Call it a mid-life crisis if you like, but recently I have started making moves towards getting back into motorcycling.
Like many people, a motorcycle was my first means of independent transport: an old Suzuki TS50 when I was 16. My parents had forbidden it: “not whilst you’re living under our roof my lad” or words to that effect. However, when I called their bluff and turned up having purchased it I wasn’t thrown out onto the streets and slowly, grudgingly, they came to accept the idea. Accept it, but never like it.
Since then I owned a number of motorcycles, but in the early days a series of accidents and seven points on my licence meant that I was unable to afford the insurance on anything very special. For a long time I was restricted to a 125cc, then a series of Honda Superdreams, both 250 and 400cc. The best bike I ever owned was a beautiful old Kawasaki Z650 – a real classic. Unfortunately I had to sell it to pay to fix a leaky roof.
I gave up on bikes for a time, but took it up again with encouragement from my wife. This time I got a Suzuki GSX750. I used it regularly for commuting to work, but found I didn’t have the enthusiasm to use it for leisure, so once again gave it up.
It is my wife who is now once again encouraging my move back into motorcycling – this time because she is thinking of taking a bike test herself. Once she started talking about it I started getting the itch to get back onto a bike again myself.
The thing is, now I have more grey in my hair, insurance is not such a barrier to entry. Whether this is fair or not is a moot point. Having not ridden a motorcycle in more than 10 years I would have thought I would be a bigger insurance risk. On the other hand, I believe that my sense of self preservation has increased dramatically over the intervening years, which should make me a safer bet. Either way, I can now afford to ride a bike that I could only dream about in my previous motorcycling days.
I’m not interested in getting a head-down-arse-up racing machine: what I want is either a big cruiser (for which read Harley Davidson) or a big, naked, muscle bike. For a while, the front-runner in my affections was the Triumph Speed Triple, but a quick insurance check ruled that out. Although nothing like as eye-wateringly preposterous as the insurance quotes of my youth, it is still twice as much as the other alternatives I have explored: a Harley Sportster or a Honda CB1300 – two very different beasts.
In preparation, last weekend, between proof-reading and preparing talks, I undertook some refresher training. This could have knocked the whole idea on the head had it gone badly, but after a couple of hours riding with Keith from Tom’s School of Motoring in Cheltenham, not only did it feel like I’d never been away, but I picked up some hints and tips which mean I probably already ride better now than I did then.
Today I went out to test ride a Harley Sportster from Blades in Cheltenham. My smile may need to be surgically removed. Unfortunately I haven’t found a Sportster I can afford yet, but I’ll keep looking. Meanwhile, hopefully the weather will hold for next weekend so I can test ride a nice CB1300 I have my eye on in Branson’s in Gloucester.
Either way, hopefully very soon I will be back on two wheels. However – and this is VERY important – if you know my mother she is NEVER to hear of this! I may no longer live under her roof, but that doesn’t mean the worry won’t kill her…