So why a motorbike? It’s difficult to explain to a non motorbike rider. If you are a motorbike rider, you already know.
It can be wet and cold. There’s very little glamour in wearing an unflattering armoured jacket and my hair; well that’s a whole topic of it’s own.
Under my helmet, my hair reaches new heights in terribleness with every ride. A quick glance in the mirror when I’m washing my hands and I barely recognise the hair that is ironed flat to my head. On the plus side, my lid does such a good job of hiding my barnet I forgive it. Then, it goes out of favour again when the cheek pads squish my face and I look like a wrinkly cabbage patch doll.
If you weren’t keen on riding a motorbike I’ve probably put you off completely. That wasn’t the plan, but it’s important to be honest.
The practical benefits of riding a bike are easy to list; car parks often have a designated motorcycle area and there is rarely a charge, traffic jams become and thing of the past (so long as you are not loaded with panniers) and running costs can be lower than those of a car. All are good, sensible and solid reasons to ride. But if they are your only reasons, it’s not going to last.
It’s all the other things that are more difficult to explain. Are you still in?
It’s the act of riding the bike itself that becomes an addiction. It’s an art. You have good days and bad days and your skills develop each time you ride. (Although not everyone will admit it.)
Uninterrupted and away from household distractions and absorbed in the moment, riding time is time to think. Twisty roads are a meditation You have to concentrate on the job in hand and put worries to one side or mis-judge a bend or not notice debris in the road. Long straights with scenery are good for contemplation.
You are part of the environment on a bike; feeling the temperature drop under a canopy, smelling damp air and feeling the tyres losing a little grip on the sap splattered tarmac. Would you notice in a car? Probably not.
Sadly, some of the lovely motorcycle benefits annoy car drivers. The free parking and queue jumping are the motorcyclists reward for lower fuel consumption and taking up less space on the road. A gift from the universe. Most car drivers are aware of bikes and drive with car and consideration. Some are cross that you haven’t waited in the long line of traffic like them.
Having enjoyed the practical benefit of skipping to the front of two lines of traffic at a red light queue I become aware that the BMW next to me is revving and the driver is rocking back and forth on the clutch. Then the hatchback on my left joins in. The direct challenge dissolves my smug mode and adrenaline kicks in. I need to leave the lights first or I will get squashed. The confrontation is unnerving and instead of enjoying being at the front of the traffic, I’m on the start line for a race I didn’t sign up for. Watching the lights, trying so hard to look nanchilant and praying I don’t stall. Amber flicks to green. Up with the revs, out with the clutch and the BMW driver does the same. For a split second my heart is in my mouth and then a glance back and the BMW is toy car in my wing mirror. I love the acceleration but hate the race. I love winning it though.
But, the thing that tops everything is the camaraderie between riders. The nod bikers exchange when they pass. Parking up and someone coming to ask what you think of your bike or wanting to tell you about all the bikes they have ever owned. Regardless of the bike you ride, the bond is always there.
In my teens and early 20s riding my bike was my freedom giving me independence over a wider area than my push bike. That hasn’t changed, at 40 my bike is still my freedom and the start of the best adventures.