I was having a blast. The engine growled with every twist of the throttle as I negotiated the twists and bends of Suffolk’s back roads. It roared as I gunned it into the straights, blasting a crap day into the depths of memory and leaving it rotting in a place called ‘the past’. The wind carried a chill now that the sun had dipped low behind the trees. It whipped through my jacket’s lining suffused with all the smells of the countryside and brought both a pleasant chill and remembrance that I lived somewhere truly beautiful. I passed crumbling farm buildings that have stood for generations and wide open fields lined with hedgerows and mighty trees, all of it in Springs full bloom. The odd cow or sheep cast a curious gaze as I rumbled past, perhaps wondering, I like to think, what it would be like to be so free on a Triumph Bonneville.
Time moves on and I’ve slowed her down. It’s dark now and although my bike’s single headlamp cuts through the gloom and casts a nice yellow cone of light ahead, I know my limitations. I do not see well in the dark. I always carry my glasses with me towards the end of the day because there’s always that chance the light will fade before I make it home. I had them with me on this day, in my bag, strapped to my back. I doubt they would have made much of a difference in the coming situation though had they been on my face, where they should have been. I’d already slowed, and what was about to happen was beyond anyone’s ability to predict.
I let her purr around the first corner and noting the long straight ahead was empty of traffic I moved into a more central line to tackle the second upcoming corner. I slowed again and began to bank to my left when from my right a shadow emerged. In a car I might not have paid much attention to this strange apparition but on a bike, well, I shit my pants. I had no idea what it was other than it was big, moving fast and closing on me. I remember having enough time to grip tight to the handlebars and brace myself.
A deer, certainly the largest I have ever seen (though this could be some odd post-event perspective) leapt from my right where it had stood upon the bank within a line of trees. It leapt straight up and over me. Not in front, but over me. I watched its front legs sail over my arms which were rigidly holding on tight to the bars. It’s body followed. I smelled its warm muskiness and had an odd sensation of running my hand through a horses fur – a recent memory linked in all probability to me living on a farm where we have horses. I’ve often wondered what it would actually be like to watch your life flash before your eyes. If this was it then I’m not impressed. A smell and watching my own hand grope at a horse? How exciting.
The deer leapt over me. Out of my peripheral vision I watch its hooves sail away in slow motion. I wonder what it would be like to be kicked by them and then suddenly, I’m wondering if I am have been kicked by them because my bikes smooth course has changed. I experience an odd and very frightening change of perspective as I realise I’m looking down at the front of my bike. I shouldn’t be able to visualize the front mud guard in a normal riding position only now I clearly can and it’s moving rapidly away from me. Or rather, I’m moving rapidly away from it. My eyes roll away and upward as my brain realizes I’ve taken flight and it tries to orientate me toward the ground again. I watch as that ground comes crashing toward me and two thoughts immediately come to mind. Firstly, I note the ground is grassy and therefore likely to be soft. This, I recall thinking, is good. I’ve seen more than enough gravel rash injuries to known that skin parts from bone very easily. Secondly, I note that this is still going to hurt.
I think my head hit first followed by my right shoulder. I can remember the tiniest fragment of time, almost as though it has been placed on permanent pause in my mind wherein I’m pointed straight at the ground at a 45 degree angle. My legs are arrow straight behind me. My head is in contact with the grass and I think, just for that tiny moment of time, that I’m stuck like an arrow in the ground. Then, like the Titanic, reality comes crashing back, gravity takes over and the rest of me comes crashing over. I paint a nice picture of a man leaving his bike as though he’s been shot from a bow, arching into the sky like a graceful ballerina before landing in a clean if not comedic fashion. I imagine reality saw a leather clad gorilla flailing as though, well, as though it had just crashed a motorbike.
I lay in a heap on the ground. This is perhaps the oddest moment that my wife has ever tried to ring me but honest to God, no sooner had my body stopped moving and I lay there still, my mobile chirped into life in my pocket. I might have answered if it were not for the fact that my arm was suddenly very painful and also that I hadn’t a clue what I would say. I knew it would be my wife too. Don’t ask me how, I guess you just know who its most likely to be given the time of day.
Anyway, somehow I got the bike up and was able to ride it home. I was in agony but I made it the ten or so miles through the dark with my headlamp pointing straight up into the sky and my mirrors more bent than Gary Barlow.
This was my second crash and so with a heavy heart I’m hanging up the leathers and selling the bike. I know, I’ll miss it but I can’t help thinking that had a car been coming from the other direction or if there was a tree on that bank, I’d be dead.
I’ll always remember that last ride though, at least up until the crash, as one of the best I ever had.
Bye-bye Bonneville. It’s been a blast.