Have you heard the story behind those little motorcycle bells that you see in Harley stores and on motorcycles?
We hadn’t until a friend sent us one soon after we got our new motorcycle– a 2005 Harley Road King Classic. (Thanks, Mark!)
Many of us have heard the story about Evil Road Spirits. They are little gremlins that live on your bike. They love to ride, and they’re also responsible for most of your bike’s problems. Sometimes your turn signals refuse to work; your battery goes dead, the clutch needs adjustment, or any of several hundred things that can go wrong. These problems are caused by Evil Road Spirits. Evil Road Spirits can’t live in the presence of the bell, because they get trapped in the hollow of the bell. Among other things, their hearing is super-sensitive, so the constant ringing of the bell and the confined space drives them insane. They lose their grip and eventually fall to the roadway. Have you ever wondered how potholes are formed? The bell has served its purpose. — The Legend Of The Guardian Bell
We put the bell (also known as a gremlin bell, a blessing bell, and a guardian bell) on our bike before we set out on our first multi-day motorcycle ride.
Thank goodness we did.
There were several nerve-wracking incidents and strange predicaments that took place on our very first long-distance trip. We might not have fared so well had we not had the gremlin-chaser with us!
Our Rookie Mistakes & Near Misses
I realize this is something that most people probably wouldn’t talk about so publicly, but I thought might be interesting — and helpful — for other motorcycle newbies to hear about some of the mis-adventures that took place on our very first long-distance motorcycle trip.
I share this with the hope that it will open others’ eyes to these types of situations and prevent similar things from happening to you.
It’s worth noting that the entire time between when Jim got his motorcycle license and our first multi-day trip on the bike was completely uneventful. There were no near-accidents. No bad moves or newbie mistakes on our part whatsoever. We were so proud. (And thankful.)
These all took place on our very first 4-day trip away from home:
Near crash #1: Barely out of our own little town early on Day One of our first long trip, we nearly rammed into the back of a pickup truck when the truck’s driver decided to turn at the last minute and didn’t use his turn signal. We were on a narrow 2-lane road out in the country. Jim had to swerve into the oncoming lane in order to avoid hitting the truck. Fortunately, there weren’t any cars in that lane at the time!
Near crash #2: A couple days into our trip, on a long stretch of 4-lane roadway, we were approaching the downtown area of a tiny little town. We noticed that a pickup truck was about to pull out of an auto repair shop’s parking lot that was up ahead on our right. The truck’s driver quickly looked both ways (as if by habit, more than to actually look with his eyes wide open) and the driver started to slowly pull out of the parking lot and into our lane. Suddenly, he noticed there was an approaching car coming in the other (far) lane, so he couldn’t pull into that lane like he initially wanted to. At this point, we were going 45 mph and we thought “He has to see us!” But then he completely STOPPED in our lane to wait for the other car in the far lane to pass so he could eventually pull into that lane. As a result, we had to slam on the brakes in order to avoid hitting him as he completely blocked our lane. His passenger was freaking out — just like we were — shocked that the truck driver hadn’t seen us.
Near crash #3: This next one is the first (and only) time that we laid the bike down. (It’s the act of gently sliding the bike onto the ground in order to avoid a crash. Google it. Riders are talking about the time they “laid the bike down” on just about every motorcycle forum — almost as a rite of passage.) We had missed a turn in a bustling little town at lunchtime with lots of stop lights and lots of traffic. After pulling off the main road and onto a quiet side road that had zero traffic on it, Jim attempted to “walk” the bike through a U-turn in the middle of the road. Before we knew it, he turned the handlebars too far and the bike started (in ever-so-slow-motion!) to lean heavy into the turn. My feet couldn’t reach the ground to help save us, and Jim couldn’t handle the force of gravity on his own with both of us on the bike. Before we knew it, our left hips were on the pavement with the bike on top of us. It didn’t fall hard. It didn’t hurt. And it was relatively easy to pull our feet out from underneath the 800-lb bike. There were no injuries and no scratches to the bike. I’m just glad we got that out of the way early. And now you can see how Jim got his nickname “U-turn”. (Seriously, he’s had this nickname for years due to all the middle-of-the-road U-turns he’s made while driving cars…RVs… and now motorcycles!)
In case you’re wondering, here’s the “proper” way to crash a motorcycle. (Really.)
Ran out of gas: Yes, we ran completely out of gas on our first long-distance trip. Seriously! We were in the mountains. There were no gas stations in sight for many miles. (Although there were plenty of opportunities to fill up before we went into the mountains.) The bike sputtered for the last few miles until the engine finally cut off and there was not a drop of gas left in the tank. Fortunately (and so hard to believe), there was a mom & pop gas station at the very bottom of the hill. We actually had enough momentum to roll right up to the pump. Before we spotted that gas station, we truly believed that we were going to have to get off the bike and walk it several miles. I’ve heard of some motorcyclists carrying an 8-foot length of clear 3/8-inch tubing (or siphon pump) — just in case you need to siphon gas in a pinch. I think this is a really good idea.
Near bird hit: On a winding country road with no cars in sight (thankfully), a huge bird — like a hawk or a pheasant – flew down from a tree immediately in front of us and swooped right for our heads! Similar to this. It didn’t hit us, but it was a strange thing to experience. And bird hits on a motorcycle can be deadly (…it could kill the bird too).
Holes in the road: We learned the hard way — after hitting a deep one really hard — that some country roads have big potholes on otherwise nicely paved sections of roadway. Never take your eyes off the road! (Remember the truth behind potholes, as mentioned in the quote above?…)
Well, that’s a run down of all of our rookie mistakes and near-misses… so far.
The fact that all took place over the course of 4 days still has us scratching our heads. Each time another one happened, Jim and I would look at each other like, “Are you kidding me?… Is this really happening to us?!”
In the end, we are happy that we got some of that rookie stuff out of the way early — because we are certainly more alert and aware at all times now as a result.
Jim now reminds me almost every time we ride: “Never lose respect for this machine!” (Of course, that’s true whether you’re a newbie or an experience rider.)
It’s now very clear to me that a motorcycle is harder for other drivers to see on the road — especially since drivers are typically looking for full-size cars whenever they’re looking both ways. A motorcycle has a much smaller footprint than a car does, so it’s easy for drivers to look right past us on the bike.
Thank goodness for the loud pipes. I wasn’t sure I liked them at first, but now I think they may actually make drivers more aware that we’re there. “Loud pipes save lives.”
That and our gremlin bell!
This is my biggest fear now… hitting a deer on the motorcycle!