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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Slow and steady

Remember the film Wild Hogs?
Yeah, no one else does, either.
I'm part of a demographic, apparently. I suppose that's always true Рone is always a member of some demographic or another. But there's a tiny sense of disappointment upon learning such a thing, learning I'm not the only one, and, in fact, there are quite a lot of people like me. I'm not unique; I'm clich̩ enough to be quantifiable.

In this particular case, the demographic of which I am a member is: dudes aged 36 and older who are keen to get back into riding motorcycles. I was reading an article about my type the other day, which said we are prone to get ourselves all worked up then go out, get a massive bike we can't control and shortly thereafter kill ourselves in a collision with something large and unforgiving (e.g. a tree, a mountain, linebacker Ray Lewis, etc.). I am a part of the demographic that produces Boss Hoss owners and people who wear Harley-Davidson socks. I hate my demographic.

I am very pleased to say, then, that in all my daydreams about riding the thought of getting a massive cruiser remains far away. Maybe. Some day. But in the immediate and not-too-distant future, I am keen to ensure I first know what I'm doing. That's the most consistent advice I've gleaned from the articles, blogs and motovlogs I see: learn to walk before you run.

It's a philosophy built into the UK's licensing system, which limits a bike's engine size according to the rider's age. At first, a rider is only allowed a 125cc. Still enough power to fatally hurtle oneself into an inanimate object, but small enough to be forgiving on a fair few mistakes. And when I was first thinking about getting my UK license, I told myself that even though my age allows me to bypass many of the restrictions I would follow the same route.

After a while, though, I realised I would need something just a tiny bit more powerful were I ever to go to Bristol, which is the nearest properly cosmopolitan city. Cardiff is nice enough but it is parochially small in culture terms. Unless you are a chav, there is little to do.  Bristol is a short 45 miles away, with much of the route possible on smaller roads. But eventually one has to get on the motorway (freeway) to cross the River Severn. Any alternate route would require driving to Gloucester and tacking an additional 50 miles onto the journey.

A 250cc bike would, I think, provide the necessary power to make the short jaunt over the bridge. Additionally, that extra engine capacity would make it less chaotic an adventure should I be able to convince my wife to join me on short trips in the immediate area. So, a 250 is where I think I'll start.

After an undetermined space of time (randomly, I imagine this to be two years) I'll move up to something in the 700cc range. After another undetermined space of time – if I feel like it – I'll move up to something even larger. One of the things that appeals most to me about motorcycling is the promise of relating more to my environment – not just the world around me, but also the machine that's moving me through that world. Making sure I'm comfortable with the machine is vital in attaining that zen.


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