I spent time this morning thinking about the concept of the event horizon: when driving a car or riding a motorcycle, the event horizon is the invisible line in front of you which is the minimum distance you would be able to stop at should you see something in your path, such as a crashed car, a fallen tree or a police road block. This varies according to your speed, inertia, the road conditions, grip and the roadworthiness of your bike. Your event horizon should never be further away than the extent of your visibility.

I rode my VTR 1000 to Phillip Island yesterday morning to watch the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. I was paying careful attention to my event horizon, and this kept me alive. There was heavy fog for much of the way, and it smelt of bush fire, so it may have been made worse by smoke trapped by the very still conditions and the heavy cold air. The South Gippsland highway had visibility of only about 50 metres. Cars and bikes were flying past me at 120km/h, and I slowed to 80km/h then 60km/h. A Police car with sirens and lights sped past me. I suspected an accident in the terrible conditions, the most dangerous I have ever ridden in. I switched the high beams on and squinted into the fog… then smoothly but firmly squeezed on the brakes. On the road ahead, the traffic had stopped.

The traffic was banked back about 20 metres from the sight of the Police car that had overtaken me earlier. It seemed to be used to form a partial road block to slow the traffic. I pulled off the road onto the soft shoulder to the left before what looked like a kink in the road where the Police car was and waited for a few minutes for the traffic to clear and begin flowing again under the Police direction. There were already several ambulances there. I then got on and road past the Police car. It was parked to shelter the blanket covered body of a dead rider from the oncoming traffic. I was only a few minutes behind the fatal accident reported in the Age.

What looked like a kink in the road was actually the near side of a roundabout, which the rider had not seen due to the terrible visibility, and he had gone straight ahead over its curbing. I don’t mean to make any criticism of the man in question, but he and many others were clearly riding beyond their event horizons. I was really shaken and was somewhat subdued for the rest of the day. I rode extremely carefully, with my visor up and the fog forming a mist under my sunglasses; the cold moisture condensing on my face. It was difficult to see. I was so relieved to get to Phillip Island safely. The races were brilliant, but I will remember yesterday for another reason.

The fog was still thick when the 125cc GP bikes went out for their morning warmup session, which was delayed due to the conditions.

islandfog The event horizon

The event horizon

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