As I was preparing to leave school in Sydney this afternoon, I noticed a big, black storm cloud hovering to the south. “Hope I can get home before it rains.” I thought, but took the precaution and put on my textile pants over my jeans just in case.
As it turned out, the decision was a wise one. There were a few spits of rain along the way, but it was looking like I might just fluke it until I passed the Picton road turnoff and started heading up the hill to the Mt Keria turnoff. Suddenly I noticed this white stuff all over the road. It’s amazing that it takes a few seconds for stuff like that to compute, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t snow, as I had originally thought, but huge drifts of hail, with the wheeltracks of the cars in front of them making black lines though the white.
Already there were accidents and people pulling over to the side of the road. Cars were sliding around and everyone that was keeping going, was keeping going really slowly, and I mean REALLY slowly. I figured it was safer to keep going rather than pull over and risk someone aquaplaning into me as I stood there helpless watching.
All was going well. I was in 2nd gear, doing about 20km/h when the Bimmer in front of me slowed suddenly. I was nowhere near him, but I slowed as well to keep a safe distance and also moved a little to one side to improve my visibility. As I did the front wheel crossed a drift of ice and the bike started to slide and I knew that I was going to be a passenger.
Down she went. I performed the advisory “keep your head up off the road as you slide” manouever and watched as the VFR performed a graceful ballet of circles on its right hand side, skidding down the road away from me. I remember thinking, “Please don’t hit the Bimmer.” as it seemed to gather speed away from me, but the car was moving more quickly and the bike was already slowing down (although it skidded an enormous distance; very little friction to slow its progress, I guess).
I jumped up and ran to retrieve it. It was lying in the middle of the lane like a beached whale (You’re beached is, broo). Two drivers of courier vans who had stopped, rushed over to help me pick it up and, once I had gotten it into neutral, wheel it to the side of the road. Thanks, guys; they really were very helpful and considerate of my plight.
On the sidestand on the side of the road, I knew the bike was damaged, but it started 2nd go on the button and all I was interested in doing then was getting out of there, so I tip-toed off (literally) and navigated through the piles of ice (15-20cm deep, all across the road) and the rivers of water that were coursing across the road to the drains on the edge. I maintained my balance by basically keeping my both feet just skimming the road and fighting the skids every time they occurred. Traffic was almost at a standstill and the northbound lanes were completely stopped. Police cars were trying to get their way up the hill, but they were snarled up in the traffic at the bottom of the mountain and couldn’t make any progress at all.
It was FREEZING cold, leading me to believe that it could have been snow, but I’m now sure it was a hailstorm, and one of Biblical proportions.
The bike is a mess. Fairing damage to the top, middle and fairing lower on the right hand side will ensure that it is going to be an insurance job.
And me? I’m sitting here writing this in warm, dry clothes and totally uninjured. I was wearing my RJays armoured jacket, my back protector (on which skidded for some considerable distance – I think I know what a turtle feels like now), my armoured textile pants and my MotoDry Black Ice winter gloves.
The lesson? All the Gear – All the time.