(Note: This article originally appeared in the May 1985 issue of Rider magazine.)
A dozen and more years ago, longer than I care to think about, a troupe of the Ottawa instructors decided we were approaching motorcycle training from the wrong angle. Instead of waiting for students to come to the course, they said, why not take the course to the students? And so, the idea of a touring program was born.
Organizing it all was hectic and exciting, and a big group moved into an old house in the west end of the city. This they used as a staging area. Housekeeping was minimal, and catering was by McDonald’s and similar fast food emporiums.
One evening in early spring, Bonniman and Forrester, two of our touring course founding members, went to pick up a large order of fried chicken. They took Forrester’s notorious 750-triple flexiframe shocker (Ed: The infamous Kawasaki Mach IV H2, a.k.a The Widowmaker) because Bonniman wanted to see if it was really as bad as everyone claimed. It was. More about that later.
They picked up two giant buckets of the Colonel’s confection, and Forrester relinquished the controls (a little literary license there) to Bonniman and sat behind with a large bucket clasped in each arm, the tops toward his chest. It must have been like carrying Dolly Parton.
Their return to homebase was by way of a busy, six-lane divided road with motels, convenience stores and quick food outlets on every block–a nightmare of intersections. It was not the time or place for a test run. But Bonniman became distressed about the performance of Forrester’s velocipede quite early on the return journey.
Bonniman leaned back, looking over his left shoulder and began complaining bitterly and animatedly.
Suddenly, Forrester became aware of a Belchfire Eight ripping out of one of the motels into the right lane. Their lane.
Sometime after these events, when he was able to speak again, Forrester gave us a few details, although with little real coherence. Even today, he still twitches visibly if asked about the incident:
“Like, it was right in front of us, man. Like right now. And Bonniman is telling me I should do something about the handling or I’ll kill myself. We’re about to sail full-tilt into the trunk of a tin leviathan, and I’m going to kill myself? I could have killed him…”
Forrester, gibbering hysterically, pointed furiously with his chin in the general direction of the car.
Bonniman, oblivious to all around him, cooly continued his studied critique of Forrester’s mount.
Forrester could see it was pointless trying to communicate. Catastrophe was inevitable. He gave up trying to draw Bonniman’s attention to impending disaster. He put all his weight onto the left passenger peg, preparatory to living his right leg before stepping off.
Forrester’s energetic antics had moved the motorcycle into the center lane in spite of Bonniman’s muscular wrestling with the steering. Incredibly, the car–still ahead–had changed lanes with them. Forrester was now committed to bailing out, but his right boot had snagged on the seat or a rail, and he couldn’t free it. His struggles added to their erratic passage, and they changed lanes yet again. By now, Bonniman was screeching, “What are you trying to do?” That, more or less, was the gist of his remarks.
The driver, meanwhile, had meandered aimlessly across three lanes. No signals. No knowledge of what he was doing. Not a care in the world. His ignorance–though not his equanimity–was matched by Bonniman, who had unconsciously followed the car across the boulevard.
Forrester was past caring what happened to Bonniman by that time. Or to his motorcycle. He was still frantically trying to jump ship, his body fully extended at 90 degrees to the vertical axis of the motorcycle…still clutching the two big buckets of fried chicken and still uttering piteous cries and exclamations as he tried to free his snagged boot.
Bonniman, who was still staring fixedly over his shoulder–he’d never taken his eyes off Forrester–was screeching at him to get back onto the bike and behave like a civilized creature. At that moment, Forrester managed to free his foot and he fell off the motorcycle.
And while Bonniman, now emitting vile oaths and curses, was struggling with a bike that was attempting to high-side in several different directions, Forrester was sliding along the grass median on his belly, still clutching two crushed buckets of fried chicken.
By the time Forrester had stopped, a pedestrian had run across the road and turned him over. Forrester, who was badly winded, groaned loudly and in sepulchral tones.
The pedestrian, well-meaning soul that he was, looked at Forrester. His chest and abdomen were completely covered in crushed chicken flesh, bits of skin, bones and barbecue sauce. There was a trail of the same mess on the flattened grass, clearly marking Forrester’s point of impact with where he came to rest. The pedestrian said, “Oh, my God…” and started retching quietly.
A crowd gathered quickly…some shielding the eyes of small children…others oh-ing and ah-ing in sympathy…a few telling others not to touch the poor fellow.
Bonniman had parked the motorcycle by this time, and his pushed his way into the midst of the murmuring throng and said, “What’s the matter with you, Forrester? You coulda caused a frigging accident, you moron…”
Stuart Munro was the author of Rider’s monthly Safety Forum column and numerous feature stories for the magazine from 1978 to 1986. As a teenager in Scotland he lied about his age to join the military and faced combat in World War II. Munro wrote the first syllabus for a Canadian motorcycle training course in late 1966, and was a driving force behind the formation of Canada’s national rider training program. He died in March of 2012 and was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2013. For more about Munro’s amazing life visit canmoto.ca/stuart-munro-class-of-2013.
Original illustration by Dan Quarnstrom, danquarnstromdesign.com. For more of Dan’s work, check out his book, JOYRIDE/FLATOUT, Hot Rods and Dream Machines, available on Amazon.