There’s something emotionally unsettling about a motorcycle on its side. A gut reaction instantly stirs to the surface and an immediate impulse to reach out and render aid becomes overwhelming.
I’m sure this instinctive response corresponds to some pre-dawn, primordial conditioning—like the time when the first hand-hewn stone wheel fell over and Ugh and Tonk raced outside the cave to help Grunt stand it back upright. They may have had no idea the purpose of a wheel, but even a Neanderthal knows it’s not suppose to be laying on its side, all helpless.
And even non-bikers are affected by this phenomenon to right a fallen bike. When it comes to a tumped-over scooter, there are no strangers.
So when I heard about my Editor-in-Chief Terry Roorda taking a spill, I could certainly relate (Blue Dog Diaries, July 2012). It was a slow-speed dump in a gravel parking lot, something almost everyone has done, sometimes while under power, other times simply jockeying for a parking space. Whenever I read one of those “For Sale” ads that state, “never dropped,” my first thoughts are, “Yeah, and probably not ridden very much, either.” We are a motorcycle’s only stabilizer. And we are human; humans that make miscalculations. And sometimes we fall.
I was thinking about Terry and his subsequent injuries on my recent ride to Austin for the Republic of Texas Rally. After checking into my hotel, I was riding up the parking deck’s spiral drive looking for a spot close to my floor to help ease lugging a ton of equipment to my room. Rounding a right-hand corner, on a somewhat steep grade, on somewhat slick concrete, a land yacht SUV coming down the spiral at that very same corner cut the turn very sharp. With my thoughts on California gravel lots and bosses with road rash, I saw the truck too late, hit the front brake too hard and the Road King began that maddening slow-motion listing, that tip-over point beyond recovery. With clutch pulled in, front end at total right-hand lock and front brake fully engaged to keep from rolling all the way downhill to 6th Street, my right leg (the one with the antique kneecap) was the only thing keeping me from total collapse. And I was caught; suspended in mid near-total spill and on a blind corner that presented the definite possibility of getting rear-ended by a second land yacht with another inattentive operator headed uphill. Oh, and the elderly lady behind the wheel of the first SUV—she was in full panic mode, wide-eyed, white-knuckled and frozen at the steering wheel. So in limbo I remained, fighting the pain in my knee, waiting for the inevitable; my strength to ebb, my blood pressure to rise to toxic levels, death. All I could think about was how good a beer would taste right about then. That’s when the driver’s spry 12-year-old grandson jumped out of the back of the SUV, grabbed hold of the right handlebar and gave me that extra 10 pounds of lift I needed.
Later I was sitting outside the hotel, enjoying the evening breeze coming off the lake… and that beer. A young lady sat down on the bench next to me to fire up a smoke when her cell rang. “Oh crap,” were her only words. Inquisitive me just had to ask about the perceived problem and next thing I know we’re racing up to almost the exact location of my near spill to help her ol’ man stand his Electra Glide back up. It was parked on a severe slope and had fallen while he was cleaning it in preparation for an evening on the town.
“No damage, thanks.”
”No problem; glad to be of help.” It’s just what you do. During the bike rodeo the next day at the rally, one of the bikes went down during the barrel race. There was a stampede of rescuers from the stands on hand, restoring order before the rider even realized there was disorder. It’s human nature—quick, stand that thang back up.
Sunday morning, while packing my bike to leave, I watched as a small group of riders prepared to take off for breakfast. A hot-rodder on a Nightster was in an exceptional hurry, racking the throttle and goading his friends to hurry up. At the first sign it was time to go, the youngster on the Nightster revved the bike, popped the clutch and was immediately thrown to the ground like he’d been bitch-slapped by Mike Tyson. The Sporty squirted out from under him and performed a pirouette across the parking lot like a stone being skipped across a pond. Once again, help was instantly available to right both rider and machine (me included). Sheepishly, the kid wobbled over and unlocked the bike’s front forks, to the hearty guffaws and backslaps of his companions. It happens to us all.