Francis Meyrick

The Great Sidecar Experiment (Finale)

Posted on August 5, 2011

The Great Sidecar Experiment

Part Six: Finale

Down the last stretch of road we hurtled, like a cannon ball on steroids, and I could see the large red-and-white imperative STOP sign now coming very quickly into view. I was experiencing a greatly agitating awareness of the extreme Fragility of Man. The crossing car was now also clearly in view, and I was convinced our next appointment was with the unsuspecting driver. We didn’t just drive through the STOP sign. It was more a case that we BLEW through it, as if it wasn’t there, and didn’t matter. The strangled sound effects coming from Deklan and myself were now somewhere high up in falsetto mode, and I know I was at that level of awareness referred to by psychologists as peak experience. Everything was very clear to me, and destined to remain embedded in my consciousness for the rest of my Life: the sun, shining through the leaves, the moss on the brick wall, the discarded candy wrapper lying in the gutter… And the black and white saloon, cutting right across our path from left to right. I believe the heightened senses are frequently associated with a fear of dying. In my case, fear had nothing to do with it.

I was bloody petrified.

I was so utterly convinced that we were going to ram the front right wing of the approaching car, that I actually was pulling up my knees. Perhaps it was a Freudian reflex, and I was trying to revert to my poor Mother’s womb and the foetus position.

A split second later, the car driver, showing superb reactions, absolutely jammed on his anchors. I had a momentary grand stand view of his radiator grille, rearing above me, as we shushed by, mere inches ahead, at Mach One Warp Speed. But I had no time to reflect on this highly unusual angle to be viewing a car radiator grille. We were now being swept on to the next phase of our ballistic trajectory. We crossed the road, mounted the grassy bank, and hurtled across twenty yards or so of grass, weeds and dandelions. Ahead of us spread out the twelve foot stone wall, built over the centuries by hand, by countless generations of toiling peasants. Three foot thick, crafted to survive hundreds of years of weather and erosion, and consisting of the finest granite in Europe.

We were dead men, and I knew it. I wished I had been a better person, and remained an Altar Boy. At the penultimate moment of our charge, I saw the smallest details of the stone wall. The grooves, the different colorations, the tufts of grassy growth, embedded in cracks, clinging to Life…

There came an explosion of black stars. Somewhere, somehow, in a far distant Galaxy, things were happening. But it didn’t really matter. Lights came on and off, and a crushing weight slammed against my chest. I felt a vague puzzlement, a feeling that I should be paying attention to something, but I didn’t know what. Time, presumably, if there was such a thing as Time, slipped by, and I opened my eyes again. I was looking UP at a dandelion, from ground level. That didn’t seem right, so I shut my eyes. I thought about maybe going to sleep, and forgetting about the whole thing, especially the dandelion. But now an insistent sound was invading my dim consciousness. It sounded like a massive, distant, growling noise. I opened one eye, experimentally, and observed that beyond the massive dandelion, lay another world. A slow awareness now started creeping back, and I wished it wouldn’t. Because I hurt like hell. Every part of me hurt, most especially my head. And the ringing and raging inside my skull was not being helped by the distant Growling Sound. Slowly, very slowly, I lifted my cheek a half inch off the dirt. Now I could see movement. I blinked, and I know I groaned. The Distant Sound belonged to a cavalcade of motorbikes, hundreds of them, all pouring down the hill, like a plague of locusts . They would be here in a minute…

A face swam oddly into view. It belonged to an elderly gentleman, presumably the driver of the black-and-white car. He was saying something about not moving. I totally ignored him, and slowly moved my thudding head the other way. Deklan, sitting up, propped up against the remaining wreckage of the BSA, was holding his head, and wailing pitifully.

Great… Just frickin’ great…

The first bikers were now sweeping around the last curve, going hell-for-leather, and approaching the imperative STOP sign, which we had so blatantly ignored. I tried to move, with some vague thoughts of quickly hiding, but the fireworks in my head defeated the urge. The first bikers, ghouls, detractors, and piss-takers were now pulling up, jumping off their bikes, and running towards us. A wave of resignation swept over me. The facing, past the dandelion, of the inevitable. The leading biker, stupid looking dude with a beard, put on a passionate display of caring, and pretending to give a rat’s ass.

“Jayzus, Francis, are you all right?”

I thought carefully about my reply. It was hard, mustering much dignity, face down in the dirt, peering out from behind a dandelion. Beside me, Deklan’s groaning was intrusive. It detracted from my attempt to regain dignity and composure. I debated remarking casually that the sidecar was going great, but that the brakes maybe needed calibrating. But somehow, I knew they weren’t going to fall for that.
Deklan’s groaning was now getting on my nerves. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of motorbikes were now pulling up, and we were increasingly surrounded by a sea of faces. The gig was up. There was no escaping the total, utter humiliation. I needed to go asleep…

Somebody shook me by the shoulder.

“Jayzus, Francis, are you all right?”

Sixteen different suitably withering retorts vied for supremacy in my mind. I looked my questioner as squarely in the face as I could, with as much dignity as I could. Which was hard. Giving the handicap of my location.

“F@#!!K YOU”, I said, with feeling.

Then I turned my head slowly to Deklan.

“And F@#!!K YOU TOO”, I added, for good measure.

* * *

They whisked us off in an ambulance, and I remember being annoyed at the siren taking us away. In my mind at the time, it might not have been just quite as bad, if they had taken us away without a siren. We might have passed it off later as just a routine check up, you know.

They patched us up, and that took a little while. I had severe concussion, amongst other things. Although that was my first ride in a meat wagon, it was not destined to be my last, as I shall recount at a later stage, elsewhere.

There are three small sequels to this true tale of engineering fiasco.
The first is that the reason for the sudden, total brake failure was traced to the small lead stop weight at the end of the brake cable deciding to dis-attach itself. Not an unheard of event, but the timing sure sucked.

The second is that it is said that there is special Irish Saint who looks after drunks and bikers. I don’t know his name, but I’m very grateful to the fellow. I guess he must be real busy. It turned out that the winds of Ireland, over the centuries, had blown dust up against the base of that old granite wall. Itself designed to withstand the centuries. Well, patiently, Mother Nature had seeded the dirt that blew up against the wall. That had grown grass and stuff, and in turn, more dust and dirt had attached itself in front of the wall. The net result of this timeless process, was that there was a sort of reverse ski-jump of dirt up against that wall. The front wheel of our runaway M21 had thus neatly turned UP the wall, and we had done a sort of looping somersault, as opposed to having our thick skulls test the integrity of three hundred year old Irish granite.

And thirdly, after they whisked us off, sirens and lights going like the clappers, it later emerged that souvenir hunters -dirty bastards- helped themselves to the tangled remains of our Great Sidecar Experiment. Which is why, in select bars around the counties Dublin and Wicklow, such as are frequented by members of the biking fraternity, you will, to this day, find venerable pieces of the Great Experiment, attached to various walls and rafters, aswith some faded photographs of two motorcyclists driving by on a pea green BSA M21 sidecar outfit. Striking an odd looking standing double ballet pose

The origins of those pieces increasingly being shrouded in the mist of times, and bygone folklore, it seemed only right that your writer, being somewhat integral to the entire debacle, should attempt to put the historical record straight. There have been many impostors who have claimed participation in this gigantic bungle, but they are all feckin’ liars. Anyway, we NEARLY fooled ’em good.

Finally, I might add that now, many years, miles, and motorcycles later, approaching sixty years of age, I have not lost all the urges. I own a small collection of motorcycles I am very proud of. Flying helicopters for a living, and still enjoying it hugely every day, is a variant on motorcycling of course, and appeals to the very same juvenile instincts for speed, excitement and freedom. And the need to show off. As regards other urges, modesty forbids me from elaborating further.

And, would you know, “Honda Lafayette ” have an old Ural Sidecar Combo for sale. They have had it for years. Seems nobody wants it. It is painted in a real interesting pea green as well. I’ve been tempted to buy it.
I just wonder…

what that old Irish Saint…

would say to that…?

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on June 6, 2015, 4:25 am

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