Main Motorcycle: 2019 Scrambler XC
Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Northeast Wales
Other Motorcycle: Santa Cruz Hightower
Interesting conversation with a motorist…
Had a rare sunny day recently, so went out for the day. 4 or 5 hours later and I take a shortcut over the mountain to get home as it saves 30 miles of commercial and tourist traffic on the main road.
This shortcut goes straight up, along the ridgeline and straight back down the other side with a few hairpin bends for good measure. Most cars, mine included, struggle up and are on the brakes all the way down. I do NOT use this road from autumn (now) to late spring as the risks far outweigh the advantages.
I followed a BMW X3 into the start of this shortcut and, as usual, waited a few moments for it to ‘clear the way’ and allow me to charge up the hill - more fun that way. Up the hill at all the 3s. 3,000rpm in 3rd gear at 33mph which is fast on this road which varies from steep to stupid steep, and is single track with too few passing places and high banks restricting the view ahead. Im on my 1200XC Scrambler, by the way.
Only caught the Beemer up near to the top of this first section and we both turned onto the ridgeline… ye Gods, that Beemer’s quick. The ridgeline is 3 miles of undulating single track with long sightlines - and we’re soon at the turn off for the descent.
Bear with me - I’ll get to the point soon.
Coming down the other side and my appreciation of the driver’s skills are building as that Beemer is being driven at bike speeds and its wing mirrors are brushing the hedges on both sides of the road at the same time in places. Downhill is also all the 3s but on the over-run with the occasional steadying back brake on my part.
As we drop into the village at the bottom, there’s a blind left-hander which is marked with two chevrons on the Ordnance Survey map (1 chevron is 20% and steeper, 2 means 14% and steeper) this immediately widens to a car and a half width and there’s a side road to the left which is fairly level then there’s a blind right hander after which the road is one car wide again but with long sightlines down to the final blind left hander.
In general I approach this on the brakes and way over to the left (BTW, we drive on the left here) to see if its safe to continue.
I’m following the Beemer, remember, and she drives into the corner but stops hard, leaving me a scant bike’s length behind her when I stop.
Don’t you just dread seeing reversing lights in that situation?
Here’s the gist of this little tale.
She indicated that I should reverse up the hill so that she can make room for the car and two vans which are on her front bumper.
I shake my head. I also deny the next 4 requests for me to reverse… at which point she reverses alongside me (car and a half road width and I’m at the left, remember?), winds down the window and our conversation ensues. I point out that there’s no reverse gear on my bike and that I’m not strong enough to push it backwards uphill.
I’ll not report the conversation verbatim but she says that I shouldn’t be on this road if I can’t reverse out of trouble.
She then reverses all the way past me into the side road, the traffic clears and I’m away…
The thing is, that last point has haunted me since.
Did my roadcraft fail me? Should I have stayed even further back and not assumed it was clear just because she had driven through the blind corner? Had I been tricked by her apparent skill at speed on these roads? Was it sheer luck and legendary BMW build quality that has kept her out of the hedge all this time?
And most importantly… should we motorcyclists NOT ride on roads like this unless we are strong enough to push a 216Kg bike backwards uphill, or be able to turn it round at least, which I couldn’t do as I hadn’t left enough room.
I am genuinely perturbed by this encounter. I know her, she’s half my age and the friend of a neighbour - its a small community. We’ve met at dinner parties but she didn’t recognise me in my full face helmet and reactive goggles…
This has genuinely changed my approach to riding my bike - and I’m thankful for the lesson.
Apologies for the lengthy post but I felt I had to get this off my chest and I think it raises serious questions about ‘adventurous’ riding, heavy bikes and being ‘othered’ by motorists who don’t understand us. Would it have been different if I had been wearing my open-face helmet? I don’t know.
Should I go round and talk to her? Probably not… that’s just weird.
2 wheels good - 4 wheels better as that'll be 2 bikes then!