Note to self and other bikers - if you are going out on a motorcycle trip, make sure you have petrol in your tank. If you do decide to run out of fuel, however, try not to do it on the Forth Road Bridge...
Yesterday Claire and I trekked to Crieff to get some new tyres...the weather was poor so we just headed straight up the motorway to Perth, her riding in luxurious comfort on the VFR750 and me adopting the "head down arse up" style on her Bros 400.
It was an uneventful journey, we ate macaroni while the tyres were fitted and were soon heading south again. Claire had told me that the Bros usually needed petrol "as it's approaching 200" - the trip meter is in km. Not a problem, plenty left to get us back to Edinburgh, then. And there's always the reserve tap, right?
Passing Inverkeithing (almost there!) and the trip is showing 179 - better stop at the Shell garage on the other side, I think. Splutter splutter....hey, I was right, timed that well...not a problem, I think, I'll just switch the reserve tap on. But...it's already on - oh dear - and by now I'm on the bridge with Claire following wondering why I am starting to flap about. The bridge is steeper than you think, and the incline we were on seemed to help feed the last remaining dregs of petrol to the struggling engine. It seemed for a moment that we might actually make it...at least off the bridge and to within pushing distance of the garage. Actually with the Bros you'd probably just sling it over your shoulder and carry it to the garage, but whatever.
So, it died. I freewheeled as close to the left as I could, and Claire pulled in behind. There is no hard shoulder on the Forth Bridge and there are various phone numbers and emergency telephones dotted along it which is fine if you are a driver sitting neatly caged into your broken down Volvo, not so good for bikers who would really rather get off the bridge as fast as possible. So, Claire was going to have to take me on the back of the VFR. Except she's not into practising the art of the "much heavier pillion than you" under such extreme circumstances so I ride and she goes pillion. So, Kev, Mike, Colin, nyahh, I've ridden the VFR.
The plan was to get as far as the Shell garage, buy a petrol can and a bit of fuel, strap it to the back of the VFR (using the incredibly handy bungee and strap I just happened to be carrying...Be Prepared we used to say in Cubs. No, really, I think I deserve extra points for having those with me. I also had a USB laser mouse in the same pocket. Ready for anything, that's me). Then I was going to ride back over the bridge, u-turn through Inverkeithing, stop at the Bros, fill the tank, head back to get Claire and Bob would be our Uncle. Except he's not, because that would have meant the plan worked.
For a start, Shell don't sell petrol cans. (Well, either that or Claire asking for a "jerry can" in her thick soupy accent confused the sales assistant.) But of course not, how silly of us to think they would. Luckily the Tesco garage opposite did, and once we worked out how to push the button to get petrol out the VFR was loaded up and ready to go.
Leaving Claire at the garage I headed back over the bridge, keeping my eyes peeled for the Bros on the other side - I couldn't remember how far over we'd made it. Then, in the distance, I could see the spot marked by the flashing amber lights. This meant the good people from FETA had beaten me to it. Passing alongside revealed the full extent and the horrifying truth of what was going on...one of the guys was looking at the Bros...while the other three guys were leaning over the side to look for the body.
It seems we managed to stop right beside one of the few walkways linking the road to the pedestrian walkway. They guessed someone had stopped the bike, crossed over to the walkway and jumped over the side. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a moment when I considered ditching Claire and the bike and heading off home on the VFR. Just a moment, mind. Instead I circled Inverkeithing and headed back south over the bridge, now down to one lane and with a 40mph limit. So that's how these tailbacks happen. They had one of their trucks with the big "keep right" flashing light display. "Hooray!" cheered the Friday evening rush hour commuters.
To their credit the FETA guys were very cool about it; I think they were just pleased not to be fishing a body out the water and towing a bike off the bridge. I explained the situation to them and as I refueled the Bros they sent a car to find and retrieve Claire from Tesco. By the time she arrived she hadn't yet reached the "laughing about this one day" stage. Infact, she still seemed to be solidly stuck at the "mortified about it right now" stage.
So; two bikes, two riders and fuel enough to get off the bridge...no hanging about, off we went. Lessons learned? It never hurts to check your fuel switch just in case, and stop for fuel 20 miles before you think you have to.