My buddy and I went for a long ride yesterday up to the Laurentians, north of Montreal - the leaves are doing their thing this time of year and it was a beautiful day for a ride. We were cruising around a big old lake on some great twisties - my buddy in front (he knew the area) and me behind.
We come round a corner and suddenly we're fast approaching a junction, no sign no warning no nothing, the road we were travelling on the vertical part of the T junction, joining the main road at about a 120 degree angle. I guess I was doing somewhere between 60 and 80 kph but can't say for sure. I get to the apex of the curve keeping one eye on the road surface (is not perfect in these parts) and the other on the curve's exit and see the situation in fast forward - not only are we almost at a junction but the corner is covered in gravel. My buddy's on a dual sport - he handles the corner and the gravel no worries, and he's slowing down right in front of me. For me it's a different story.
In a heartbeat I think I had the choice to either brake into the curve and take my chances on the spill (no way I'd keep the bike upright on that gravel but I guess it was an option) and the other was to hit the brakes in a straight line and take my chances. I immediately lost traction on the road thanks to the gravel, then hit the dirt shoulder and braked straight through that for about 20ft. You can see in the photo that that particular episode ended at a sizeable bump in the dirt which I hit and managed to bank the bike left (I think - maybe it was just luck), avoiding that sign by a couple of inches. Through the grass (thankfully there was no ditch) and finally out onto the road into incoming traffic (mercifully there was none). Finally got some traction on the brakes once I was back on the asphalt and brought the bike to a stop on the hard shoulder near the forest.
It was the first time I've ever lost control of a cruiser, and I've ridden all sorts of bikes for 25 years. Thinking about yesterday - and I've been thinking about it a lot - things could have ended up very differently very easily but for a couple of things. The speed I was travelling - although it meant of course my reaction time was reduced, also carried me through the brake. Importantly, the gyroscopic force exerted on the bike kept it upright as well - even when I hit that bump in the dirt - and perhaps because I'd been in similar situations before my body definitely relaxed completely into the situation and stayed in control of the bike as much as possible. A ditch in the grass, or that sign a little to the left and any amount of control would have been moot of course - I can't believe how lucky I got.
Definitely dodged one yesterday. Thanked the Big Guy, and appreciated the situation for what it was and what it could very easily have been. Could have ended very differently, in lots of ways.
Keep it shiny side up guys, be safe out there.