celebrating 40+ years of motorcycling

NRMA.

In another chapter, entitled “Binning it” I detailed a nasty accident I had at the top of Macquarie Pass back in 1978. I was riding the 400/4 and I had the misfortune to hit a pothole right on line. The bike climbed out of the hole, shook its head and fell over, on its right hand side. I was flipped up in the air and, somehow, landed back down on the bike again, lying flat along its left-hand side as it skidded across the road, rather like a street luge operator would look. My feet were down near the back wheel somewhere and my head was level with the instrument panel and I remember watching an auxiliary driving light that was mounted on the right hand side of the headlight being ground away on the bitumen as the bike skidded to a stop on the verge on the opposite side of the road.

Thankfully I was not injured; perhaps I should say “amazingly”. The levers on the right (both brake ones) were bent, the driving light was trashed and the little “bikini” fairing had had all of its perspex bubble smashed, but the fairing itself was intact, though scratched.

I picked the bike up and, using the Honda-supplied tool kit that I had augmented with a few other tools, I straightened up the levers so that the bike was rideable and rode on to Wollongong. There I visited an old friend who had a comprehensive workshop in his garage and he removed the levers, straightened them properly and made the bike right to ride.

I continued on to Sydney for the ACU meeting and then, later that afternoon, headed on home to Canberra. Now the Hume had still not been completely made into the dual-carriageway road that it is now, and many parts of the highway still passed through the towns. And so it was that, at about 9 that evening I approached the outskirts of Collector, that tiny town half-way between Goulburn and Canberra. Just as I arrived at the 60km/h sign I slowed down and, at the same instant, I hit another large pothole. The bike faltered and the motor died. I pulled in the clutch; no sign of life at all. I pulled over to the side, shifted the bike into neutral and tried starting again. Nothing.

Off the bike and start checking. Fuel, OK, fuses, OK.. and so the checklist was ticked off. No matter what I did, the bike would simply not start again. So, I walked across the road to the Hotel and there, outside the door, was a public telephone box (no mobiles back then, remember?). I called my wife and explained my predicament. I could sense the tension, but what could I do? I knew that I was asking her to get the two children (one a 2 year old toddler and one a 2 month old baby) out of bed, bundle them up in the car and drive some 80kms to rescue me. What COULD I do?

I hung up and sat back to wait. As time does in situations like this, it positively CRAWLED by. No shops, servos, open. Not even the hotel where I could get a cuppa and warm up some. Just waiting.

Then I started looking at the bike again and an horrific fact suddenly emerged. There were 2 fibreglass “wings” on the bikini fairing that used to support the perspex shield. These ran back across the top of the handlebars on both sides and the one on the right hand side, unsupported and kept in position by the perspex shield, had bumped the kill switch when I hit the pothole and flicked it into the “off” position.

I looked and looked again. I just couldn’t believe it. Could it really be so? I flicked the switch back into the “on” position, hit the starter and the engine purred into life. Oh no. I had commited the fatal novice rider’s blunder of not checking the kill switch. Aaaaarrrrghh!

Now I must say that the kill switch on the 400/4 was different to those on bikes today. On my VFR, if the switch is “off” nothing happens at all, so it’s pretty obvious what the problem is. But, on the 400, the motor could still spin over, it just wouldn’t start.

So, here I was, with a perfectly funtioning bike that could be ridden home, and my wife and two babies heading out to “save” me through the winter night. The thought of what she would say when she arrived and found out that she wasn’t really needed was truly terrible.

No mobile phone to call her and tell her she wasn’t needed. Just sit there and suffer till she arrives.

And arrive she did, rugged up to blazes, and, bless her heart, fully equipped with a thermos of hot coffee! It made telling her the truth about my stupidity even harder, believe me. Like the wonderful wife she was (and is) she forgave me and we headed home in a convoy, me silenting cursing myself all the way.

And the title of this chapter? NRMA?

It stands for Never Remind Me Again !