I remember the exact moment my passion for motorcycles began. I was overheating in ill fitting clothes uncomfortably cramped up on the pillion seat of a Superbike. I felt the front of the bike raise up as I glanced the speedo over the riders shoulder that read a clear 122 mph. Unintentionally smiling I gripped tighter onto whatever I was holding onto and watched the countryside spin past me. New pathways were being laid with ultraviolet cables across my cortex. I was not fearful or nervous I only sensed moment to moment discovery. The gravity of the situation is still sinking in to the lower parts of my brain and intrenching itself into my nervous system. But I remember that first ride as clearly as summer sky.
Motorcycles were never prevalent in my upbringing nor was I ever interested in the machines. I see children now as I ride past as they scream, point and stare in a stunned silence at what they are witnessing. I do not remember ever being like that when I was growing up. My dad had a motorcycle for a short time but the hobby quickly fell by the way side. I did go on the back of the bike but do not remember it. So the time between birth and the age of twenty four motorcycles never were in my consciousness until one morning with no warning I decided I wanted a motorcycle. I did not have a need for one but wanted one.
The switch had be thrown and was not able to be thrown into reverse. With little time wasted I booked my training. Having mentioned this this to my friend David and he offered to take me out on his bike. Knowing nothing of motorcycles when I arrived and with my dads old motorcycle gear on the garage was opened to a 1000cc 2010 Honda Fireblade.
The bike, canted over to the left, stood diligently with a fixed aggressive expression. Bikes draw is not solely in their appearance therefore when it was started and settled into an idle my mouth ran dry. I never thought power could have a sound but that is what I could hear. Its attune to hearing a large dog bark opposed to a smaller weaker dog without seeing it your body reacts differently. As the throttle was blipped the power was ever more present – I was in over my head.
Before we set off David gave me a basic safety briefing, checked my clothing over, advised me of the route we were taking and told me the responsibilities of a pillion. Describing in great detail a sharp left turn we would be taking as well as tightening a loose strap on my jacket close to the fabric my understanding started to drop off. I thought we were just going for a ride in the countryside like you would get into a car and go. However, I quickly learnt that you have to put in place a set of rules that you as a rider adhere to. These were Davids rules when taking taking pillions. This is a different thought pattern to driving and more akin to what pilots do before takeoff. I do not agree that motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than cars but they do command a higher respect due to their increased speeds and vulnerability and of course when things do go wrong the consequences are significant. Therefore there are systems and processes be it real or in the head of the rider that need to be ‘checked off’ before any ride.
A few things struck me in the first mile or so. Firstly I was thankful for the ‘safety briefing’ without that I would have surely fallen off of the back of the bike as we pulled away. It is obvious but there are no seatbelts attaching you to the bike. Therefore holding onto the machine while conforming to the pitching, squatting and learning direction of the bike is imperative. The exposer to the elements is consistently striking; the rushing wind, the heat from the bike, the smell of the road is all encompassing. A engaging visceral experience like this is impossible to ignore.
The bikes capability was staggering. The engine was not stressed, the tyres were compliant and the brakes felt more powerful than a storm. Effortless speed was matched with a calming sensation of excellence. Never before or since have I felt so safe and secure in such a compromised vulnerable position.
Even more so I was impressed the skill and aptitude of David. Before the ride he was able to describe that me being on the bike has a dramatic effect on the way it behaves. Fortuitously he stressed the importance for me to look over his shoulder ahead as the bike progressed as well as to be mindful of the dynamic nature of any ride. This allowed me to foresee how I needed to behave going into each corner and over every crescent; details I would have otherwise overlooked. David, at all times, was in control of the machine anticipating other road uses moves and demonstrating a honed skill.
After our ride the message was load and clear, I was missing out on something exceptional and I wanted in. I have since learnt that there are many facets to motorcycle riding be it; pride of ownership, mechanical know how, physical and mental strength, highly tuned skills, endurance, problem solving, awareness or attainment it can develop individuals in many ways.
I still struggle to comprehend how vastly difference riding a motorcycle is to driving a car. Not only in their mechanic attributes but the approach and culture that surrounds riders and their machines. A constant reminder is the few minutes it takes to get ready. Putting on reinforced specific; boots, trousers, jackets, gloves and helmet you are wrapped head to toe in a direct physical expression of consequence to action.