18 February 2008

The Yamaha Waltz, or sidecar pirouettes

My first sidecar bike was a 1966 Yamaha YDS3 with a 1946 Dusting sidecar (see picture at right).
One morning in 1968 at about 05:30 or perhaps 06:00 (it was just getting daylight), I was riding through the very flat Western suburbs of Ballarat. Overnight a water main had burst flooding a crossroads type intersection and its four approach roads to a depth of maybe 1 or 2 cm in the centre of the road and deeper at the edges. The temperature had fallen to about -2 or -3ºC (US = 26.6 to 28.4ºF) and the water on the road had frozen solid to form invisible black ice.
I came along riding at about 50 or 60 km/h (US = 31 or 37 mph) when I noticed a policeman at the next intersection frantically waving his arms and obviously wanting me to stop as quickly as I could. By the time I noticed him, I was almost on the ice. I pulled both brakes and locked the front and rear wheels just a split second before I was on the ice. My bike and sidecar instantly went into a very rapid spin and seemed to be going along the road faster than ever. It just spun round and round and round.
At one point I noticed during one of my spins that the policeman was lying on his back on the road. "My goodness!" I thought, "I'm in trouble now; I've knocked over a policeman!"
But there was no way I could stop. The bike just kept right on spinning round and round and round. Eventually, I reached the end of the ice and three tyres all gripped the road. I
n a split second the sidecar was high in the air and the handlebar was almost touching the road: I was rolling over! Somehow, I pulled the outfit out of its rollover before it had gone too far and came to a total stop, parked neatly beside a police car, and facing back the way I had come. I was so dizzy I could not get off the bike, and just sort of slumped there over the handlebars.
A policeman asked me, "Are you okay mate?"
I responded that I was extremely dizzy but otherwise I thought I was okay.
The policeman then said, "Do you reckon you could go back and do that again? We didn't have our cameras ready!"
They helped me to get off the bike and sat me in the police car where they gave me a cup of coffee. When the policeman who had fallen on the road came over, I was most apologetic about knocking him over. He replied, "You didn't knock me over, mate, I was laughing so hard at your bike waltzing down the road that I lost my footing on the ice and fell over before you got to me! Then I rolled out of the way so you couldn't hit me."
The police then asked me how many times the bike had spun and I had no idea. Some of the police present were sure it was seven and a half rotations while another said it was eight and a half. To this day, almost forty years later, I still have no idea which was right.
A council truck arrived and all four roads leading to the intersection were closed off.
After I had finished my coffee, I felt a lot less dizzy and got back on the bike with a two-car police escort all the way to college, just to make sure I was okay.


Robert said...

What great story, I loved it, I wish I could have been there to witness your bike rolling! those Policeman were quite good to help you out in the end, you got VIP escort in the end, it's awesome!

smitz said...

lovely story indeed.. still have to read the rest of your blog..
am a sidecar traveller from india, and sidecar community is quite small and am glad i connected to you.
thanks drdisk.....

Ellery said...

I love it!! Thanks for putting this all down in print.