First ride

Frist ride.jpg

At 90mph, the wind penetrates my leathers, gets behind my shades where eddies make my eyes water, tears blur my vision and stream out sideways to be whipped away, leaving salt stains on my skin as their wake.

Although it’s only February, there’s enough heat in the sun to remove the dead winter chill and entice me out for the first ride of 2008. After a winter layoff, the bike fired up just fine, but an immediate stop at the local garage to top up the tyre pressures was needed. New fresh petrol into the tank and we’re away, pulling out onto the Marlow road and slipping into the Sunday garden centre traffic.

Slow moving MPVs are dropped with ease past Pinkneys Green and it’s time for a photograph. I clamp my left hand glove with my teeth and pull it off, then stuff it under my legs. Reach in to my jacket with my left hand and bring out my digital camera, I hold it in various positions and click way, hoping I get something, anything, useful. Even after a brief while, my hand starts to feel numb with cold, and I suppose I ought to focus more on the road. So I shove the camera back and stuff my hand back into my glove, it soon starts to thaw.

Soon on the A404, that arrow straight drag strip, climbing to High Wycombe. The exhaust kisses the tarmac as we circumnavigate the roundabout, and we accelerate out of the curve, smooth clutchless changes as the speed piles on, and on, and on... whoooohooooooo!

Haha! I’m singing to myself as we blat up the hill, mouth hiding behind my neck warmer, ear plugs keeping the wind noise at bay, leaving just the dull throb of the two cylinder heart beat, felt, sensed more than heard. The wing mirrors need adjusting, which I do, all the better to see YOU with.

Oh it’s so gooood to be back here. Biking alters your perspective; the vexations and disappointments of ordinary life melt away, the joys and highs are brought to the fore in vivid colour. But you don’t get something for nothing; in the post ride blues the inverse is true, once you’re readjusted; once you’re back to this reality, this solid, stationary, drab place. I’m expecting a black dog of an evening.

Such a sky! Blue, blue, electric blue... Con trails slice like slashes from a madman’s sword in an azure canopy. The bright, bright sun gives hope and cheer for the new year, a promise of great things to come, burning off and dispelling the winter gloom; reaching even into the dark recesses of my mind, burning off the fog that’s there, clouding my thoughts everyday.

Through a village, down a twisty-turny country lane, in the dark shadows where the sun hasn’t reached is still winter-cold and I shiver involuntary. Suspension works overtime to absorb the bumps and keep me on the road. Counter steer to negotiate the curves, looking for the best line, avoiding damp steaming piles of horse manure, as slippery as ice, alert for the equine crapper.

Tangy woodland, spicy smoke, damp tarmac, an olfactory bouquet, redolent with the scent of the countryside. It reminds me that on a bike you’re IN the environment, experiencing with all of your senses, unlike in a car where you are merely a passive observer. I lean too far over and the heel of my boot scrapes the rough old surface, patchwork quilt mended from utilities constantly digging up and fixing, repairing; but badly.

Red. At the High Wycombe roundabout. Red. At the lights. Red. Between two cars. Red. Set the revs. Amber. I drop the clutch and both the cars, hitting the torque curve gear change after gear change; they’ve become dots in my wing mirrors... Just a bit of harmless fun.

Coffee at last. In my lounge and I reflect on the ride. And even though I smile, I feel the black dog approaching.