Dateline: 26 January 2012
The lane that leads to my house is just minutes from the M25 motorway; riding it always puts me in a good mood because it is narrow and roofed by the branches of huge horse chestnut trees. An English lane: an oasis of calm; we call it semi-rural.
This winter the tarmac has been ripped up. It started with big trucks wearing a few holes when they delivered to the retirement home at the end of the lane; the remaining residents made it worse as they drive up and down in cars and zimmer frames.
Me? I have a Moto Guzzi Stelvio adventure motorcycle – I stand on the pegs and weave the entire three metres of bad road.
Pathetic isn’t it? But I love it.
I was going into central London today – brief visit, pick up some stuff, home again. But it meant I would have to traverse the 3 metres of holes.
No question then; the round the world adventure bike was the steed of choice.
Next decision point, what to wear? Temperature was 5 centigrade but sunny. Could be the Belstaff technical textile jacket in lilac, or leathers.
Strictly speaking, the apparel etiquette for adventure bikers is textile or wax.
So I decided on leathers, with back patch.
I was happy. Leather ensemble, back patch, a Stelvio to negotiate the three metres of Dakar dirt and sunshine.
I rode the Stelvio up the reverse camber that joins to the lane, then stood on the pegs for the dirt, slower (I was doing 10mph) for the T junction, lean over, accelerate to make progress.
The biking Gods laughed.
Red light on dashboard, speedometer drops to 0, “service required” starts flashing. Still moving, shall I, will I, won’t I? I didn’t. I turned around, limped back over the dirt, negotiated the camber and parked on the drive.
I, of course, have two bikes.
Smugly, I pulled my Victory Vegas out of the garage, fired up first time after a month’s hard standing, engaged the gear and rode.
The Victory is a cruiser. One thousand five hundred cubic centilitres of American Iron that had powered me thirteen thousand miles across Europe to Asia with nary a blink.
Up the camber, over the dirt, the roar from the straight-through exhaust rattling the windows through the town. Perfect. I was wearing the correct clothes you see. Rock and roll bike, rock and roll leathers. Shades.
Onto the motorway, roll on the throttle, deep bass notes ringing out.
What’s this cold air creeping into my helmet? Why are my hands cold? Why is it so hard to go faster?
Ahhh. No air cleaving windshield. No heated grips and hand shields. No effortless 140mph engine. In a short month I’ve been spoiled rotten by the sleek Stelvio.
I froze as I rode into London, but the bad boy pipes played their song. The traffic split, letting me through. Later, in a café, a woman said, “Nice jacket”. Too cool to preen in public, I threw off a fast smile overly aware that my leather trousered ass was sagging.
But now I’m back in my semi-rural lane, over the dirt but not playing Dakar. Victory parked, moving the Moto Guzzi with the service light flashing.
Wait! Why isn’t the Service Light red? Why are there no automated messages? A glitch somewhere, or a wink from a biking God?
Anyway, now I know.
A Stelvio to take me around the planet. A Victory to take me down to the Ace Café and when I’m feeling anti-social. Did you know that Sonny Barger rides a Victory?
Which leaves me only to wonder whether wax or technical jackets are on trend and de rigueur for Round The Planet Bikers in 2012
Simple. You think...