“Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.”
– Hunter S. Thompson
My love affair with wheels has been strong within me ever since I got my first proper bike, a green Raleigh Striker with pedal-back brake, some 30 years ago.
That wheel obsession has made countless appearances throughout my career, and in fact kicked it off with a work experience stint on Mountain Biking UK magazine, that went on to land me the editorial assistant role some years later, where I became absolutely rabid about downhill bikes.
Then, more recently, I was at TopGear magazine where I was able to indulge my supercar and F1 fantasies, and I even got to act as stand-in for the world famous Stig on one occasion, for a supercar shoot on the Isle of Man, after the ferry company refused to transport him due to some security concerns.
Actually, I’m not sure that I’m allowed to talk about that…
And so to now, my enthusiasm has very recently found a new place onto which my shining eyes have fallen: motorbikes.
To be honest, this has been quite obviously coming my way for a long, long time, but now it’s become an active pursuit, where as before it was much more by chance than design.
At school a friend of mine had a little scrambler that we’d ride around his farm on and I loved it, but I got side-tracked by that whole mountain bike thing and kind of forgot about it.
Since then I’ve had the odd go on a motocross bike every now and then, and rode on the backs of mates’ Fireblades, but I never really got bitten by the bug.
At those times that I’d previously really thought about throwing my leg over a bike, I think I was well aware that the sort of thing I wanted – the Ducati 999 really got to me at one point – would have more than likely seen it and I sliding down the road in pieces.
And this was the other block to me getting on a motorbike, the danger element was prevalent.
Back then I was after speed, but having been around some horrific motorbike related events – @evoNickTrott had a truly awful accident while I was at Top Gear, and the still heartbreaking death of my boyhood hero and friend Jason McRoy has forever weighed heavily on my mind – I knew that speed was something I shouldn’t be chasing on public roads with two wheels and an engine.
But now, with the advent of fatherhood, age and a not insignificant lustfulness with regard to custom bikes, I’m no longer after speed.
These days I’m after something much more ethereal. I’m after freedom.
I always thought that those ‘ride free’ stickers were just a nice couplet for guys to stick on bikes, I didn’t ever realise it was actually a motto for a very real desire.
Yet when I did my CBT – a birthday present from my amazing wife @girltini last month, who gave me the arse kick I needed – I discovered that freedom was indeed attainable.
As I gunned the little Yamaha YBR125 out of the training centre and down the road towards Porthcawl, I couldn’t quite believe that riding a bike, even at just 40mph, on proper roads, could be so liberating.
I didn’t care what the bike was, what I looked like, or where I was going, it was just such an amazing feeling being free of a tin box, of being out in the open. Of not going nose to tail with the squares, man.
I felt like I was operating on another plane.
Now I’ve had a taste of that freedom, it’s lodged itself in my soul and I just want more of it.
My original idea was to do my CBT, get a 125 and just ride about on that for a couple of years, but as soon as I finished that day I realised that wouldn’t be enough, and now would I think or feel the same again.
Motorbikes are where it’s at for me – who knew they’d get me so hard?
I’ve got my theory test this Thursday – I feel prepared and good about it, but I inherently distrust any test process, as traditionally I’ve been awful in those situations – and then I’m going to book up and train for my full test.
I need to know that if I want to ride a bike, then I can.
By spring I hope to have my first proper bike, and I’m already – obviously – day dreaming about what I want to get.
Now that speed isn’t my goal, I’m very seriously considering a Harley Davidson Sportster Iron, but I can’t shake the desire to own the sort of bikes that are coming out of custom shops like Spirit of the 70s, Warrs, Deus Ex Machina, Roland Sands, Blitz and the like.
I’m also obsessed with the shape of a Biltwell open face helmet with a bubble visor popped onto it. And yes, I’ve already bought a Deus hat (pictured), as I’m a great believer in method living.
So we’ll see where we go, but I know it’s only going to be good.
But first, let’s get those tests out of the way…
UPDATE: Happily I passed my theory test last week, so I’m now ready to start booking training for the direct access two-parter.
If you’re cramming for, or about to take, your theory test, then check out the apps called ‘Driving Test Success‘.
I found the theory and hazard perception ones invaluable, and when I got into the test for real everything was so familiar that I felt really comfortable (annoyingly, I dropped just one single point in the theory part).
Anyway, good luck!