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(by Guy 'Guido' Allen, October 2023, Travels with Guido series #370)

              tiger 2002

Trust the bike – it’s probably better than you

Once upon a time, in The Bulletin magazine (RIP), Patrick Cook drew a brilliant cartoon of the four virtues: Faith, hope, charity and rat cunning. Let's talk about the first and leave the others to future discussions.

What brought this to mind was today's lurid, there goes the front and here comes the back, slip on a patch of diesel fuel during the Oz Triumph Tigger launch. We all came up in one piece though, which is why this is not being broadcast via a bucket of Dettol and complaints about the menu at the Ararat hospital.

A quick rule of thumb here for front-end dumps: If you can feel the front end going, things are looking good – it can be saved. If you can't, you're already on your back. As for a back-end lose, there's plenty of time so just relax. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

One of the most depressing and fascinating sights on a trip through the nether regions of our continent is the classic black mark on the tar, a matching furrow in the gravel, and a bitter and twisted tree with bits of fairing still hanging in it. The signs of someone else’s skidding misfortune.

Where it all goes galoot-shaped is between the "Oh phuck, oh phuck..." part of the corner entry and the messy exit stage centre. They didn't even try to make the corner.

The "Oh phuck" bit is all too familiar, and part of life's bewitching travesty. Play rough games, in enough corners, and odds are you'll get the entry wrong some time. From there you have a few choices. They are: 1. Freeze and do nothing; 2. Hit the brakes and then freeze (the preferred option, apparently), or; 3. Maybe brush the brakes and then definitely tip in harder.

This is not rocket science. I've ridden an interesting smattering of bikes over the years: A lot of current current stuff plus weird kit like a home-built Subaru-powered thingy. Forget the Subaru.
 The rest of them can/will outride 99-plus per cent of riders in a similar percentage of situations.

It took me a while to get the scone around that theory.

It was wet, windy, and unforgiving mountain territory. The GS1100G Suzi was a biggish thing and we went – for my riding ability – way too hot into a left-hander. A LandCruiser was coming the other way, which removed the running wide option. Various organs and extremities puckered up, tipped in and we made it through. Much against my expectation.

Not crunching the stop levers and tipping in harder fights against the body's nerves in a crisis, and I was delighted that it had actually come together.

It paid off again some years later in the city when someone turned right across me at an intersection, then propped, blocking centre stage. I was going too fast to stop and had to put the bike (can't remember what it was) on its left ear to get around, then flick back to stay on the road. My right leg still aches at the thought, because it was a goner that night if things went wrong.

Motorcycles will put up with some horrible things. On a ride to Queanbeyan one day I hit a hole big and nasty enough to have the pilot a long way out of the saddle, bend the steel front rim, destroy the main fairing mount, and break the rear exhaust bracket. We kept rolling...amazing, really.

Or should we talk about the Bimmer R1100RS of the late eighties that hit the right side hard enough to dent the header and leave gouges in the frame rails?

And the Honda CBX250 that ground the left frame rail, skittered across the full width of the road, and stayed on its rubber.

Then there's the dirt equivalent which is taking me even longer to come to terms with. I remember the advice of Dr Strangelanguage when it came to road bikes on dirt. Essentially it was concentrate your attention on the horizon (as you should on the road) and stand on the pegs when it gets nasty, with the throttle on. I wrecked a bike not listening to that.

Then, a few years later, I went back to the same sandy road and lived. Admittedly, the throttle-on through the long sandy patches advice was scary. It got to a stage, on a Hinckley Trident, where I was on the gas gently in fifth at 110-ish and the front end started to fold in. While the nerve ends were screaming "Brake! Brake!", I wound on the right grip and quietly freaked. It was a hospital visit at best, according to the vultures in my stomach – but the bike straightened up.

Which brings me back to the Tigger. When the front slithered I was spooked, being too busy to recall the "if you can feel it going, it's recoverable" theory. However when the back let go it was more familiar "hang in, it'll be okay" territory. It worked. That I stuffed up the corner in the first place is another story.

The upshot is that if you're still on your wheels, have faith. Trust the bike – 99 per cent of the time it can out-ride you.

(Ed's note: First published in Motorcycle Trader magazine circa 2002. Note this was written long before the appearance on motorcycles of six-axis inertia measurement units and the attendant sophistication for ABS, traction control et al. However I suspect that doesn't change the thread.)

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