas and your point is well made. In today's over-regulated and politically correct world, I'd imagine that most of us ride at least in part as an antidote to all that over-regulation and blandness and higher risk is part of the challenge.

    Nice one!

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  6. Glad all is ok after the ride Geoff. I hit gravel on a corner on my 125cc scooter a few years ago,lost the front end and down I went, slamming my shoulder into the ground. Still managed to ride to the hospital though....was fine until I had to pull on the brake, then it felt like a knife was being driven into my body. But after 3 hours and 3 shots of morphine later I barely remembered the accident....or my name!Cheers.

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  7. It is too easy to lapse concentration. Keep safe.

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  8. Anthony:
    Ouch! Sorry to herar of the accident - hope there was no lasting damage.

    HR:
    Absolutely, a moment's innatention can have real consequences. Even more scary is the fact that the average cage driver probably doesn't even reach the concventration level equivalent to our lapses!

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