TALES FROM THE YEARS SPENT POLISHING
Chapter 9: The Crash
Bill arrived with his old Tiger 100 spluttering. He dismounted and started to undo his tool roll to find a plug spanner to cure the misfire. Bill always seemed to have something wrong with his bike..
Sometimes I had to empty a bit of my petrol out to put into Bill's tank!
I explained about the girl and he grudgingly agreed to go straight on to the Ace. We finally arrived at the Ace transport cafe only to see the pack peeling off once again. This was more than I could take. I had waited for Bill's ailing Triumph long enough. He knew the route we would be travelling well so I signalled that I was going on to dice with the pack.
Bill gave me a good humoured 'V' sign and I opened up my 650 cruising past the slower bikes at about 80mph towards the leaders.
I passed the Enfield with the girl on the back and pretending not to notice her was gratified to see that she had seen me. With such an audience I flung my throttle open fully and the speedo needle climbed into the 90's. I was now at top speed.
Flattening my body onto the tank and peering over the speedometer and rev. counter at the straight, clear road ahead.
The needle hovered around 96, 97 mph. At this speed I was scared! The adrenaline coursed through my veins. Salty tears making their way from the corners of my eyes to my side burns I tried to take in a split second speedo reading. Yes, surely the angle of the needle was beyond a ton!
I was slowly overtaking a BSA Super Rocket and jerked my head sideways to grin. The wind distorted my face into a grimace. The Beeza had ample power on tap and slowly pulled away from me.
Thinking of my engine I slowed a little and slotted into line with the leaders.
We loved this stretch of by-pass that was only out classed by the newly opened M1 motorway. Two more contenders for the lead position thrashed past, in front was the Enfield Connie, with the girl on the back. The two leather clad figures were streamlined together flat over the bike. I knew that feeling of two tits pressed into your back as you nudged your way to a ton, the ultimate thrill!
The boy's black hair swept back horizontally as tears were dragged from his eyes by the force of the wind. Behind was the Triumph Bonneville challenging so closely that the front tyre was almost touching the Constellation's rear number plate.
Ahead the knot of traffic indicated the fast approaching roundabout. We all positioned our hands and feet over the brakes to slow, except the two jockeying in the outside lane.
The inevitable yet unthinkable manifested itself in front of our eyes. The Enfield's twin leading shoe brakes bit hard and the Triumph's front wheel collided.
In surreal slow motion the Triumph slid to the ground, the bike spinning on its footrest into the rest of the pack. We all took avoiding action, some braked hard leaving black rubber skid marks snaking along the road while others of us steered round the human debris.
Those of us that stayed upright ran to help the others out of the path of the traffic that seemed determined to pass the carnage. At first it seemed that we had escaped with bruises, bent clip-ons and ripped leather until the bells came to our ears, police and the chilling sound of an ambulance.
My mind immediately went to the girl and the Enfield rider. They were going fast towards the roundabout and braking too late. The police took all our names and details. Those of us still mobile gave lifts to those who weren't and we dispersed, hearts still thumping fast.
The next day we read about it all in the national press with all the lurid details. In an odd kind of way we felt secretly proud to have been part of the crash that everyone was talking about. Like in Henry V "Tomorrow is Saint Crispian." Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars ... Or something like that!
Apparently the Enfield rider had reached the front of the bunch but had paid dearly for his brief moment of glory. His crash bar had folded back trapping his leg and he had been flung, like a rag doll, attached to his machine over a car and onto the roundabout. He died before the ambulance arrived on the scene.
As for the girl ... Well I saw her weeks after on the back of a Norton, her leg and arm were in plaster. She wore a nice new shiny space helmet firmly protecting her head. Across the back in pink letters was the word 'LUCKY' I smiled.
- Tony Sheppard