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Showing posts from June, 2013

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…

High anxiety

There is still a sense of panic -- something that builds up in me before and during a ride. It is multifaceted, hard to explain, and especially hard to justify. By that, I mean it's not rational; it's not the kind of anxiety that would make sense for a new rider.
It would be rational for a new rider to worry about safety or technique. There are a great deal of intuitive unknowns for a newish rider to adapt to, things to think about that will not be thought about once experience is gained. Several months ago, for example, Road Pickle adventurer Sash was struggling with basic turns. I doubt she ever thinks about these things at all now; they just happen. So, if I were riding along overthinking every right turn or too cautiously crawling away from stops, that would make sense.
And certainly it is true that I have a bad habit of second-guessing my approach speed on bends. But I know that skill will come before too long. Indeed, how could it not? I live in Wales: land of bendy roa…

Gear review: Force Riders Kevlar jeans

I find myself often struggling to find reviews for gear –– especially gear that isn't ridiculously expensive. So, for the benefit of whatever person arrives here via Google search, I've decided to make note of the items I've used or am using. Starting with the Force Riders Kevlar jeans I bought way back when I first started training.

The old adage comes to mind here: You get what you pay for. 
I found these jeans advertised on eBay, offered brand new for considerably less than what other brands were being offered used. So, I wasn't expecting much. I figured anything that offered even a modicum more protection than my Gap jeans would be a step up.
And that's pretty much the best I can say for them: they are better protection than fashion blue jeans. Maybe. Since I've (thankfully) not taken a tumble in them I can't even say that's true. To be honest, I don't think I'd trust that "Kevlar" lining. Methinks it may be a little more dyed cot…

What I want: Arch KRGT-1

I'll admit: first time I saw the motorcycle set to be produced by Keanu Reeves' new venture, Arch Motorcycle Company, I wasn't all that impressed. Something about it struck me as being the motorcycle equivalent to Dogstar. But the more I look at it, the more I take in every feature, the more it appeals to me. 
That is a crazy-looking bit of machinery, y'all. And its look speaks especially to that beautiful-crazy truth of motorcycling, which is: really, you are just sitting on top of a big engine and hurling yourself at the world. Nothing is covered up with fairing; everything is exposed. It looks like a terrible health and safety violation, the sort of thing that a bureaucrat would insist you should wear eye protection just to see a picture of. Honestly, just look at that thing; imagine all the terrible things it could do to fingers and hands just by sitting still.
I imagine the reason there is no room for a passenger is to try to prevent the eventual heartbreak that …

How it happened

The first thing we need to establish is that Harley riders are awesome. They seem to have an overall bad reputation amongst other motorcyclists, especially those that lurk on internet forums. I think the commenters at VisorDown, for instance, would rather piss marble-sized stones than show any love for Harley-Davidson (1). But as I said in a previous post, I would quite happily be seen on that most-iconic of machines, and I particularly like the look of the lower-cc models like the Iron 883.
It is because of that post that a particular Harley rider got in touch with me a while ago and offered me an opportunity to get a bike of my own.
"Probably not an Iron 883," he said. "But not a piece of junk, either."
His name was Marc. A Harley rider himself, he could relate to my enthusiasm for motorcycles and realised that we could help each other out. I have web and writing experience, and he has a business for which he's been putting together a website: Loan.co.ukIn…

600cc of awesome

And suddenly I am the coolest person in our circle of friends; even without a Harley or a Triumph I've ended up meeting the Chris Jericho test after all (1). I suppose that in some cases, the key to passing that test is simply being the one who actually gets on a bike.
Just about everyone Jenn and I hang out with on this island is an artist of some sort: performers, singer-songwriters, painters, musicians, authors, filmmakers. All those ridiculous red-wine conversations you see mimicked in films? That's my actual life, yo. And by and large, I enjoy it. These are people who are witty and thought-provoking, and quite often come out with some of the most fantastic tales you've ever heard.
They are such amazing people, in fact, that I often feel a little out of my depth. My friend, Clint, for example, is cleverer than you. It's his job. He's a successful stand-up comedian and he possesses a brilliance in almost always being able to offer a witty reply.
The other day, …

Bullet points

Here's a collection of various thoughts I've had since getting a motorcycle: Great googly-moogly, lane splitting is awesome. Nothing better confirms the awesomeness of owning a motorcycle like filtering through a mile-long traffic backup.So, this is my life now? I am destined to always have chain grease on my hands and under my fingernails.I suppose I could get some latex gloves for when I'm working on my bike. Thank goodness for the internet that I can have those sent discreetly to my house rather than having to go into a shop and explain why I need loads and loads of latex.Everyone stares at you when you're on a motorcycle. Everyone. Sometimes the looks are of disdain/annoyance, sometimes the looks are of envy, sometimes the looks are of approval. But everyone looks. This must be what it's like to be a sexy lady.Is it just my bad luck, or are BMW riders jerks? What's wrong with saying hello fellas? Harley riders get a bad rap, but all the dudes I've encou…

The converted

The summer sun was low in the sky. A Sunday night, it was quiet as we sat at the lights. Just the whirring idle of the CBF600 and that overarching sound of peace that is all too uncommon in an overcrowded place like the United Kingdom. The temperature had dropped down to the point of my being quite happy to be wearing a leather jacket, but still it was warm by British standards. 
The light changed and I gently rolled the throttle through a left turn. As the road went straight I clicked up a gear and sprung up to 40 mph. Crossing the bridge from Cardiff to Penarth, I looked down over the River Ely and out to the bay. I felt Jenn squeeze me with her legs, and she shouted out: "I love the bike, babe! I love this!"

What a difference a few months make. When I first started floating the idea of my earning my UK motorcycle license and thereafter getting a bike, her reaction was unsupportive, to put it lightly. If she had a little too much to drink her attitude could be pretty disp…

Charlie Bravo Foxtrot part II

Hang on a second, let's back up here. I feel I've glossed over something, which is this: OMG, I has motorcycle! (1) In my previous post I talked about the experience of going to get the bike, and yes, I did mention that Jenn described my behaviour on that day as akin to someone high on cocaine, but I still feel I haven't properly expressed how super-awesome happy-surprised I am at the reality of the experience.
Indeed, some random mosquito of a thought keeps flying around in my mind thinking I need to take the bike back before they charge me for an extra day -- as though it were a rental car. But I don't have to give this motorcycle back. It is mine. And with it I can go anywhere I want.

That's a reality which is almost too much for me to handle. We structure our world with certain truths, and my not having a motorcycle has been a truth for 37 years. But then last week that reality shattered. Whereas I had previously struggled to get up the nerve to even walk into…

Charlie Bravo Foxtrot

I had been up since 4 a.m., sick to my stomach from nerves. Now, as the train pulled into the station, I was physically shaking with... well, a little bit of everything. Nerves, anxiety, excitement, fear, panic. I thought of the Bad Mod 2 Day. I hadn't slept well before on that day, either. My stomach had played hell on me in that way of dramatically lowering one's standards for restroom cleanliness.
The public toilets in Briton Ferry, Wales, on a freezing-cold day. That is when you are reaching the lowest of the low, mis amigos. No no doors and not likely cleaned but once a year. It was like being in a Montana anti-meth ad. Actually, it was a bit worse because the lights didn't work.
"This isn't that day, though," I told myself. "With the exception of just one similarity –– beyond the similarities that exist in all your experiences, i.e., the fact you are a part of them –– this day is wholly different."
Indeed, Cheltenham, some 70 miles from Penar…

The allure of Big Red

I've mentioned before that strange, short period in my life during which I was a professional actor, driving a convertible Ford Mustang and going out a model. No, really. That was my life. In the mid-90s I was living the dream. Not necessarily my dream, mind you. In fact, I wasn't very happy with any of it.
The model, for one thing. Sure, she was pretty to look at but her little-boy physique when disrobed sort of creeped me out. On top of that, she possessed a rice-cake-fuelled mania that made her diplomatically challenging (i.e., she was unpredictably annoyed by every other thing I said or did) on the best of days.
Acting, too, was not as much fun as I wanted it to be. From a professional standpoint it is 98 percent stress, 2 percent fun. You think of nothing but how on earth you are going to earn your next paycheck, and you keep weird hours with weird people. One of my better "friends" from those days would occasionally get up mid-conversation, go stand with his nose…

What I want: a Triumph anything

That stuff I said last week about wanting a Royal Enfield? Forget that. Well, don't forget it completely  –– I'd still happily accept an RE if anyone wants to give me one –– but I've recently shifted my focus. Again. Or, rather, perhaps it's more accurate to say that I find myself suddenly refocusing on what I've always wanted. And here's why:
When my wife was a little girl, growing up in a small village in Devon, she had a sticker book full of motorcycles. On the wall of her tiny cottage bedroom, she had pictures of even more motorbikes and she daydreamed of growing up to ride a bike of her own.
"Triumphs were my favourites," she told me the other day. "Those are the ones I wanted in my sticker book. I don't like racing bikes; I don't like the look of them. The ones that I always liked were the Triumphs that, you know, look like proper motorcycles."
You hear that, Liam Marsden? Proper motorcycles.
What Jenn is referring to, of cour…