The sun filtered though the trees warming the brisk morning air as The Pillion and I followed the black ribbon that was Mt Nebo Road. No one ahead of us, nor behind, and only the beat of the engine beneath us breaking the silence.
It was one of those surreal moments in time, when everything just flowed.
I geared down a few cogs and tipped ‘Old Z’ into a left hander we’d been around dozens of times before on the way up to Jollys Lookout; it was one of those split corners with a drop-off, a nasty piece of road design that could catch you off guard.
Without warning, I felt the back wheel come up.
The collector on the Transac 4 into 1 exhaust had bottomed out on the road surface, lifting the back wheel and depositing it further out than where it should have been. I felt The Pillion shift in her seat and lean into me as I struggled to hold ‘Old Z’ on her intended line.
Suddenly, I remembered a conversation I’d had with another rider we’d met at The Gap BP 20 minutes earlier. He’d warned me about slow-moving tip trucks and some damage to the tarmac from their dual wheels. Then it dawned on me; I’d hit one of the ruts left by a tip truck.
Time had slowed to a crawl, yet everything was happening at light-speed.
Visions of a high-side danced in my head and the thought of both of us landing on the road below seemed a real possibility. The edge of the drop-off was getting closer by the millisecond, there was no guard railing to stop us slipping off the edge and into the path of oncoming traffic making its way down the mountain.
“Was this the part where I put my head between my knees and kiss my arse goodbye?” I thought.
The Pillion gripped my waist harder, so hard I had trouble catching my breath.
A calm came over me, my mind drifted back to McQ, the bloke who taught me how to ride all those years ago. McQ’s words began to ring in my ears. “You’ll end up where you look, idiot!”
McQ had a way with words, subtlety wasn’t one of his strong points. “Look through the corner.” I heard him say
Followed by “If you think you’re not going to make it; LOOK HARDER!”
In a moment of absolute clarity, I snapped out of it. I forced myself to trust ‘Old Z’. My only hope was that The Pillion would trust me.
In one movement, I pointed my chin over my left shoulder, and, with a supple hand, locked ‘Old Zs’ throttle. I held my speed as best I could, not wanting to wipe off too much, or accelerate too hard.
‘Old Z’ bucked again as she traversed yet another rut. We were rapidly running out of road.
I looked harder.
I knew once we breached the apex, the road opened into a short straight before tipping into a slight right hander. In my mind’s eye, I could see what ‘Old Z’ and I needed to do.
I slipped ‘Old Z’s’ clutch as we crested the apex, the front wheel came up just a little, just enough to clear another smaller rut. ‘Old Z’ regained her composure, her front wheel touching down as the road opened out into a short straight ahead of us.
An eternity had passed in a blink of an eye. The road ahead was clear, there were no cars coming the other way, we were still on the right side of the road; only just though.
I breathed a sigh of relief. We were through.
The preceding story is true.
It happened in the spring of 1992 while The Pillion and I were out on a morning run through the hills to the west of Brisbane. The screen grabs above are of the corner as it exists today. Back then, there was no guard railing separating the upper and lower sections of road.
We came out of our foray into bronco riding unscathed and continued along our way, albeit somewhat shaken. It ended well for us, more due to luck than anything else. There certainly wasn’t any skill involved.
I found out later that other riders before and after that day were not so fortunate. Some walked away after dropping their bikes, while others, unfortunately, lost their lives along that 30km (18.5 mile) stretch of road.
Eventually, the truck drivers causing the damage to the road surface were held accountable for their carelessness. Repairs and upgrades were made to the road in the following months. Although, it has to be said that the road is still treacherous to this day, even with the upgrades.