Why? I think my dad played a massive role in me hankering after a motorcycle in the first place. He used to recite stories of how his dad use to have my grandmother on the back of my granddads bike and have my dad and his brother in the sidecar and go to Southend or Clacton. And then when he got a job at Rex Judd in Edgware, a large motorcycle shop who still exist today. Plus the bikes he used to own like various Triumphs and BSA’s. Getting onto/ into a powered vehicle is probably the first major stage of freedom and independence, and for some people, including me, it couldn’t come soon enough.
My application for a provisional licence went in the post shortly before my 16th birthday. “Right!! I’m going to get myself a moped or scooter, as soon as I can afford it”, “Oh no you’re not “ chimes in my dear old mum “Over my dead body”. There is where the problem lay, I was too tied up in my mothers apron strings to defy her. She had such an eagle eye cast over everything, that even if I was inclined to, I wouldn’t be able to get a CBT let alone go for an advanced course without arousing suspicion.
This is where I laid to rest any inclination on getting onto powered two wheels. But no matter how deep I buried it into my psyche, the flame never died, it just festered. So, with my first emergency tax rebate I got from my first ever job, I bought my self a brand new bike, £199.99 OTR. No, Suzukis and Hondas don’t come so cheap, this was me dipping my big toe into long awaited freedom and independence, albeit, with a 5’2” 8 ½ stone anchor attached.
Then shortly followed by ten driving lessons for my 17th birthday, and the purchase of freedom, 900cc of pure tin worm, my Fiat Panda (had 80mph out of); then a Nissan Cherry ‘1.3’ (topped out at 110mph) and then my baby, a 1989 Astra Sri 1.8 which I owned for nine years and never tired of (had an indicated 134mph). Now you may think that I am bragging, about how fast I can drive, and as my dad always said, ‘anyone can drive fast, it’s the one that can stop in time that’s clever!’, but there lies a subtle message, no matter how much I rue the day I listened to my mum, thinking that I was so fearless and immortal, riding bikes like I drove cars, would I still be here today? However, as I progressed through my twenties, I always had a deep respect for motorcyclists, the power, the passion, and the camaraderie and social aspect that biking brought.
But they scared me. I drove cars like I did, because I had little to fear, bikes scared me because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to help myself but to ride fast and hard, trying to red line every gear and ride in anger. I’m not saying I’m a bad driver, I just enjoy driving. I have done some very stupid things on the road in my youth, but I tried desperately to minimise the risk to other road users. Fast forward a few more years, and I am rapidly approaching thirty (would I have made it this far had I been riding a bike?), and my dear old mum has passed away, so that is one major hurdle overcome, however, impending fatherhood was just round the corner. With a mortgage, a wedding, a family and bills to pay for, my dream of motorcycling was slipping further and further away, I had worked mainly in retail since I left school, apart from a two year stint in mechanics.
I went to college and got semi qualified as a mechanic before I was mutually upgraded into engineering. This lead me to University to study Motorsport Technology, which, as I have mentioned before, coincided with the arrival of my first baby (real one this time). So I had to be the responsible father and buy a house and get a ’real’ job back in the real world!
After I had purchased my house made a couple of sproggs, and settled in to the new area, I received an MMS from my brother, it’s a picture of a brand new Vespa 125LX. Damn I was jealous, not because he had a bike and I didn’t, but I subsequently found out the he had had a CBT for a significant period of time, and I realised that if I had known sooner, it may have enticed my to get mine sooner. I had long been into cars and regularly bought all the magazines. Initially it was Revs; Max Power and Redline, in my teens, which was then replaced with Top Gear, Auto Express, Auto Car, and Auto Trader (I love dabbling in mechanics, and secretly would have loved to restore an old banger back to its former glory), And now they are slowly being replaced with TWO, Ride, MCN and Bike and I am now on the look out for a classic bike magazine (haven‘t got the space to restore a car).
It was on the purchase of one of these bike magazines that rekindled that flame, that relit the smouldering ashes that was my dream of owning and riding a piece of two wheeled fun and enjoyment, (freedom and independence no longer possible!). I started to look at information: pub ammo; data and vital statistics and absorbing all the facts and figures like I did with cars over ten years ago. I was forming in my own mind what was hot and what wasn’t, if ever there was a Degree in automotive facts and figures, I would have a first in four wheels, and be well on the way to achieving something close to that for two wheels.
In the end, it had to be British, I had this overwhelming urge to fly the flag for my country, Prince William had been spotted on a Triumph Daytona 650, and for me, it had to be that, and then I saw the reviews on the ST1050, trumping a Honda, it’s got to be that one. And then I saw a Speed Triple, I absolutely loved the visual dynamics, if ever there was a bike that set out to scare the bejesus out of anyone but the rider, it had to be that one! Then the Daytona 675 came out and I went full circle and couldn’t decide ….STOP!!! Breathe, step back and be realistic. This is all just fantasy, I can’t really afford all this, I’ve still got to get lessons; the clothing and safety gear plus insurance and keep it road worthy. So, lets start slowly, lets think small, how about I start with a CBT, eighty to ninety quid can’t be that much of a bank trembler?
In the meantime, I receive another MMS from my brother, he’s back in the country, this time it’s a picture of a bright yellow Ducati M600, he’s done his DAS and is now road legal for two wheel power, damn that flame is burning more intensely, in fact, you could weld with it! How about a visit to a bike dealership. A couple of new friends of mine I met when I start my new job in my new location where my new house was, suggested C J Ball in Norwich.
So I took the family (now expanded to a total of four) up to the Honda dealership, and started talking, trying not to appear totally committed because all I was doing was trying to fan the biking flame a little more. I casually mentioned that I was looking for a 125 but something with a bit of substance, something that wasn’t anything like a CG125, something more like the CBR125, although we did immediately agree that it wasn’t suitable for my 6’ lithe like frame. So the incredibly friendly lady pointed me in the direction of another bike, I looked at her and said “I think you have misheard me or misunderstood, I’m after a 125, nothing bigger” “but it is a 125” she smugly replied.
The bike in question was a Honda Varadero, it was a tall bike, and it hid its tiny muscles in a puffy jacket. Kinda reflected on me in a way! Anyway, I test sat on it , took the weight, but didn’t dare lift the side stand, for this was the first time I had ever sat on a ‘proper’ motorbike. It was scary, it wasn’t running , it wasn’t even moving, but for some reason , I was scared, but I couldn’t stop smiling, a point my wife reminded me of when we were heading back home with handfuls of leaflets and info with me, still smiling. Now the bug had bitten hard, and I was infected for sure. I went down to North London to see my brothers Monster. He had gone abroad again and I had a good opportunity to pull the bike out and have a good look at it. I sat on it and that same feeling crept across me, but I held fast, I kicked up the side stand and took the weight, lent forward, holding onto the handle bars and wrenched open the throttle, I was riding a bike in the same way I’d play a guitar with no strings, all the action was there, but no music.
I sat up put both feet flat on the floor and shook the bike gentle from side to side between my thighs, put both hands either side of the fuel tank and gave it a pat. I put it back and tucked it away under its protective blanket, this was our secret, daddy need never know! I come back home and start adding things up, how much is a helmet? What sort of bike can I get for around £3,000? How much is insurance going to cost me? What is the lowest APR? That’s it, I was daring myself now, how far will I go? How far can I go before I get to point of no return? where I’ve signed on the dotted line and bollocks to everything else, all for the sake of self indulgence. But I can wait, it’ll be my thirtieth very soon, the BIG three zero.
It’s a big mile stone, a special birthday, surely my rich brother and my rich dad, who bought me a computer for Christmas and gave me his three year old car so that he could buy himself a brand-new one, surely between them they could muster up some lessons and a small cc bike? So my wife planned a birthday bash for me, months in advance of my third decade of existence. The celebration of a friend and family member in the height of summer, what an excuse to get together, but alas no, friends were either on holiday or had other commitments, but more importantly, my own dad and brother had to bail out as well since they were both going to France, it’s not like they didn’t have advance warning! That was it! I had snapped!
Things were starting to look up for me, I had just changed mortgage companies and I was saving a packet, so I went out and bought myself a helmet, a symbol of commitment from me, to me, to say I was going ahead with getting onto two wheels come hell or high water. I went onto the C J Ball website and had a look to see what they had on offer, and by chance, I checked out their Suzuki Dealership in Hales, ‘£1 deposit required 0% APR’. THAT was the clincher, 0% why part with more money than I have to, now how much could I afford? It was either going to be the GS500F at £100/ mth, or the Bandit 650 at £125/mth. Then I had to think about insurance... mmmmm... hard one, and as I said, why pay more than I have to? The GS won! I went to Hales, explained my position, and as an offer, they threw in the CBT and DAS at £300, as opposed to £600 originally quoted, it just made me happier. Deposit paid, CBT booked, Theory test booked (I have to take that now? Bugger!!) and DAS pending I’ve got a lot to look forward to.