The Cloak of Invisibility

“Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You.”

That’s a phrase that most motorcyclists hear from time to time!

It’s usually uttered by an apologetic car or truck driver just after they have pulled some mindless manoeuvre right in front of your moving motorbike. If you are lucky it’s a case of ‘no harm done,’ but often the consequences can be a whole lot more serious for the bike rider and result in an unexpected hospital visit…or worse.

As part of the advanced motorcycle training that I am known to bang on about we teach riders to create a ‘Safety Bubble’ around themselves. By that we mean to create a zone on all sides of your machine where you can manage the risks that may present themselves the road as you travel along. So if you are following another vehicle, don’t get too close; if something moves towards you from either side then move the other way and if something comes up from behind be aware of it and maybe accelerate or simply get out-of-the-way.

Of course another point to bear in mind is, “Can other road users see me.”

Some of this visibility, call it attention grabbing if you like, is again all about where you position the bike on the road. As riders, there are other things that we can do to help; things like riding with our headlights on and wearing clothing that draws attention to ourselves. It’s a strange thing though and I frequently muse through personal experience that all this gear must form some sort of “Cloak of Invisibility.” I’ve truly lost count of the number of times that people have bumped into me in supermarkets when I’m wearing my riding gear!

W.T.F.? You really can't see me?!?!?!

W.T.F.? You really can’t see me?!?!?!

Most modern bikes don’t give the rider any option with the headlights as they illuminate as soon as the ignition is turned on. It’s not just bikes that can be hard to see in poor visibility, I remember having a major argument with my mother on one occasion when she drove her silver car at twilight in falling rain….without any headlights on! Her excuse was that she could see where she was going, the trouble was no-one else could see her as the car blended into the road colour and general murky atmosphere!

The riding gear that we bikers buy is often black and that’s not necessarily the best to be spotted in, however durable it is for hiding road dirt. I frequently wear a hi-visibility tabard, with reflective strips, over my leathers. A colourful or white crash helmet is another good way of drawing attention to yourself; I used to ride in a very striking Simon Crafar race-replica, one of the best helmets I ever used, if a tad high on the posing front! – I’ve still got that old helmet, it’s way past its ‘use by’ date and now retired, but it still looks great on display in the workshop.fullsizeoutput_fd

I started writing this post a week last Friday, then on the Saturday got news that my old mate G, him of the leukaemia battle, had been victim of a moments carelessness by a car driver who pulled across in front of him with no prior indication! G slammed into the side of a Peugeot and flew 25 feet through the air, before crashing to the tarmac. The pictures of the scene are grim and I won’t be showing them on-line.

G had been riding his Yamaha on the edge of Bodmin Moor and minding his own business at a legal 60mph.

Two totally smashed wrists, one broken vertebrae and one smashed knee later, he got a totally unplanned helicopter evacuation to hospital thrown in for free! Thank goodness for the Cornwall Air Ambulance and also testimony to the excellent gear that G was wearing.

On the Monday G had six hours of surgery to reconstruct his broken body and have numerous bits of metal inserted to hold him together. I visited him in hospital twice last week, it’s not good to see one of your best mates in that state.

It’s of no comfort at all that the car driver has admitted responsibility….

Today G has been in the operating theatre again, this time for further work on his wrists; if he is lucky he will get most of the use back in his left hand and about 20% in his right. Next week he will have further surgery on his knee.

There’s a long difficult road ahead, but he’s Welsh and a true Celt so I have every faith that he won’t accept the surgeon’s prognosis and will work to beat the odds.

I took the Big Blue Ultra Limited out for a ride this afternoon.

Aside from the squally weather, it felt very weird and maybe a bit scary…I really can’t put my finger on it… Then just a few miles into it a bunch of “Slippery Road” signs, light rain and the strong smell of diesel fuel got me concentrating on the job in hand pretty quickly! Yes it’s good to ride, but even better to be alive.

Get well soon G.

“The road is long
With many a winding turn…”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

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22 thoughts on “The Cloak of Invisibility

  1. He ain’t heavy, he’s your brother 🙂
    Get well soon G from the Scottish corner of the USA as well.
    Stupid Peugot driver wasn’t paying attention and poor G got the brunt of it.
    Plus I think you’re very visible with your gear on and your lights and your big blue bike. Take care D 🙂

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about G and hope that he will recover very soon. I’ll send up some prayers and good thoughts for him.

  3. Sending healing thoughts and prayers to G….as if he hasn’t been through enough. Sheesh! As a runner, I’m very cautious about cars. But then again I’m not traveling at 60mph! As the sergeant on the old TV show, Hill Street Blues (I think that was the show…), used to say, “Be careful out there!”

  4. Sorry to hear about G, hope he recovers quickly.
    On the invisibility side there are some parallels with bicycling and having looked into this kind of thing I have read that many studies show that bright fluorescent or day-glo clothing is not as effective as people think. The ubiquitous us of it for emergency services, cyclists, road workers, motorcyclists and anyone else like dog walkers or joggers has desensitized people to it and it’s no more obvious than wearing white.
    Lights (preferably flashing) is the way to go.

  5. All the best to G. Hardly something he needed to happen now – or any time – but as you say, he has the grit to come through. On another note, I think you need flashing lights on that helmet if you want to be seen in the supermarket.

  6. Best wishes to your friend and speedy recovery.
    All the best lights, viz gear, etc. can only be effective if drivers are actually looking out their windshield, which many are not. Unfortunately, bikes are small in the traffic mix, and that Peugeot driver was probably looking at the vehicle behind G and really didn’t “see” him at all.

    • Accepted if we are talking urban roads or in traffic…
      The collision happened in open country, dry, bright conditions and with stunningly good visibility, there was no other traffic to obscure the view either. The car driver literally turned across G’s line with no warning or indication, giving G no time to either avoid or brake.

  7. Please give mob regards to your mate G and wish him a swift recovery. Tin tops are a hazard no matter where or how carefully you ride. Here in my town there are roundabouts on almost every intersection. Entering them you take your life in your hands even in the Landrover, let alone the bike. G is fortunate to have a mate like you and that regard you have for each other will surely help him through this difficult time.
    Hope the boys in blue can take action against the driver of the offending car.

    • Thanks Bones on many levels.
      I’ll pass on your best wishes to G, though I suspect he will make a comment on here before too long when he is feeling up to it.
      As for action with the car driver, I’d rather not comment until the law takes its course.
      Dookes

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