Friday, March 18

A young at heart mans fancy turns to ...

Spring is here (or so the weathermen have promised). I’ve come to work on my motorbike this morning. It’s wonderful to be able to see over the dawdleboxes and be able to slip through gaps in the traffic. Surprisingly it isn’t saving me any time. I know I have the ability to ride past the traffic jams so I tend to use the savings in time to take the scenic route to work – which means I arrive about the same time … Hey ho!

Still, nothing (OK – very little) that work can throw at me will spoil my sense of happiness. My bike awaits me and as it is Friday, I finish work at 1pm so I’ll have the afternoon on clear roads. I might take a tour of Northumberland just for the Hell of it. There isn’t anything in the world like riding a motorbike to make you feel alive, blow the cobwebs away and weld a daft grin of sheer contentment to your mug. And Northumberland is Gods own allotment if you ride a bike and love space and spectacular scenery. But don’t tell anyone. We don’t want the place spoiled.

I’ve had the inevitable discussions with people regarding the Motorbike riding thing. Their arguments fall into several distinct categories :-

1) It’s dangerous and you might get killed
2) You’re a Hells Angel
3) It’s an impractical form of transport
4) It’s just a mid life crisis
5) Why? What do you get out of it?

For the non motorcycling people reading this I’ll try to explain and answer the questions. For the motorcyclists, either read something else (you’ll have heard this before) or direct your wife/girlfriend/mother/significant other to the discussion. You can then say “Look. It’s in print on the internet. It MUST be true”. Send the money to the usual address …

1) The danger bit. I rode a bike for 10 years before I got married and didn’t get killed. OK I’ll admit that the traffic levels etc were a bit lower than now but it was “learn your lessons the hard way”. I was shown the controls and that was that way back then. The casualty rate was appalling. The bikes were powerful and it really was criminal to allow someone who had never ridden a bike had no experience of driving or riding on the road, and no decent protective gear to ride away from the shop on the machine.
I gave up the bike when I got married and it was only when I got this job and had to commute 12 miles to work through the traffic that I thought “Soddit. I’m having a bike”. I took the precaution of having lessons – they weren’t available when I first cocked a leg over a motorbike way back then – and the quality of tuition was excellent, enabling me to quickly get back most of my former proficiency. I have a theory that it’s like swimming or riding a push bike – you never really forget, you just get rusty. If you have even the slightest interest in motorbikes, do the CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) – it will occupy one day, cost less than £100 and it’s great fun. Ask in any motorbike shop or any motorcyclist. Just do it. You only get one bite out of the cherry of life.
It’s true that the casualty rate for motorcyclists is higher than cars BUT the casualties are normally young inexperienced riders. Teenagers are not capable of evaluating risk and inexperience combined with no perception of danger will result in tears before bedtime for any activity – be it balloons on sticks or bikes. It seems from my observations that the first year or two is the danger time. After this, the skills and observation are well enough developed to make you a better road user.
It won’t stop you getting involved in an accident with a Chav that hasn’t had a driving lesson in their life in an uninsured unroadworthy car but they are just as liable to kill you if you are on foot or in a car. One of my friends had his wife killed by a drunken, drugged up to the eyeballs driver last year. She was 4th or 5th in a queue of traffic at traffic lights. Lights changed, the cars moved off and the bozo went through a red light doing an estimated 60 – 65 MPH. He “Didn’t notice the light”.
You can’t eliminate EVERY risk in life, just decide which risks are worth taking. If you smoke you stand a 1 in 3 chance of either dying or being severely incapacitated from the activity – a casualty rate which if it occurred in motorbikes would result in them being banned immediately.

2) A Hells Angel? Don’t be daft. More like Hells Pensioner nowadays. And you can’t get denim long johns with an escape hatch in the arse for love nor money ..

3) Practicality is getting through the traffic – If I want to buy a months groceries, I’ll use the car, thanks. If travelling alone then having a mode of transport adapted to carry one person is eminently practical.

4) Mid life Crisis, eh? Then I shouldn’t have lived beyond age 26 as I’ve been riding motorbikes since I was about 13 or thereabouts. No – I think motorcycling is a bit like malaria. Once it’s in your blood, you never get rid of it. Besides, one of my friends who is female (allegedly) and is the same age as me has taken to collecting teddy bears and a HUGE dolls house. Spent a fortune on it too … but THAT isn’t a MLC. Oooooooooooooooooooh Noooooooooooooooooh! She’s a woman and it’s only MEN that go through MLC’s.

5) What do I get out of it? You could take the argument to it’s logical conclusion and ask everyone to justify what they get out of anything. But to answer the question, it’s fun, it’s the closest I can get to flying without leaving the ground, freedom, excitement, relaxation (it requires 100% concentration – or suffer an immediate, painful and salutary lesson in road craft) which means that the mundane cares of the world are forgotten in the immediacy of riding. Once your skill level reaches a certain level, you can start to enjoy traffic. Imagine yourself as a WW2 fighter pilot in a Spitfire with 450MPH on tap and the whole sky to play with, escorting lumbering bombers trundling along at 200MPH. You have the speed, acceleration and manoeuvrability to do what you want. It’s just a flick of the wrist and a twitch of the left toe away. I enjoy it!
There’s the companionship too. Bike riders acknowledge each other. They’ll wave, salute or nod their heads in greeting. We’re the chosen few. And we know it. Brothers (and sisters too for those ladies who have taken the plunge) in a shared passion. Fiat Punto owners never do the same when I'm driving my car ...

I’ve just got up, strolled to the window and looked at my bike … you just can’t explain to someone who isn’t a motorcyclist what it is about the feeling. Just looking at the bike gives me a sense of peace and contentment. Trying to explain the feeling is like trying to explain to someone who hasn’t eaten chocolate what it tastes like.

Just do it ….


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Blog. Just a note, though. The figures tend to show the people who get into the most trouble are those coming back to bikes. They drop £10K on a Ninja, not realising that the bike is about ten times faster and more powerful than the old Triumph they learned on 30 years ago, and that they have slowed down a little since then!

Got here from coppersblog, saw your comment about getting the cops round to take your gear. Sods, they really are. I'm going through something similar at the mo... and so is the other half, and she's pissed about it too!

11:07 p.m.  

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