It’s never a case of if but when, and if you ride long enough, far enough and hard enough it’s inevitable that at some point it will happen. No matter how hard you try to mitigate the circumstances or how much you try to protect yourself from the consequences, sooner or later you’ll crash. I was roughly 10,000 miles into my adventure, crossed fourteen countries and had more than half a dozen punctures when I had my crash. No just any crash but a high side.
It was a miserable wet day as I rolled into Irkutsk, much like it was when I left this place over a week ago when I headed down into Mongolia. I had become accustomed to the terrible condition of the Russian roads, and this stretch of Irkutsk was no different. Only a mile from my hostel I crossed the bridge and successfully negotiated the myriad of tram tracks that weaved their way through the city. On this particular section of road the triple set of wet tram tracks were bordered by wide and deep holes. As I rounded the corner, my lane suddenly, and without warning, ended, and the traffic was expected to merge with the adjoining lane.
As I approached the tracks I had already slowed down considerably and traversed the first set of tracks without difficulty but as my rear tyre crossed this ribbon of wet steel I felt the rear of the bike squirm like a snake. My arse puckered, but I managed to recover enough to keep the bike two wheels down, but the next set of tracks was a different story. Already travelling sideways the bike lost traction completely on the second set of tracks and the canyon sized pothole didn’t help. When the bike finally found its grip the resultant bite flipped the bike and threw me over the bars.
Flying through the air, time seemed to slow, and I had a fleeting flash of the bike behind me momentarily become airborne, until suddenly normal time was restored just as if someone had hit lifes play button. Next thing I know I’m making unwelcome contact with the ground, landing head first, I hear the thud of the helmet and the clank of the bike hitting the deck at the same time. I immediately pull myself up onto all fours and fleetingly took stock of the situation, my body on full alert for any pain that might indicate a potentially serious injury. No pain was forthcoming, but I certainly had the wind knocked out of me, so I briefly rolled over onto my back to pause for a long hard breath of air when I saw silver stars swimming gayly in my field of vision. I sat up onto my knees and felt two guys, one under each arm, about to heave me to my feet… “Nyet, Nyet, Nyet, leave me a minute”, I proclaimed, I still needed to get my breath. I started to remove my helmet just as the fireworks in my head slowly began to fade and the guys heaved the bike right side up.
I slowly got to my feet just as the bike was being put on the side stand. Shit the bike, I thought, I went straight over and had a cursory glance. It looked fine, not a single thing bent out of shape. I must still have had some mental fog because I completely didn’t see the mashed auxiliary spot light for another 5 minutes. I pushed the bike to the side of the road just as the adrenalin was wearing off and I suddenly felt the throbbing in my right toe. It felt wet inside my boot, but having injured my toe previously I recognised the feeling as the toe swelling and bruising. Next, I felt some pain in my elbow and some discomfort just above my left knee, but luckily nothing felt broken. As I started to take full stock of the situation I spontaneously began to giggle, appreciating how lucky I was not to be more seriously hurt and that the bike was so relatively undamaged. I can’t explain the feeling, perhaps elation is as close an approximation as I can make but it honestly felt like I had achieved some kind of victory, but over who or what I didn’t know.