Friday, 15 October 2004


I have tried to resist the temptation to write about my bike in my first post, but this morning I slapped my first mirror whilst filtering rush hour traffic.

One of the reasons why one rides a motorcycle is because it gives you the ability to filter through rush hour traffic by splitting lanes - occasional elements of automotive roulette notwithstanding. My bike is an Africa Twin - a huge traillie that is content to double as a (surprisingly good) commuter tool. It has lots of midrange power, a high riding position that makes it possible to see over rows of cars, AND (unlike race replica sports-bikes) the handlebars are higher than normal car mirrors - which means an extra foot of passing space.

The only exceptions are 4x4 and minibus taxi mirrors - they are *exactly* on the same height as the Africa Twin’s handguards. Fortunately one is rarely wedged between two of those during rush hour. This morning I found my rear tyre rolling over the cat's eyes on the broken line all the way from Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery stoplights, just outside town, right down to the Dorp Street intersection. Two fingers on the front brake and eyes searching for sideways movement from the rows of front wheels that would indicate a sudden lane change (indicators do not indicate intention).

Approaching the Dorp Street intersection, town planners squished double lanes into a space a metre or so too small. Right there, I find my way partially blocked by an Isuzu Trooper drifting from the lane to my left, towards a stationary Toyota Hi-Ace taxi in the lane to my right. What is the likelihood of a minibus taxi still having its left side-mirror? It was not my lucky day - the sole law-abiding taxi in South Africa (sporting *both* side-mirrors) was right next to me! Two quick dabs on the front brake to give the 4x4’s mirror a chance to move past the minibus' mirror, setting myself up for ducking the right-handguard under the taxi mirror and then a quick shift of weight to duck the left-handguard under the 4x4 mirror.

At this point I can see the Isuzu driver’s eyes in his (fast-approaching) side-mirror. I can see his eyes narrowing as he notices the enduro-style dual-headlights of my Africa Twin. His response is the instinctive one - he slams on the brakes - neatly stopping his side mirror flush with that of the minibus taxi... Hard on front brake, the nose of the Africa Twin dips, too late... *tuDUP-PLINK!!!* as my left indicator brushes bottom part of his mirror, followed by the handguard bending it over forwards and *CLACK* as the plastic back of the mirror slaps the Trooper’s bodywork. HONK!!!

A flip-up system helmet affords a civilised response, so I flipped up the visor and shouted, “Sorry!” over my shoulder. Trying to resolve the incident without road rage was greeted with “Hey!!! HEY!!! F#&K OFF!!!” Visor down, gear down, revs up, and I'm accelerating off between the rows of cars.

I’ve decided that driver anger at a minor mirror slap must be part-envy. In future I shall keep the visor down and simply use the infuriating full-faced-helmet-wink before continuing my filtering through frustrated barely moving cage-driving commuters. As far as I am concerned car mirrors were designed to flip backwards to allow bikes safer lane splitting during rush hour. Imagine hitting a solid car mirror with a handguard whilst cruising in third gear down a four foot alley made up of slow-moving metal cages! PLINK, BANG, CRUSH!

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