Reflections on life the universe and everything - including motorcycles
Like many people, at this time of year I reflect on life, the universe and everything – including motorcycling.
An immediate realisation is that there’s no place I’d rather be than on a motorbike.
For me, it’s heaps better than a car.
As I write this, I am away with my wife and younger kids. They came in the car. I rode my Beemer.
When you’re riding a motorbike, you are part of the environment. If it’s cold, you’re cold. If it’s wet, you’re wet. If it’s hot, you’re hot. You smell the breeze – whatever that smell might be! You know when the temperature rises or falls. You’re involved in the ride – at the risk of using a cliché, you’re “at one” with the journey.
When you’re driving a car, you’re removed from the elements. You’re an observer. If it’s cold, you turn up the heater. If it’s wet, your dry in you’re tin box. If it’s hot, you turn the air-con on. In a car, you’re out of touch with changes in temperature and you don’t even know there’s a breeze!
In a car, you’re out of touch with your environment. You’re in a cocooned, safe tin can, out of touch with your surroundings.
When you ride a motorbike, as I have done for a few hundred thousand kilometres, you’re on your own – even if you have a pillion or riding with mates – ultimately, it’s you, the bike and the elements.
That’s why I love it!
I believe that most (maybe all?) motorcyclists crave to be an individual. To break free from the terminally normal and mediocre crowd. But society does all it can to make us all conform to a set of rules – to be “normal”. The Government and Church used to be the rule makers. Seems to be Google, Facebook and social media now. Perhaps as well known English motorcyclist and TV Presenter Henry Cole states, “Motorcycling is the last great refuge of the individual”.
So where did your love of motorcycling come from?
My fascination with two wheels started early.
Until I was nine, my family lived in Marrickville in Sydney. Across the road, there was a milk bar where groups of bikers used to hang out. It was the mid 60’s so there were Triumphs, BSA’s, Norton’s and the odd BMW.
I was fascinated. I used to get my older sister to take me across the road and admire these amazing machines - and the “strange” creatures who rode them.
I didn’t know then, but I was hooked! I found the bikes and the riders different. And I guess that part of me has spent the following decades trying to be just that – different.
As I went through school, I was always looking at bikes.
At high school, the guys 2 years ahead of me, they all got bikes. A few had the ground-breaking Honda 750/4 that had only recently been released. A couple had the brand new and amazing Kawasaki Z1. Younger guys like me wondered why did you need with all that power! In fact, my best friend to this day, came from that year – back then, he had a Ducati 750 GT (he now rides a BMW R1200RT).
But my family hated bikes!
Dad used to call motorcyclists “temporary Australians”. Mum thought they were “far too dangerous”.
I remember my first ride. I think I had just turned 16 and a mate had a two stroke Yamaha 180. He took me to some back roads near where we lived and said, “here you go”. He showed me how the gears and brakes worked BUT didn’t tell me how to lean and go around corners! My first ride was memorable because when I came to my first corner I hit the curb and came off! Did I mention that I was only wearing shorts, runners and no shirt!
When I got my licence, Mum said that if I got a car, she’s help me with petrol and running costs. If I got a bike, there’d be no help – and I’d probably have to move out of home.
I got a car. A mini.
In fact, I loved that mini. I put good tyres on it and drove it like a go kart! It was a great first car.
But I still longed for a motorbike.
About a year later, I moved out of home and within a couple of weeks bought my first bike. A Honda 500 Four! My bike gear came from a local disposals shop.
I thought I’d made it!
Motorcycling has given me many things.
A mode of transport I enjoy.
A sense of belonging to a like minded group and the comradery that comes with that.
(Perhaps paradoxically to the last statement) A sense of individuality.
A certain lifestyle.
A lot of fun.
A great form of long distance transport.
A way to free myself from the mundane.
Put simply – I love it! On a motorbike life is even more amazing.