Boy did I have a ride yesterday. Its that time of year when all the agricultural types (and I'm surrounded by them out here) conspire against us motorcycle types to make a final concerted effort to get us sliding down the roads before the frost and ice arrives.
Encounter 1. Less than a mile from home, at the start of my journey, I find `Benny` and his tractor, with its 6 foot high tyres and massive contraption bolted to it. It looked like a pile of moving scaffolding. From a distance it looked like it was surrounded by a flock of brown birds but as I got closer I realised the `birds` were clods of soggy mud being liberally sprayed along the road, landing with a dull splat (there are many dull splats living round here, too). I picked my moment, sounded the horn and passed him by onto the clean tarmac ahead of him. He didn't hear me anyway as standard fit motorcycle horns sound like a donkey with a sore throat, plus he was talking on a mobile telephone.
Encounter 2. Within 5 miles Benny's mates had done a great little number on a stretch of B road, through a series of sweeping bends, no doubt having been warned of my approach via aforementioned mobile phone. It was well spread about and they had taken great care to ensure that not only was there plenty of mud on the crown of the bend where my lean angle would be at its peak, but even the approach, where I would be slowing down/braking, gave the road a sort of `ploughed field on tarmac` effect. Nice. Thank you BMW for fitting traction control and ABS, albeit I managed without either, although a third wheel would have been handy at this point. 45 minutes later and I had reached my destination.
Encounter 3. The first half of the return journey was uneventful and enjoyable, with the temperature hovering around a balmy 10C with the skies clear and blue as the afternoon sun reached the last hour of it's traverse and descent. I left the A roads for the final 12 miles. Big mistake. Benny's mobile network of rustic chums in tractors had been busy whilst I'd been enjoying an americano and eccles cake with a chunk of Lancashire cheese. This time they'd had time to really do a number on me. So cocky were they, that they'd even put a sign up saying `Mud On Road`. As I slowed gently down on the approach to a right hander I met my nemesis. There was no `mud on road`, the road was mud, a mid-brown-inches-deep river of the stuff. From hedgerow to hedgerow it was a bloody swamp as far as my vision extended. I am no novice and for the previous 3 winters in North Yorkshire there were only 8 days when, for safety reasons, I didn't use the bike to get to work because it was minus 12 and the council had run out of salt to clear compacted snow and ice, but this was way too much and downright dangerous so I turned round and found another way home.
Leaving mud on the road is actually a criminal offence, but its one of those things where nothing is done unless something bad happens - and anyway farmers put food in the shops and can't be expected to carry a bucket and brush around with them as they traverse the countryside shouting "Git orf moi land". Bless `em.
Now this is skid control. I was billetted for nine months in one of the buildings that overlooked this skid pan. I've watched those instructors, in big Rover V8's, chasing each other backwards with the grace of ballet dancers (but I bet he couldn't do it on a motorbike).