I drifted past a dozen cars towards the junction. It’s a tricky junction this – a dog-leg cross road across a pretty busy A-road – where you have to look back over your left shoulder to see if anything’s coming when pulling out. It’s not usually so busy; usually I wait for a car or two in front then take my turn. But for some reason it’s a bit rammed today and I really can’t be bothered waiting so I’m filtering towards the front.
I get near the front and the first car’s pulling out. I make a split second decision. I can see straight on and right (the easy view) and it’s clear. Somewhere in my subconscious, I’m saying that if he’s pulled out, it’s probably alright for me to follow right behind as long as I’m close enough so I can get through the same hole in the traffic that they’ve judged is ok. So I go for it.
Only, they’d cut things a bit too close in the first place. Half way across the road, I realise they’ve pulled out making cars on the A road slow down to avoid them. And I’ve just pulled out straight after him. Cue high-pitched emission of intestinal gases and muffled shouting of the F-word inside my helmet.
Thankfully, the other drivers took evasive action (thanks, thanks, thanks – I love you all) and we made it across the junction without further ado.
But not 5 seconds later, I’m following that same car down the road when another car pulls out in front of him from a timber yard, slowing us both down. One nanosecond later and I’m cogging it down a gear. I’ve registered the road layout, seen the junction ahead, the hazards, the road markings, but somehow it doesn’t matter. You know what it’s like – you’re at one with the bike and these feckers are in your way. Your adrenaline’s still pumping from the last incident and you’re in flight mode and whereas you were hoping to get a move on and put some distance between you and where you made an arse of yourself, another imbecile (no other word would do at the time) has got in my way. I needed to get them out of my life and that involves them being in my rear view mirrors – pronto. So I went for it.
Only, I’m aware that as I’m gunning past, the front car has now got his right indicator on and that I’m hammering through his turn right lane. Hmm. Rule No. 1 in the idiot’s guide to not dying on a motorcycle: don’t overtake dozy slow drivers turning right. Or maybe Rule No.1 is don’t be an impatient arse overtaking in places you shouldn’t. Yes, that’s probably right. Infuriatingly.
Thankfully, he’s so slow and staying out of his turn right lane far too long, meaning I’m clear and well past by the time he manoeuvres. Phew take 2.
So I pull back in, take a bit of a deep breath, roll off the throttle and cogitate. I became very aware that I’d just been a silly boy and that’s not the way a 46 year old bloke should behave on a motorcycle. Especially not when he would really, deeply love to become a 47 year old bloke on a motorcycle. It’s become suddenly apparent that I’ve been a bit of a pillock and I immediately start to try and work out why.
Two things quickly dawn on me. Firstly, I seem to be a bit twitchier than normal. I’m a bit disassociated from what’s going on and everything seems somehow to be happening more quickly. Secondly, that’s how I get when I’ve had too much caffeine. And I’d had about 6 or 7 cups that day at work (I know, shocking isn’t it).
It’s not something I’d considered before:
Drink riding – considered/rejected
Drug riding – considered/rejected
Riding covered in jelly & ice cream covered in nude, nymphomaniac airhostesses – considered/still under consideration.
Caffeine riding – not considered.
Which is, I guess, particularly scary and insidious. I felt more or less normal. Jumped on my bike, but took risks I’d not normally take and rode like a bit of a tit. A dangerous tit on 300Kg of Rocket III at that. Only after I’d done a load of very silly manoeuvres did I realise I was a bit of a coiled spring. I was tense, making snap judgements, impatient judgements (OK, more impatient than usual) and it all conspired to make me a bit of a danger. After all, I bought the Rocket after years on sports bikes to help me take things a bit steadier. Then after all that caffeine, I find myself riding on a hair trigger.
So that’s something I’m going to be adding to my lengthening list of things I shouldn’t do. And It’ll probably be pretty close to the top because as you may, or may not, know, you’ll most likely find you have a few near misses over the course of your motorcycling career. It’s often by the smallest of margins that you stay hairy side up – and keeping a clear and caffeine-free view of the world might mean the difference between parking your bike safely at home or becoming a crimson smudge on the A631 to Holmfirth. It might for me anyhow.
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