There are many films released every year, but few have anything like the impact that Star Wars first made on the world when the first instalment (at the time, confusingly called Episode IV: A New Hope) was released in 1977.
I was just old enough to understand some of the hype and hubbub of that film, but for me the paradigm shift from being just a school kid running around the playground at lunchtime to suddenly piloting spaceships and battling aggressive aliens with my friends every weekday between 12pm and 1pm (before Maths with Mr Kemp and then reading with Mr Arrowsmith) came a few years later with the next part of the saga – The Empire Strikes Back.
Why am I explaining this fascination with the George Lucas version of a string of classic fairy tales and legends? Well, I guess that there is always going to be a part of any Star Wars fan that feels the need to explain why, even as an everyday, pretty normal person, they still enjoy what are essentially kids films.
For me, it’s a couple of punchy hours where I am that child again, enjoying story telling and all the bangs and booms of the ’70s celluloid delivery. It’s a sidebar to the normality of the mundane where I am seldom disturbed, where I can experience thrills and terrific noises and colourful shapes.
And that’s exactly the same set of reasons I use whenever I talk about why I ride motorcycles. They are a great way to be a kid again. It’s all about being selfish. It’s all about doing something for you and remembering that life is about living, to again capture that wide-eyed energy of youth. It’s about doing something for you and you alone.
Now, I should make this next point absolutely clear – the only bit of any of the above I actually dress up for is the motorcycle riding. I don’t have a Darth Vader suit hanging in the cupboard at home (although, as somebody in the office pointed out, a lot of my Alpinestars riding kit does bear an uncanny resemblance to some Stormtrooper kit) I just felt I should make that clear.
Anyway, this preamble is here to explain why, when the chance to rub shoulders with the stars and the people who made the original films at the recent Star Wars Celebration in Excel, London turned up, it was just too good too miss for me. It was only a couple of hours from my house, and as motorway miles were something I’d been missing on my long term Kawasaki ZX6R test bike, it seemed the perfect chance to rack up some miles.
Boring miles, I hate the M11. I hate the A14 and I hate the A1. Boringly straight, dull roads infested by Mondeo and white vans, occasionally interrupted by huge lorries and caravans proudly bearing bumper stickers extolling the virtues of Bognor, Whitby or Great Yarmouth.
The motorcycle was ok. This, after all, is not the natural environment for a Supersport machine built to get long and low through fast corners whenever a dry line appears. The barely-noticeable vibration through the bars caused a little numb-hand by the time I was pulling into the Excel carpark but a steady 80+ was fine all the way down.
I’ve since fitted an excellent Ermax Aeromax (£75) screen to the motorcycle and it’s made all the difference, at least as far as stopping the annoying wind turbulence that turned my head into a wobbly-dog lookalike. Ok for the odd bit between long corners, a right pain in the arse for anything lengthy. And dull.
When I got to the event, it was clear that theKawasaki, and a lot of my riding gear (so maybe the lads in the office were right after all) fitted in. A quick stop for photos with Darth Vader and a couple of Stormptroopers (one of whom, it turns out owns his own ZX6R) and a day spent at the show were, for me, a good trade off for the sheer numbing harsh ride and yes-the-engine’s-revs-sit-too-high-at-80-which-can-get-annoying characteristic of the motor.
At the end of the day, it was pretty easy to find Darth Vader – he was the big bloke dressed all in black – but four hours on the Kawasaki ZX6R on straight roads made it pretty easy to also find the limit of my attention span with the bike. It’s a thoroughbred race horse that bulks and baulks at sitting alongside donkeys on a dull Saturday afternoon.
It was as bored and as I was sitting on its back on those dull and duller, Mondeo-infested roads.
Motorways suck on theKawasaki ZX6R.