Things That Happen (4)

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Why We Ride Final segment for the series.  Starting this series discussing a private presentation by John Cleese, led to three more pieces looking at Things That Happen, particularly while motorcycling.  If you haven’t read it, take a moment and bounce over to the opener.  John encouraged us to set aside structured, professional, hare-like thinking.  In it’s place, set aside time for your creative, whimsical, spontaneous, or from the gut, thinking to rise up.

So I tried it.  And, the initial results coming to mind were humorous.  Some of the first things that came to mind were ‘Things That Happen’ while motorcycling.  These have stuck in my brain permanently, some really making me scratch my head…even years later.

If you’re a fellow motorcyclist, I’m sure you can relate to some of them.  Based on recent site visitor counts, it seems some of you do (Thank you, it’s a nice ‘thank you’ to get).  So, here’re the last few:

Exploring Traction Limits & Brain Power (#2)

…chasing your fellow riders through the mountains, up one grade, round a blind curve, rocket down the next ¼ mile grade, up another grade, another swift right-hander…ooh, sharp left coming up. It’s one of those where you instantly start the calculation process in the back of your brain. No tortoise brain here—pure hare brain.

Looking ahead I see there’s a dead-straight 1/8th mile steep down hill grade, sharp left-hander, probably 120 degrees. I’m two-up and realize, “…this thing’s perfectly set up to run off the road if I don’t scrub off speed—fast. As my vision seems to narrow I seem to register the deep ditch running along the road has a number of marks in it that suggest a number of folk have already run off this curve.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, about 2 seconds have passed, I realize my buddy’s sitting on his Goldwing right at the apex of the curve—exactly where I’m calculating I’m going to be wanting extra road—the speed’s coming down, but I’m still too hot, I’m starting to feel unbalanced like I want to fall out of the curve. The thought passes through my mind, “…they say your tires will do far better than most people give them credit for…” I literally remember thinking along the lines of, “…I’ve got one option: MAKE this curve.” Not making it simply wasn’t an option. We’re about 1.5 seconds from apex now.

Odd how time can slow down, or is it your brain speeding up? I clearly remember all these things. I remember thinking, “I’m not going to broadside him and maim my wife.” Simply wasn’t an option. I manhandled that handlebar and the ST leaned that day. I drove that bike through the curve. And, you know? That front tire did a heck of a job. It did do more than I would have expected.

Years later, this is another of those forever-with-me memories.

Exploring Traction Limits & Brain Power (#3)

Remember I mentioned the ditch at that curve looked ‘used’? Well that evening our posse pulls into a motel. After cleaning up we start walking to a nearby restaurant. A couple doors down we see a couple other motorcyclists. They’re doing what so many of us are familiar with, bike in front of the motel room, door open, and going back-n-forth with a beer in hand reflecting on the day’s ride.

One of our party makes the comment, before noticing the door’s open, “That bike looks like sh*t.” The two guys step out and we’re talking big guys. Not heavy but Paul Bunyan type guys. Turns out these guys had encountered the curve. The sh*t-looking BMW looks that way cause it was the one that used the ditch. The hard luggage was somewhat askew, scuffed, and generally abused looking. I felt for him.

His buddy was riding an FJ1200 with ABS. He commented about how great the ABS is. He just flies into the corners then mashes on the rear brake and lets the ABS kick in as he goes through the corners. My buddy and I were dumbfounded. Too much ABS use, can lead to system overheating and a subsequent out of service cooling period; if it doesn’t lead to a fuse blowing. Imagine having your ABS/brakes jammed full-on halfway through a curve when the system stops working and the wheel locks instead…

Honda has a sticker it came out with years ago that says, “Stupid Hurts.” Yep. I just hope Stupid has never caught up with Paul Bunyan. It’d hurt based on the way he blindly trusted ABS. Years later, I’m still shaking my head.


Oh, the joys of taking time to reflect, to ponder, and (if enough time has passed) be amused at one’s self. I’m sure the rest of you have similar stories. I wonder what Mr. Cleese would say if he read of these?

Perhaps he’d call me hare-brained, eh?