Joined: Aug 02, 2006
Location: McLean, VA, USA
Tue Jan 02, 2007 4:39 pm
When I was a university student I was riding a bike. Pretty good bike out of what was available at that time in the Soviet Union. It was Jawa 350/360, Czech made with whopping 18 hp 350 cc two-cylinder two-stroke engine. Well, it still was able of making something around 110-120 km/h (70-75 mph) on a highway if you gave it enough room to accelerate. Beautiful bike, btw, they just don’t make such sexy ones any more…
At some point I got interested in motocross, and joined my university motocross club. They had cross bikes, and they held regular training and competition events. I did attend a couple of training events; they were held at some dirty track in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by construction sites and deserted areas. To get there one had to use a few miles of semi-finished non-marked two-lane access road paved with concrete slabs.
Once I was heading home after a pretty good training session, all heated up and excited, and of course I was demanding from my bike all what it could give me and then some more. Riding down this access road on a full throttle, I approached a van that was moving a tad slower than me. Sure enough I moved to the left lane and started to pass it. At that small speed difference passing takes quite a while, but I knew the road was not busy at all, it was straight and visible for a few miles ahead, and I did not see any vehicle approaching, so I was pretty confident I had enough time to complete the passing.
When I was moving head to head with the van, something ahead caught my attention. I could not really tell what it was at the moment, just some kind of a slight shadow in my lane ahead of me. A few moments later I realized I had a serious problem to deal with. There was a steel wire concrete enforcement frame completely blocking my lane. It was made of wire about finger thick, it was about half a foot to a foot high, and it was positioned at an angle to my direction.
It’s amazing how fast brain starts to work when one is faced with a grave danger. In those one or two seconds or may be even less – I really did not have time to turn the stopwatch on and off – I performed quite an amount of analysis, made my decision and planned and implemented the way out. And I still had time for some thoughts about life and death and what is going to happen when one dies.
My options were scarce. In fact, I did not have any option at the first glance. I did not have time to complete the passing and to move back to my lane. I did not have time to brake and move back to my lane behind the van. Outright braking was not even an option. Turning off the road was not really possible because of all the construction garbage on almost non-existent shoulders and behind – don’t forget, my speed was at least 60 mph. Being forcefully thrown under the van and having my body parts spread all over the road was not a viable option either.
I decided to try and jump the frame over. It was not an easy task, but at least I had a chance – and appeared that this chance did play out. I guess my decision was heavily influenced by the motocross training session I just had, too.
Those who ride bikes know that it’s pretty easy to lift the front wheel at low speeds, even on such a weak bike as I had. It is a bitch to do, however, when you are already at about the maximum speed for your bike, because you really don’t have any spare torque left. So, I had to figure out how to lift my front wheel enough to not get stuck in the wire frame and to spring over it, giving an impulse to the whole bike, and then the rear wheel would take care of itself.
I believe this would have been a hard task even for specially trained people to coordinate all the things as I did. Such events make me thinking there is really something above us that takes care of our lives, because despite of my several years of bike driving career to the point, by no means I was skilled enough for the task. Suffice it to say I never ever lifted the front wheel at speeds higher than 10-15 mph. Luck had its place here, no doubt.
While approaching the frame, I simultaneously dropped the gas and moved my weight to the front wheel as much as I could, causing my front suspension to compress. When the suspension started to expand, I gave it the full throttle and swiftly moved my weight as far back as it was possible, pulling the handlebar up and pushing on the footboards down. The front wheel hit the wire frame while lifting off the ground, and before I new this I went airborne.
Now it was when I really appreciated the skills I acquired during motocross training sessions, where jumping with your bike was just a routine event! I was able to stabilize my bike in the air and to land on both wheels, rear wheel touching the ground a tad before the front wheel, both wheels aligned with the direction of movement. It was a perfect landing, all by the book, and anything less than perfect at that speed would have thrown me off the road together with my bike.
Well, then I stopped on the shoulder and spent there some time with shaking hands and rambling teeth, all covered with a cold sweat, picturing my body parts all over the road… And I was going way below speed limit on my way home that day…
Last edited by Misha on Mon Nov 12, 2007 11:19 am; edited 3 times in total
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