Cool Air

Drops of rain ping off my visor. Spray from cars mists the air. Visibility at times is only yards as the clouds generated by trucks roll down the motorway at 60mph. There’s so much water on the road, I lose track of the lane markings. Red blotches appear in front as traffic slows for yet another average-speed speed camera monitored stretch of roadworks. Filtering in these conditions is riskier, as drivers are more impatient and their wing mirrors are shrouded in a veil of water. It’s now so bad I have to wipe my visor clear every couple of minutes…

Clockwise on the M25. Ah! The air flowing past, down every chink in my body-armoured leathers, through helmet vents and, with my visor wide open, directly into my face. Bugs splat on my specs. A stifling, muggy day on the hot heels of several days of increasingly globally-warmed summer days. The computer’s fans whirring, chucking out heat, window open, shorts and T-shirt, thankfully not in an office or worse stuck on the London Underground. A brief pause in a corporate video project as they mull over animation sequences and I head off to a meeting with the Institute of Videography.

The first few yards was possibly worse than being in my post-production studio. The hot bike, roads reflecting several days of heat, helmet a personal head-sauna, breeze blocked by impermeable leathers. Into the de-restricted zone at Pinkneys Green and I shake off the lava-flow of cars that oozes along at 40. Why does Jeremy Clarkson hate bikes? They represent everything he talks about, but magnified a million times: speed, power, handling, braking, dynamism, joy, life, exhilaration.

Pure air flushes through my jacket, delightful draughts eddy and play around my body, chilling pools of sweat, cooling, calming, relaxing. Wearing standard Harley jeans, my legs act as some sort of heat exchange, I raise myself off the saddle and let my private storm cool my private parts.

M25. The ring around London. Ring around the world. Not my world though, but I’m happy to play in it; games of tag with the traffic; wanna play? Beat you to the lights just because…I can. Traffic ahead is slowing; I see a chrome and multi-coloured shimmering stream frozen ahead, snaking away across the rolling humps of Essex. This is always the most dangerous part, as pseudo-Schumakers jostle for a strategic position on their impending grid, where they’ll be stuck for…who knows how long? But the tribal ritual is so important they become blind. Best to stay put. Don’t start to filter just yet, being slammed by a broadside of Ford’s middle income best isn’t part of my game plan.

I enter the narrow lane between the mile long parking lots; the real fast lane. Up ahead a touring couple on the new version of my VFR800, the one with divisive love-it-or-hate-it variable valve timing and Toblerone exhausts. They let me squeeze past, my need perhaps more urgent than theirs. And yes, madam, your bum does look big in those leathers. White-van-man, if he sees, widens the gap and gets an appreciative nod. A GiT in a GTi tries to close the gap, his wing mirror suffers.

Making rapid progress, but rapid is relative. I’d rather be doing 20 than zero, though. The binoculars of Big Brother stare and seem to follow me, they look ludicrously like a robot from some silly sci-fi movie I’ve seen. Long scrawny neck, wide staring stupid blind eyes that see, and don’t see. More cameras monitoring the population in the Blairs’ UK than in any other country… in the interests of safety, green, save the planet, anti-terrorism the cameras will be in our living rooms soon.

The meeting concludes, the sky is now dead lead and it feels like it too. Big juicy heavy drops of the wrong type of water explode on my saddle, my arse is going to get wet. I rearrange my gear in my topbox so I can quickly get to my waterproofs. It’s a Tuesday; Thor’s arrived on his chariot a couple of days early and I mount my bright yellow Japanese chariot, its usual roar suddenly sounding like a kitten mewling for its mum.

It’s still warm and I’m reluctant to pull over to get into plastic wet weather gear, despite the increasing rain. Counter-clockwise on the M25, drops of rain ping off my helmet. Spray from cars mists the air. Visibility at times is only yards as the clouds generated by trucks roll down the motorway at 60mph. Get onto the hard shoulder, get my Craghopper over-trousers on, and get going again. It’ still too hot for a waterproof jacket, my leather one soon lets rivulets of water through and they trickle down my arms. Doc Marten boots flood, Craghoppers have seen one season too many and I’m cooling, chilling. Deliciously delightfully fresh, Nature’s fridge door is wide open; I’m feeling alive, rehydrated, like John Mills and crew in Ice Cold in Alex gulping down that Carlsberg, I gulp down wet, damp, cool air.

By the time I get back, I’ve been soaked, chilled, dried and warmed as the rain cleared on the M40. The air is cool now, but it was cool earlier too. At 80.