Thankfully as I was already close to the nearside
On Tuesday 15 September, at 1630 approximately, I was riding on the B4235 Usk to Chepstow. I was on my way to Tintern to stay the night at the Prava Farmhouse B&B / Restaurant prior to riding back home to Weymouth on Wednesday 16th September. I had previously ridden up to N Wales on Saturday 12 September to see my brother who lives in Bangor. I was riding my BMW R1250 RT LE (see attached photo). Note: I have ridden the B4235 many times, in both directions, twice annually on average, as it is part of the route I take from SW England to N Wales via Mid Wales.
I was approaching a right hand bend in a nearside position. Although this section of the B4235 was in national speed limit, it was clearly marked with double white lines and had an excellent road surface. It was not a closed a bend nor an open one hence I adjusted by road speed accordingly. Weather was dry, sunny with good visibility. As I approached the right hand bend, an HGV came around the bend (his left hand bend) heading straight towards me with his offside front & rear wheels well over the double white lines. The HGV’s error – excessive speed for the road & bend. The amount of safe tarmac I had available to ride on was less than a 1/3 because as the HGV tried to steer back to his side of the road, he slewed round in an arc to the offside thus reducing my side of the road even further. Thankfully as I was already close to the nearside, there was a low cut grass verge running alongside the nearside, a metre wide. I instinctively mounted the verge and rode on it for some 20 yards at least, at 15-20 mph maintaining the bike’s momentum by applying constant speed, straight steering, raising my vision to keep my eyes on the furthest point I wanted to go to, both feet firmly on the foot pegs, which saw me return safely to hard tarmac on my side of the road. Had I panicked, reduced speed, touched my brakes, momentum, stability and grip would have been lost, unbalanced the bike and both me and the machine would have gone over, either to the nearside or worst still into the vehicle’s path on the offside. I vividly recall the HGV hurtling past me in the opposite direction well on my side of the road whilst I was riding on the grass verge in order avoid a collision which could do easily have had fatal consequences. I can recall the colour of the HGV, type and size. It all happened too quickly for me to catch the HGV’s registration number. There were no other vehicles present at the time.
Advanced riding skills saved me from sustaining life threatening injuries
There is no question that possessing well honed advanced riding skills saved me from sustaining life threatening injuries, a bike written off but worse still, becoming a fatality. It was a classic ‘what can you see, what you can’t see, what you might reasonably expect to happen and what to do if things turn out differently ie what is your plan B?
So where does BikeSafe come into all this you might ask? BikeSafe first introduced me to the principles of advanced riding when I attended a BikeSafe one day course some 12 years ago at The Warren, Bromley, London. I recall it well as I was riding probably the best bike I have ever owned – a Honda VFR VTEC. The Instructor, a Met Police traffic officer, rode an unmarked police bike but he was in full Police livery. The whole session with him and the rest of the team was nothing short of brilliant and what I learned that day stayed with me for good. My BikeSafe experience pushed me to improve my riding even further and so I followed this up by successfully passing the IAM RoadSmart Advanced Riding Test, later gained a Distinction on the IAM RoadSmart Masters Riding Course, voluntarily took an IAM RoadSmart advanced riding test reassessment last year and gained a F1RST pass. I am also an IMI registered National Observer with my local group, the Dorchester & West Dorset Advanced Motorcyclists (DWDAM). For the last 12 years, I have also successfully retained my RoSPA Gold every three years. However, had I not attended a BikeSafe course I doubt whether any of the above would have occurred. BikeSafe opened up the door and gave me an insight into a safer and better way ride a motorcycle.
Don't give it a second thought - attend BikeSafe!
Not surprisingly, my strong advise to any rider out there who has not attend BikeSafe and followed it up with further advanced riding training such as enrolment on the IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider Course or the RoSPA equivalent, don’t give it a second thought – you will not regret it and it may one day save your life – as it unquestionably did for me on the 15th September 2020. What I have achieved with my advanced riding is not beyond any rider. The mere fact of attending a BikeSafe course in itself is an indication of the desire to become a safer and in the process a better rider. BikeSafe is literally priceless and deserves all the praise which is rightly heaped upon it, nationally.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing this experience with you but it’s the nearest I have ever come to losing my life on a motorcycle through no fault of my own. I have much to be grateful to BikeSafe which if nothing else taught me the principles of safe cornering. On this occasion, it undoubtedly saved my life as had I either positioned in the centre or offside position on my side of the road on approach to the right hand bend on the B4235 rather than the nearside as I did, I don’t think I would be here today writing this.
Brian Purnell OBE
IAM RoadSmart (DWDAM)