Life on bikes

Use protection to avoid getting it in the eye

Visors aren’t just for keeping gloopy stuff off your face. Marc recalls an episode when a visor probably saved his life.

In 1987 I was long distance commuting at very odd times of the day and night thanks to working on a three-shift rotation. Friday nights were good; We used to leave work at 4 am. I saw a lot of odd things on those runs home.

One sweaty August afternoon I was heading south on the M5 on my XJ650. I was glad to get out of work because someone there had bought the new INXS album ‘Kick’ on cassette and put it on repeat play all day, over and over, non-stop without mercy.

I used to leave my visor up a lot in those days. Back then I was poorer, and visors were expensive, so mine were always scratched to buggery before they got replaced. But I’d treated myself to a lovely, pristine, unblemished new visor so luckily that day it was firmly down.

I was daydreaming along behind a big lorry and gazing idly at the right rear wheel when I saw a jagged golf ball sized stone shoot up and out from under it. I didn’t have time even to blink let alone dodge my head, the stone fired up on a perfect trajectory and struck me straight in the visor.

It felt like getting hit in the face with a sledgehammer, and the bang it made was terrifying and deafening. The impact knocked me backward, both hands came off the bars, right foot flailing up off the brake pedal leaving me lying back flat on the seat.


I thought this was it. I was going to fall off and get squished by whatever vehicle was following me. My life might have flashed before me, but my life was so dull back then I might not have noticed. It wasn’t all bad though, at least I wouldn’t have to listen to INXS again.

The bike wobbled badly as I flailed around but it stayed upright, a good demonstration of the XJ’s stability. In those couple of seconds, I tried to decide whether to bail out and try to roll to the hard shoulder before the truck behind caught up with me or try to stay upright and ride it out.

In the end, I did the most strenuous sit-up I’ve ever managed, in a sixty mile an hour wind with nothing anchoring my feet and while weaving crazily on the bike. I managed to get back up, get my hands back on the bars and recover some kind of composure.

When I checked the mirrors to see how close I’d come, the lorry behind me was a good quarter of a mile back so I would have stood a fighting chance if I had fallen off.

When I’d got the bike back under control and mentally checked my pants for moisture, I was shaking badly and eventually noticed the tiniest speck on my visor centred perfectly on my right eye. I tried rubbing it off but it was a tiny impact dent, there was no other mark on it. I was amazed the polycarbonate had stood up to that impact. Thinking about it later, I was doing sixty; the rock was doing god knows what speed in the opposite direction, if I’d had an open face helmet or left my visor up then that stone would have gone straight through my eye socket and out the back of my head.

This morning on my commute a lorry kicked up a small bit of gravel that hit my visor making a loud bang but had no other effect. Not this time Mr Lorry!

Moral of the story is: Anyone’s day can take a very rapid turn for the worse. Take precautions.


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The Author

Marc Ryan

Marc Ryan

A bike nut since he was 17, Marc was forced to lay off the bikes for over 10 years, on doctor's orders. Finally given the nod he thought he'd ease himself back in gently on an XL 250 but promptly bought an SV650 which made him shit his pants for the first month.
He also writes his own random meanderings at his own blog,