|Tell me - just how does he re-assume the vertical?|
I’ve always been fascinated by motorbike racing. But only recently have I asked myself am I morally entitled to this fascination? Should I, in fact, ‘fess up?
The first races, in the early fifties, were shocking in retrospect. Racers roared down narrow lanes in a private park; I watched from the lane side separated only by a single rope strung between short posts. No protection whatsoever, only a warning I shouldn’t get too close.
Bikes got faster. On the Isle of Man, a 30-plus-mile circuit follows conventional rural and suburban roads, defined by stone walls and house corners. Eventually someone went round at an average 100 mph. The present record is 135 mph. That’s average speed; to achieve this, bikes travel at close to 200 mph in some parts. On two wheels!
Meanwhile better tyre technology means racers may lean over even further to get through corners faster. In present international MotoGP races, the angle between bike and road is less than 45 degrees. Now the racer’s elbow scrapes the ground.
Cameras are so small a bike racer may carry several; not just to record the rapidly changing view ahead but showing his foot changing gear, and his right hand applying the brake. To the YouTube viewer the sensation is thrilling.
Thrilling because of the danger. Deaths during practice and races in the IoM are shocking. Riders wear one-piece leather suits and expensive helmets. Offering only marginal protection when hitting a drystone wall at 120 mph.
At other circuits large run-off areas make racing safer. Rider deaths are down but I can remember the bad old days and the IoM races still happen. After all, bike racing is only bloody entertainment.
Racers do what they wish; my thrills are vicarious. Am I justified? Probably not. Should I stop watching? Hmmm.