So, there I was, broken down.
Before we all forget what Winter looks like, I thought I’d just a few words about one of those oh-so-typical winter breakdowns…
Despite how rude people are about Russian motorcycle combinations (and they are rude), mine seldom protests the lack of care I invest in it. In fact, it’s only refused a fence twice in around 9,000km. This was the second time.
It was the sort of February night where a rider’s thoughts stray to heated grips, thermal gloves and a reviving glass of whisky at home. The sort of night when you put your gloves on to brush the ice from the saddle. A perfect night for the lights to fail. Typical.
Being the owner of a Russian motorcycle combination, I carry tools. That’s the thing with Urals; they like to be loved and cared for with a turn of the spanner now and then. Or things drop off. I got the tool roll from the sidecar but with little hope. Electrical failures terrify me. I have no idea how to diagnose, let alone fix, them.
Tool roll out. Head torch? Bugger. At home. Pocket torch. Oh, this is just great. Here I am, upside down in the permafrost (still muddy though – how?) at the side of a dark country lane, trying to hold a torch in my mouth and focus it on the underside of the handlebar switch cluster trying to undo the five tiny screws holding it on. I might have sworn a little.
As I’m hanging from the bars, cursing my bike, the mud, electricity and the world in five different primary colours, a voice comes, helpfully, from over my left shoulder, “Hello. Are you OK?”
I stopped swearing, and in the instant it took me to stop, took stock of some of the choice phrases the voice’s owner must have overheard. I went a little red.
A jack russell nuzzled my hand, having hopped onto the saddle to give me a friendly lick. I could discern its twin at the lady’s ankle as she waited for an answer. There she stood, Puffa jacket. Hunters. Smart sort of hat. And a cut-glass accent. The sort of accent that needs to carry the length of manor house corridors and belongs to someone with at least an Hon. to their double-barreled name.
I sheepishly explained that my lights had failed, that I didn’t have a proper torch or, really, much of a clue.
“Do you need a hand? How about my head torch? I could give you a lift if you liked – it’s absolutely no trouble.” she offered, before asking if I lived far away. We then talked about bikes for a bit, how the Ural was rather splendid – and wasn’t it Russian?
This was a lady whom I’d never met. Yet here we were, standing on a darkened lane and me with sharp and potentially lethal screwdriver in hand. My new friend couldn’t have been less concerned about facing some leather-clad, greasy, muddy, bargee-style cussing biker – or more concerned about making sure I was OK and could get home.
So much for the sort of fear that the Daily Mail tells us is stalking our streets every day. Only when she was absolutely convinced I really was alright and that a lift from home was on the way, did she stride off into the crisp, evening darkness, jack russells bouncing in her wake, headtorch bobbing as she went.
I rang my mate Tarka that evening. “Should have called me from the roadside you prat.” was his sympathetic response as I explained the problem. One can always count on a better quality of abuse from a fellow Russian combo rider. “It’ll be the fuse, dickhead. Now you owe me a beer.”
It was, I am and I do. He’s down soon to collect. Now that should make a story…