Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Last Temptation of Bikes

I drive like an old lady on Zopiclone these days. If I'm on a long journey, on the motorway perhaps, where the legal limit of 70mph is seen as a conservative guideline, I often find myself pootling along at about 64. It causes the missus some anxiety, as she's still in the flush of youth and likes to attempt speeds not seen since the donkeys on Pendine sands were hassled by Donald Campbell in the Bluebird. She often points out that I am turning into a Dad-driver which, considering my car is a Ford Focus C-Max with a two-year-old child and kaleidoscopic seat stains as non-optional extras, is possibly an accurate description.

But there is a reason for this. We are a one car family. I get my thrills from my other form of vehicular propulsion; my Suzuki Bandit motorcycle. I like it. It goes vrum in a very loud way, and moves along at a fair old lick. It's a middle-of-the-range bike with a 600cc engine, so it's not going to get nods of admiration from those thousand-plus capacity, colour-coordinated summer racing types who put flint on their knees so they get sparks when they corner, but it's good enough for me. I can ride all day on it and not get back-ache or a calloused perineum.

I'm the one on the left, blue bike with two headlights:

The other bloke is my mate Pete who, like me, is an all-weather rider. Our clothes are practical, warm and waterproof. We aren't afraid of rain, wind, snow or ice because we know how to go slow and steady if conditions are less that perfect. There are a couple of differences. Pete likes vibrant colours whilst I'm boring and buy black or navy blue clothes, and Pete has an MP3 player wired into his jacket and helmet, whereas I make do with the music in my head, which is good because it drowns out those wiseass voices and their constant calls to obey them.

No, I'm writing my blog. We'll kill later.

There's not much to beat opening the throttle on a warm day and leaning into the corners as you skidaddle through the cundryside. If you ride a bike, you'll know why dogs hang their heads out of car windows, and you might recognise that speed does tend to increase rather than decrease if you're having fun. You have to watch that twitchy right wrist action.

Of course, even when I'm giving it some welly, I'm never going to out-accelerate some of those shiny, huge-engined monsters that scream past startled pedestrians at breakneck speed, hoping not to embed themselves in trees when they overcook a corner. I take comfort from the fact that, come October, when they are cosied up in their Audis, their Hayabusas tucked up in the garage for the winter, I become one of the fastest riders on the road by default. Get in.

Of course, there's no getting away from the fact that I am a Daddy (not in a 'who's the Daddy!' sort of way, but as in the kind who has photos in his wallet where his money used to be), and I've noted with concern that my little boy loves motorbikes. He points them out, laughs when he sees them and last night spent forty minutes just sitting in my saddle shouting "Vroom Vroom" a lot. This worries me, which is ironic as my own Father, who has owned a few bikes over the years, recently admitted that he'd never let on how much fun riding was for fear of one of his own sons getting into it.

Bikes are not as safe as cars.

There. I said it. Took some doing. Thank you. Yes, I will have a cup of tea, It's nice to get these things in the open. I've never been to Bikers Anonymous before. Is that cake?

For me, this is fine. I am indestructible to everything except man-flu (terrible curse), but I don't like the thought of my little boy ever getting one.

It seems odd then, that we pandered to his fascination for motorbikes and bought him this for his second birthday:

Cool, innit?

Okay, so it has no motor, is made of wood, and is propelled using the power of feet-scooting, but it is recognisably based on the motorbike.

He loves it, and as soon as his feet can touch the ground on it, I predict many hours of happy scooting. But the fact remains that we are encouraging his love of things two-wheeled and perhaps a bit dangerous. For whatever reasons, being a biker does command a modicum of respect, so you can see why kids hanker after them.

So, how to discourage getting a bike till he's old and sensible, like what I all am?

I could show him graphic pictures of injury, but knowing kids he'll think they're cool. I could say he might end up with a scar . . no that's cool too. Broken limbs? They like the idea of plaster casts. Expense? They're cheaper than cars in every way.

It would appear bikes are cool, no matter what the naysayers might think. Even the downsides have a bit of the "Yeah, it's bad, but it's good" motif going on.

Happily, I think I have the answer. It is based on how vulnerable you are as a biker, but not through injury, or cold, or wetness.

It's because of your friends and workmates can take advantage of the fact that you must leave your biking clothes unattended, ready to don at the end of a long, hard shift. For example, I was getting ready to go home last week and found someone had taken time out of their busy day to do this to my helmet and gloves:

Raiding the shredder and poking the bits into every finger of the gloves and every crevice of the helmet must've construed a good fifteen minutes of their time, so kudos for that. It took me longer to get all the big bits out, and I was itching like I'd got fleas with headlice when I got home, thanks to the paper dust that was coating my ears.

In the past I have also arrived in the works garage to find my bike cellophaned, including my helmet, trousers and jacket.

Is that a good advert for not having a motorbike? Don't do it son, you've got mates!


  1. I'm not into motorcycles or stuff that goes vroom, but I always read your blog top to bottom for all the treasures inside.

    Voice in my head:
    *Excited gasp!* pootling, pootling, pootling, pootling, pootling, la la la la, I pootle you pootle he/she/it pootles, pootly poo *GASP!* Calloused perineum! calloused perinem, calloused perineum, hee hee..."

    Your blog is a treasure trove, The Jules.

  2. Jules,

    I've never been on a bike. I've got friends who ride and I must say, "if it's in you to ride, nothing will dissuade you".

    It looks like your son is on the fasttrack to becoming a biker someday. Perhaps he'll compete in those biker events held 'round the world.

    He'll have you to thank for that.


  3. scooters are nice---- knew a gurl from school who had a bf with a 'crotch rocket' who decided he wanted to take me for a spin....he popped a wheelie doing like 40mph and i came pretty damn close to cracking his ribs whilst screaming on the back. end of miss alaineus and motorbike rides.


  4. My parents gave me roller skates and a little scooter (the ones you push with one foot)when I was a little guy and then they wondered why I wanted a motorcycle when I was 14. I cured my son at age 3. I would pick him up at day care and place him between me and the tank and ride home. He'd often reach out to the handlebars to hold onto. So, one day, I took my hands off and said "It's all yours, kid!" He never got the desire to own a bike. Good thing, too, as he is the clumsiest human being in creation. And now he's 38 and has two daughters... heh heh...

  5. There is no backseat on a bike. How will he do his 'courting'? That may be an insurmountable problem.

  6. Steamy - lol - your comments are as entertaining as your posts! I can see you doinga little jig as you try out newly discovered phrases.

    U - Makes me shudder to think about that.

    Miss A - I think getting you to hug him tightly was probably the intention.

    Douglas - Cunning. I'm going to remember that. Does he know how you describe him? :-)

    Mdme DeF - He'll just have to find a girl with a car. Or be very imaginative.

  7. My husband and son LOVE motorcycles! I on the other hand,am so fearful they'd get hurt....I guess I'm getting old!

  8. It's not actually the motorbike that's dangerous, but all the hard objects you might crash into. The solution is to drive with the bike suspended on a pole so the wheels don't touch the ground. Pole driving could be the new craze.

  9. Thinkinofyou - We worry about others far more than we worry about ourselves, don't we? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    GB - Practical as well as safe. I'm impressed.

  10. the dear MITM decided that he wanted to buy another motorcycle after not having one for more years than i like to think about, anyway #1 son told him, "dude, you don't have enough insurance nor will they give you enough to deal with mom if you buy one!" end of story. none of our 4 have ever ever ever wanted one, even though they've seen all the pics of us from back in the day! xoxo

  11. A charming meander on two wheels, with a touch of class and pathos in parts.

    Then we ran into this:

    "No, I'm writing my blog. We'll kill later"

    Now that my friend.. was humour.

  12. Savvy - I bet they've got a couple of bikes stowed away somewhere, for when you're not around.

    Jimmy - Don't remember writing that . . .


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