Über "oh shit" moment
Earlier tonight I came home on a road I know like the back of my hand. This road has a bump smack in the middle of it, at the very bottom of the hill. If it were any larger of a road, this would be a perfect speed trap for cops to patrol.
If you drive over this small hill with a car, you get the sensation of zero gravity for a second. It's strange. The first thing I notice is how my bladder feels empty. If the car is you hit this bump with is cheap, you'll bottom out the suspension. In a sports car, you can get the rear wheels off the ground and see the RPM's shoot up for a split second while you have air. The bump is gradual... much more of a small hill than a ramp, as you're probably imagining. I'd say it's about 8 feet higher than the surrounding ground and the length of a car.
If you hit the same bump on a motorcycle, not a whole lot happens. I can't can't explain the physics of why a car manages to get air but a bike does not.
So, earlier tonight, I decided to hit the hill faster than I have in a car, hoping that I might get a little zero-G sensation. I wasn't looking to wheelie or anything like that. Well, imagine my surprise when upon cresting the hill at 90 mph, there was a brand new speed bump smack in the center of the road! This speed bump is the kind that scrapes your skid plate at 10 mph. It's tall, sharp, and brand new. Worst of all, it hasn't been painted with white reflective paint yet. The only reason I knew it was there is that a small island in the middle of the road was painted a vibrant yellow. It stood out enough to alter me to the pitch black mass that now occupied either side of it.
Knowing that the bump would likely send me flying off my seat, I squeezed the front and rear brakes HARD. I was progressive about it and calmer than I thought I would be in such a situation... still, even with progressive braking I was flying towards something as sharp and abrupt as a curb at maybe 75 mph.
I don't know how much I had slowed until I hit the bump... I hadn't begun to skid. When I the curb it launched me into the air, my feet flying apart from the pegs and my ass lifting off the seat. When I came crashing down, all of the brake pressure I had exerted on the wheels caused them to lock in mid air. I hit the ground in a skid, kicking my rear end out in the same way import cars drift. I'd say it was a solid 20-35 degrees of a slip angle relative to the line of travel. I swear my heart stopped beating, my eyes stretched wider than they ever had before, and it was surreal to hear my rear tire skidding (first time I've ever heard that on a bike).
I remember clearly thinking "I'm going down. I'll do my best to cushion the blow." I had accepted that I was going to separate from my bike and skid down the road... I knew I needed to bleed as much speed as possible before this happened. I remember thinking that if I could slow down to 20-30 mph it would be survivable. Even so, I did something horribly stupid the second I heard my tires screeching because I was scared. I let go of the front and rear brake completely.
The bike snapped violently from right to left.
This is the miraculous part: I managed to apply just the right amount of pressure on the handlebars as to steer the bike towards the center-line, but not lock my arms. It was controlled and deliberate way of steering the rear tire back to center. I avoided a tank slapper! This was mostly due to luck. I had it in mind to be slow, calm and deliberate on the controls, yet I failed with my braking hand and foot and was convinced that things had become unrecoverable. But I maintained proper control with my arms. And it worked! I once read that when a wobble happens, you should be loose on the bars and let it go through you and the bike. I did just that, but my arms acted like a steering dampener.
I continued to go forward without a second violent snap in the opposite direction of the first snap. From the outside perspective, it must have looked like I hit a bump so hard I got air, landed in a drift, and then straightened out and kept on riding.
There is part of me that is so speechless about the whole thing that I wonder if I'm not dead right now and my ghost continues on, going home, making toast, grabbing a glass of ice tea, and jumping on the Internet to write about all of this while the "real me" is lying in a heap on the side of the road. I have this weird, irrational fear about dying and not knowing I died until much later. But it serves to illustrate just how severe of a situation I luckily avoided.
If all this happened and I'm still alive tomorrow, I will calm myself and not expect my familiar neighborhood to remain as familiar as I once thought. Lesson? Treat every familiar road as cautiously as you would a brand new one in an entirely different state, even if you've ridden on the road a thousand times before. You don't know what has changed.