Why I love bikes…

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…. I started riding bikes 30 years ago precisely because back then most people felt the way Jeremy and others do. It’s a natural enough reaction to lash out at something you don’t understand or from which you feel excluded. And motorcycling is, by its very nature, exclusive. You can fit two people on a bike – I’ve seen four or five on them in places across the world where they are the only available and affordable means of transport – but it’s far better with just one. So yes, it’s exclusive. And there is an exclusive language too. It’s not made up only of jumbled numbers and letters signifying different bikes – although there is a shared shorthand of references to bikes past and present that serves the same bonding purpose as the incomprehensible bollocks I hear football fans rattling on about when they are discussing their shared passion. There is another, deeper set of coded communications amongst bikers; nods on the road, a casual tip of the helmeted head to a biker coming the other way on a sunny day or a more considered, respectful sharing of the moment on an icy morning. These communications are borne not out of bar room bragging or bedroom tugging but are rooted in shared experience.

Maybe it’s the comparative exposure of being out on a bike that brings this readiness to communicate with others doing the same. Riding through some cities where traffic is mostly two-wheeled it's impossible to slip into the cocooned mental state that driving a car through exactly the same place would engender. Stop at a junction on a bike and you are there, outside, your face sharing the same day, the same air as the person on the bike next to you. Not to nod, smile or in some way just acknowledge the presence of another breathing, sentient being next to you would be plain weird. But the sitting ‘on it’ not ‘in it’ nature of a bike (as opposed to a car) effects more than communication.

In a car you are exactly that, ‘in’ the car; it surrounds you and your only means of influencing its movements are through limited and crude controls governing speed and direction. The car then, is to the greater degree, the master of you. On a bike the situation is fundamentally changed: the machine is pretty much the same size as you and you are wrapped around it, holding it. Doubtless that will trigger lots of comments about ‘mounting’ and ‘really liking’ our bikes but what it means is that our influence over the bike’s movements is achieved not only through the simple controls but through the much more finely nuanced and expressive range of body movements and weight-shifts. The driver operates the car. The rider and bike are working together in a much more subtle and involving way. On a bike, you and it make your way down the road together.

Saying they all look the same to you is like saying all flowers or birds look the same… And maybe they do... to you.

Yes, motorcycling is dangerous. Statistically much more so than driving a car. Nobody is forcing you to take that danger on, it’s very much left up to you whether you ride or not and if the potential danger is keeping some people away, then so much the better. I’m the last person to appeal to everyone to join and take up biking. I enjoy the exclusivity, the misconceptions and the fear. If just one dentist is scared away from investing in a brand new R1 and a set of matching leathers so they can impress the staff at the surgery before smearing themselves down the pitwall on a track day then so much the better for all concerned. There are already too many smug twats commuting the wilds of Kensington on Dakar-ready BMW R1200GS believing themselves to be the very image of wotsiface and wotsiface going the Long bloody Way Round on telly when in fact they are a middle-aged man who can’t afford a Ferrari but wants something he feels might impress his colleagues. I’ve argued in the past that if you haven’t got your full bike licence by your 17th birthday then you should be banned for life from taking it up. And a little part of me still feels that way. If it isn’t a passion, a hunger that drives you from the moment you are first able to say the word, ‘motorbike’, then it probably isn’t for you and those of us who do it would rather, if it's all the same to you, that you didn’t. This is our thing. Gerroff.

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Comments (298)
  • Got my first bike in 1984 when I was 9. Not necessarily the best decision my parents had made in the realm of my future existence, but I'm not complaining. Now, at 43, it's an argument with my parents to even

    consider buying another motorcycle without offending them. This is on them, in my opinion :)

    3 months ago
  • I agree on almost all points except the age. I grew up around bikes with my dad racing Moto X. At 17 a car licence was priority . After doing that and buying a car I had little or no money left to do what was by then a fairly expensive licence and couldn't fund a car and a bike.

    Fast forward some years I joined as a paramedic where I dealt with many fatal motorcycle accidents. I can tell you that voice that tells you to get a bike is hard to hear when you are scraping dead motorcyclists off the road every week.

    Only now in my late 20's did I have the financial capability and mental strength to get a bike. I don't regret it one bit, it has changed so much and it's something i wouldn't trade in for all the money in the world. Do I wish I did it earlier? Maybe but that's hindsight. I agree that you either get it or you don't but life isn't as straight forward as saying you should do something by this time or date.

    Anyway off for a ride!

    3 months ago
  • Perfectly said.

    3 months ago
  • You can't even get a full license here when you're under 22

    3 months ago
  • I’m getting my full license now at age 31. Until now, I simply couldn’t afford it.

    But I knew I would do it way back, when I first sat on the backseat of my dads 50cc Simson S50 Moped.

    And when all my friends drove plastic scooters, I got an old moped, because I wanted a clutch and gears and tank between the legs.

    But now I have the great advantage of working at a motorbike dealership/garage. And I can’t wait for my first real bike 🏍.

    3 months ago
    5 Bumps

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