Zen and the Art of the Motorbike Accident

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It was just a year ago that a lovely lady pulled her VW Golf across in front of me to enter a petrol station and…in a matter of seconds, my prized blue BMW 1200GS motorbike was no more. Following the thought, “No,no, no, don’t pull across, don’t do it, stop, stop!” and the next resigned thought, “I’m going to hit it” as I contemplated the inevitability of my coming fate, the front of my bike plunged reluctantly into her passenger door, I sailed in a rather ungainly double somersault over the roof of the black Golf thinking (in that split-second eternity that is the slow motion experience of a crash) “So this is what it’s like” and promptly hit the tarmac with a resounding ‘squelch’ … so I’m told.

The old bike, and the new one (above) in Wales

Then more pain than a brave man like me should be called upon to admit to, let alone endure, assailed my tender torso.   Before long, the emergency services were on the scene and I was being looked after by an understanding paramedic – and told to “stand up and blow into this tube” by a less than understanding member of the Government’s ‘special forces’. Eventually it dawned on the young policewoman that I couldn’t stand up as I had just had a slightly traumatic few minutes lying on tarmac and she let me blow into her little alcohol machine sitting down. It was green of course.

Fortunately, I had ‘only’ a broken elbow, pain everywhere,  two sprained wrists, “soft tissue damage” to my ankle, (read ‘knackered’) and bruises in places I never knew existed. Nothing much then. In informal discussion with the paramedic, I turned down the kind offer of a blue-light ride to hospital (no, I didn’t fancy six hours in the company of the intoxicated-and-falling-over wounded at Epsom Hospital A & E on a Sunday night) but there followed what can only be described as a substantially ‘bracing’ few weeks. A visit to Worthing hospital at a more civilised hour (and no drunks) the following day revealed the full damage, and before the week was out I was covered in a glorious array of autumn colours. They lasted for the rest of the winter with most of the sunset-tinted ones spreading to bits of me that I would rather not mention.  Ah, well…

Everyone confirmed that it was the dear lady’s fault (including the protagonist: “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you, I’m so sorry”) and the guys at BMW Motorrad took one look at the crumpled wreck and wondered how long the bloke would be in hospital – with the distinct possibility that he would never come out. Sobering thought. Needless to say, its write-off status was confirmed by the assessor, and another shiny 1200GS arrived within a few weeks for me to continue my GS adventures, albeit a little more tentatively.

It’s always good to have a kind and loving wife at these times. Sue took what was left of me home to Sussex and was very sweet, kindly pointing out that I wouldn’t have to clean a bike for a few weeks. It also meant she had to soap me in the bath for a while. (Not altogether bad then?!) Within a week or two my BMW insurance coughed up and a 2008 GS arrived – a Promo bike with 7K on the clock and new tyres, how kind. And with it arrived  the compelling desire to get past the fear and plan the next trip…

I have to report a certain success in this department. In the last year I’ve done another 16,000 miles on it, from Spain, to Scotland, to Scandinavia, to Snowdon, sleeping each night beside the bike, wherever I could discretely pitch my little one-man tent. I absolutely love the GS (now with its two extra driving lights so people can see me coming) and I love the utter freedom of seeing the world from the saddle of my silver steed – and yes, she does have a name.

Sadly, the accident has meant my limbs no longer work quite as they used to – a few of the previously working joints have been permanently knackered. Their malfunctioning can be frustrating – and a lot of other things – but let’s keep the GS wheels turning. As a personal and executive coach who works with people who live inhibited lives, I know how freedom-threatening fear can be and, just for the record, I’m determined not to make defeat my final destination.  I think it will be Finland instead.

Look out, Europe, I’m on the road again. (Cue Willie Nelson on guitar.)

4 Replies to “Zen and the Art of the Motorbike Accident”

  1. I enjoyed this post. Trade the word ‘bike’ for ‘everyday life’ and it mirrors much of my experience almost 2.5 years ago when my ‘life’ stopped unexpectedly and I, too, “fell off”…more pain than one previously considered possible, or at least bearable, the emergency services (in my case, an amazing Mum)…other people assuring me it wasn’t my fault, bruising and pain that didn’t turn up straight away and lasts longer than you think is fair… I, too, didn’t have to ‘clean my bike’ for some months, and I, too, needed help with the simplest of tasks (I remember having to have a rest in the middle of a shower so that I could manage to finish it!!)…and, just like you, the joy of my new ‘bike’; not exactly like the old one but not so very different either…I’ve done a good few miles on the new ‘bike’ now and it’s nicely run in. Like you, bits of me have been permanently altered by falling off – but that means the fun of trying to discover new ways to achieve old things, or just new things to achieve! You know me, I love discovering…the fear factory worked all out to stop me getting back on the bike, but some helpful medication ( call it a crutch if you like – they’re dead useful things, crutches!) helped keep me steady while things mended properly.
    Falling off – and getting back on – has been one of the most…no, THE most… profound, interesting, challenging and fascinating experiences of my life…I’m enjoying being on the road again. Much more so than before….

  2. I’ve just come across this post, and wondered, was there a period where you stopped enjoying being on the bike before you ‘got back into it’?
    I had an accident last year, the physical scars have healed (I got away relatively lightly), the bike has been replaced and I am back out on it. I have done some retraining, am clocking up the miles and have lots of adventures planned. However, instead of things getting better, they are getting worse. Yes, I’m afraid, but no more than I would expect to be , I don’t dread riding through the scene of the accident, or being in the kind of situation where the the accident occurred, thats not the big concern, instead it’s that I am miserable when I am riding. I was crazy about biking, it’s been a huge part of my life and who I am, but the driver of the car who pulled out in front of me has taken away all the pleasure and my biggest fear is that I will have to give up biking because I am so incredibly unhappy when on 2 wheels. So did you find you loved it just as much as soon as you got back to it, or did it take you a little while? I’d be really grateful to hear your response.
    Thanks.

  3. Hi, KP. I’ll email you about this. The short answer is, yes I did … that time. But after another incident – well, I’ll chat to you about it.
    As you’ll know, I am a therapeutic coach and deal with these sorts of things regularly. I’m happy to give you some time on Skype (no charge) if you have Skype, or a phone call. There are several things in your comment that are ‘give aways’ and I need to talk to you about them – not in public though. Let’s speak soon and get it mended.

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