Share your biking obsession: Get someone back on two wheels

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I’m sure we all know someone who, for one reason or another, holds a motorcycle licence but has given up riding. A dormant biker, just waiting to be gently awoken back to the world of two-wheels. In my case it is my best mate James Watson.

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I’ve known Jim since playschool. We were born in the same hospital two months apart, lived in neighbouring Cotswold villages as we grew up and have been chums ever since, sharing many experiences involving underage drinking that are best not repeated.

At 14 Jim bought a Honda Melody scooter from a granny in the village and that was our introduction to two wheels as we terrorised local farmers’ fields. We both did our CBTs on our 16th birthdays, took our full tests within a week of our 17th and spent all our spare money on bikes and fuel. And strong cider.

After university, my passion for bikes saw me end up on MCN full-time while Jim sold his soul to the devil (got a job in advertising) and bought a Triumph Daytona 675 because he was earning a proper wage. But then, like for so many riders, his life changed and motorcycling took a back seat.

"In 2009 my wife Jess was expecting our first child, Lily, I’d just signed up for a mortgage and I took a job that was walking distance from the house, owning a bike felt selfish," Jim remembers. "It was a toy, an unnecessary expense when budgets were stretched, and with Lily on the way I also started to think more about the consequences if I had an accident."

James Watson on his Triumph Bobber

Jim sold the Triumph and for the next ten years, bikes took a backseat as his family grew in size with Thomas and Bea also arriving. "I didn’t lose the passion and occasionally picked up a copy of MCN but with a young family, a new bike wasn’t an option."

Then a few years ago I started to get texts from Jim about bikes rather than just insults... I was on the Triumph Bobber Black launch in Spain for MCN when Jim saw a YouTube video I’d done from the hotel and texted asking what it was like, which I thought was a bit odd as he never usually did that, especially about a cruiser.

Then I got a few more texts talking about bikes and last year, out of the blue, I got another saying "I’ve booked a test ride on a Bobber," to which I naturally responded "does Jess know?" assuming he had kept his wife in the dark.

But he hadn’t and a few days later an essay arrived by text from a very excited Jim following his first ride in nearly a decade. Then, during a lockdown Zoom call, he casually dropped in that he’d put down a deposit.

As a life-long motorcyclist I was delighted, but also a little worried because I didn’t want him becoming a ‘born again’ accident statistic. I’ve fallen off my fair share of bikes, bashed myself around and had close calls but when it is someone close to you, either a best mate or loved one, you tend to be overly protective.

Jon and James on the road

As Jim is (almost) an adult I shared his enthusiasm, made sure he wore the right kit (he was going to wear his 15-year-old Arai!) and also checked he wasn’t going to buy something inappropriate.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sportsbikes but I wouldn’t have been comfortable with someone who hadn’t ridden for so long hopping on a 200bhp missile. As it turned out, I reckon he made the perfect choice in the Bobber and he is absolutely over the moon with his new purchase.

On a purely selfish note, I’m bloody delighted to have my best mate back on bikes. Jim’s enthusiasm is rubbing off on me and we are planning on meeting up for a trip next year, we might even have a day out involving bikes such as a flat track or trials school or even just a day riding around the Cotswolds like the old days. Although this time, if we stay overnight at a pub we will probably have a more sensible glass of wine rather than load up on Diamond White...

If you know a dormant biker, now really is a great time to gently encourage them to think about riding. Not only are there some amazing bikes out there of all shapes and sizes, dealers are offering tremendous incentives as coronavirus restrictions lift and many dealerships also have links to training schools to help brush up on those rusty skills.

Hopefully, like me, at the end of it all you will gain a new riding buddy to share your two-wheeled passion with.

What James says

James Watson

"Bikes are always in your blood and for me all it took was a bit of encouragement, as well as seeing a Bobber in the flesh while I was in Paris on a work trip. When I was younger I laughed at cruisers but I’m at a different point in my life now.

"I don’t want a sportsbike, I wouldn’t trust myself on one and I have no interest in getting my knee down, but the Bobber handles unbelievably well and is more than fast enough. For me, returning to riding is a new hobby.

I’ve signed up to a PCP plan, which I consider my monthly hobby fund, and I use the Triumph purely for fun – and to escape the kids for a while! In the whirlwind of football practice, rugby practice, after school clubs, kids’ parties it’s the perfect quiet place for a bit of ‘me time’.

"I tend not to ride in the wet, I take it out for a sunny run on some local roads that might involve a cheeky McDonalds the kids don’t know about. A few of the local dads have Harley Irons but I don’t really want to go on group rides, I love riding on my own and enjoying two wheels again."

You can do it too

Getting a friend into biking will give you a riding buddy

Encouraging a dormant biker is the easy part – your responsibility as a mate or family member will come after they’ve made the jump back to two wheels. A lot might’ve changed since they last rode so explaining how to get the best of electronic modes and modern tyres will be useful.

Also, make sure they’re using kit that’s up to the job too: explain that the helmet they last used 15 years ago won’t keep them safe today but fortunately there’s now a wide range of good quality gear available to buy that won’t break the bank.

But the best thing you can do for them is to encourage them to take a riding refresher course, all local training schools and advanced riding specialists will offer this.

Read the latest stories causing a buzz this week in Advice…

Jon Urry

By Jon Urry

MCN contributor, original 916 & R1-owner, human labrador