12 August 2011

It was after 5 pm when I made it back down the DN7C to Curtea de Argeș. South on the rest of the DN7C for another 25 miles would get me to Pitesti. Bucharest was then in easy reach a further 70 miles away on the A1 motorway.

Two hours should do it, then find a hotel and park up for a few motorbike free days.

It had been a long day with more hours in the saddle than originally planned due to my flawed navigation. But I’d done nearly all of the Transfăgărășan in both directions.

Unpredictable motorists had been the theme all day – suddenly slowing, stopping or changing direction. The Logan drivers were out in force. It was indeed a perfect day to put the Logan through its paces on the DN7C and maybe even test out the autopilot.

I was moving with the traffic on a straight stretch of the DN7C between Curtea de Argeș and Pitești. I was behind yet another Logan. This time a van type variant. It was mid blue.

Vans, trucks and buses severely limit your ability to read the road ahead. Even when you pull back some way your field of vision is massively restricted. My preferred tactic is to pass them at the first opportunity. Better to have no cars around you. Open road is the best.

So here’s the dilemma. Overtaking opportunities were limited due to cars in the opposite direction and a restricted field of vision. We were moving along at a good clip but I really wanted to get into Bucharest that night.

As I was reflecting on my day I momentarily took my eyes off the mid blue Logan van in front of me. Only for a second, probably to look at the fuel gauge. And not to play with the gadgets on the Family Truckster.

But sometimes a second of lapsed concentration is all it takes.

As my attention was restored to the mid blue Logan van I was greeted with a sight no motorcyclist ever wants to see with short notice.

Three cars in front someone was turning left and had completely stopped to wait for the traffic to clear. It’s not like there was a street there or anything on this stretch of road that would keep you alert to a possible left hand turn. But this was happening and to my horror the mid blue Logan van had already commenced to brake suddenly.

My initial thought was there is no way the Family Truckster would stop in time. Fully laden we are probably about 450kg. I was hopeless at Physics at school but something this heavy travelling to 60 miles an hour is going to take some pulling up when all you rely mostly on the front brake and relatively skinny tyre. I was already preparing myself for a closer inspection of the rear of a mid blue Logan van than I would ever have envisaged. There was no room to swerve – I was preparing for an impact.

At times like this everything seems to happen in slow motion. I hit the brakes harder than I have ever needed to before. Part of the licence test is an emergency stop but there is no van stopping in front of you at the time. I’ve never before needed an emergency stop like I do now.

To my absolute relief the Family Truckster responds.

There is no skidding thanks to the ABS brakes. Half way through I sense I’m going to be right. In the end I pull up with some metres spare. My racing heart had already slowed somewhat by the time I come to a complete stop.

What a machine. And after all the hard work you’d been through that day, riding up and over the high mountain pass – twice.

And that is why I have always and only had BMW’s. For the safety. I’m not saying another bike wouldn’t have made this stop but I will never know. The extra cost proved a wise investment today. I was already in awe of the engineering of this machine, now even more so. When I really needed all that technology and precise German engineering it did not let me down.

After a few deep breaths I begin to regain my composure, knowing how close that was to disaster. Eyes forward for the rest of the way to Bucharest.

Update: Whew! I still remember this close call vividly.  Don’t think I would have wanted a spell in a Romanian hospital. Luckily my Turkey motorcycle tour would continue.