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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

3/5 done

Picture is not at all related to the post.
It just looks cool.
I passed my theory and hazard tests this past Tuesday –– an experience that was anything but stress-free. 

For those of you just tuning in, there are five steps to becoming a fully licensed motorcyclist in the UK –– assuming that, like me, you are older than 24. The youngsters have to wade through even more wallet-sapping red tape (1). 

Having now passed the aforementioned tests I have just two more steps to go. The fourth –– my Module 1 test –– takes place 19 March and I'll be spending this Saturday coming to terms with the 600cc bike I'll be tested on. The weather forecast calls for heavy showers, so I'm sure it will be a wonderful experience.

But back to the challenges faced last Tuesday. Both the theory and hazard perception tests are taken together and involve little more than going to an old building in Cardiff city centre and sitting in front of a computer screen for roughly 40 minutes. The theory test consists of 50 multiple choice questions, the hazard perception test a collection of video clips requiring you to spot various hazards (e.g., pedestrians stepping into the road). Easy enough.

I had booked my tests for 8 a.m.. Even though it (theoretically) takes just 17 minutes for the train to get from Penarth to Cardiff Queen Street, where the test centre is located, I decided to give in to my natural nervousness and was at the Penarth train station shortly before 7 a.m. 

Thank goodness for that.

The train had been cancelled. All consecutive trains were massively delayed. I would find out later that two trains had broken down, both on the route I needed to take. But in the moment I didn't have time to ponder the 'why' of the issue, only the fact I was stuck.

There is just one road out of Penarth, laid out a few hundred years before anyone thought of cars. On a weekday morning the road becomes so heavily clogged it can take upward of an hour to get out of town. So a bus or a taxi was out of the question. The only option was my bicycle.

If one cuts across the Cardiff Bay locks, jumps over curbs, zips the wrong way up roads and rides on the sidewalk, it is a straight five miles from my flat to the testing centre. By the time I had run home and changed into my cycling gear I was left with roughly 25 minutes to cover that distance.

Pushing down toward the bay I hit a flesh-ripping headwind that I screamed and strained against all the way to the city centre. Once there, I found myself wild-eyed and frantic to pop through red lights and clip between cars. The irony of my extreme rule breaking for the sake of arriving a test on the rules of the road didn't escape me, but my panic absolved me of guilt.

Completely to my surprise, however, I made it in time. Drenched in sweat. Breathing like a psychopath. But on time. I scored 50/50 on my theory test and a less impressive 59/75 on my hazard perception test. I'm going to blame the latter low score on the fact I was so ramped up on adrenaline from cycling that the video clips seemed slow; I got bored and started looking around the room.

–––––

(1) A 16-year-old, for example, has at least seven steps and six years of waiting before he/she can be fully licensed. Is it any wonder that motorcycle sales are on the decline in this country?

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