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Sunday, 7 October 2012

Youth, thank God, is a consumable

Old age is proclaimed via epiphanies, eg, I will never ride a motorbike again.

First, buying a bike would be gross indulgence. The RRs practise indulgence all days of the week (Why hold back?) but the bike would not be a shared luxury. No one would lend me a bike because I lack a helmet; a Shark Vision-R with matt orange top and rear, for instance, costs £279. I doubt I’d be covered by the bike owner’s insurance and/or I might be denied my own cover.

I wouldn’t be tempted by some piddling 125 cc noise-box; I’d want some oomph.  The Yamaha VMAX (above) reaches 60 mph in 2.5 sec (Cf: an object in free fall near the Earth's surface accelerates from 0–60 mph in 2.73 sec.). I am 77. Make your own judgement.

So what will I be missing? Ahhh!

Changing gear manually in a car takes X seconds, on a bike X/3 seconds. Thus dropping a cog (to overtake) follows hard on the decision to do so; you’re past that Audi in 200 yards of road.

You’re part of the scenery (as when walking or cycling) but the scenery is ever-changing.

Cornering is quite different. You don’t steer, you lean. Quite, quite thrilling. The laws of physics prevent descent.

You’re not chewing sandwiches, listening to Shostakovich, wondering about the next loo: you’re out there on your own, concentrating.

Despite being vulnerable you’re feared.

No, this doesn’t sit well with my speed awareness class (See No points but not pointless). But this fantasy belongs to the period when I never drank less than five pints at a sitting. I was a fool, a young fool. But foolishness is often a staging post en route to old age. I forgive myself. Even if no one else does.


  1. I read somewhere the part of a human brain that assesses risk is not fully developed until around the age of thirty. I guess at the age of twenty it is totally empty. Combine that with binge drinking and... I hasten to add that our steady consumption of five pints or so was merely a social exercise and not the deliberate catalyst for leglessness and projectile vomiting.

    Arising from that, parents should understand it is a certain no-win situation when junior takes to the road. Whatever parents advise, they might as well be taking a photo with a camera without a light sensor, and whatever they say will not prevent junior from going to, and then exceeding the limit of adhesion, often with Daddie’s cherished car, cherished number plates and all.

  2. Motor bikes and their riders are symbols as well as a means of transport. Remember the Cocteau film Orphee. I have never driven one except in my mind. But I can go on doing that despite encroaching old age. So I suppose could you. When I was in hospital with a broken ankle some years ago four of the six other patients in the ward were recovering from motor cycle accidents.

  3. Sir Hugh: Mother's reaction was to sigh and buy me a crash helmet. A Kangol, one size too small, which caused Mrs Ruffe to say it made me look like a coal miner.

    As to the risk-assessing part of my brain it was over-developed. Easily proved when I started out on a rock climb.

    Joe: I hadn't noticed; is Plutarch's Lives an irony; is he now interred with BB and LdP?

    There are moments during biking when one is freed from all physical and emotional restraints. Conceivably this is the terrestrial equivalent of the post-death prelude when you realise you've been a good boy and you're destined for an existence in a land where no bike has an engine of less than 650 cc capacity.

  4. Well done, RR. The ultimate paragraph in your comment above really says it all.
    If you think my latest Royal Enfield (see blog)is man enough, I will gladly lend you it and a helmet for a spin...although it will not surpass a Vmax I'm afraid.

  5. Avus: Thanks very much for the offer, given that my blog over the years has revealed a number of my eccentricities and you would be taking a grave risk. However, I must reluctantly refuse; one way of proving one is an adult is by looking retrospectively (and with a clear eye) at the calendar. And that says no.