Night Rider

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I’m on fire and have to get out. Boxed in. Suffocating.

Encapsulated in my helmet I feel freer.

The evening is mild and inviting.

The exhaust shatters suburban tranquility and the neighbourhood watches. Kids wake and indignant parents splutter into their evening glass of red. I pause at the top of my drive, balancing, poised, checking, then blip the throttle and I’m at the end of my road in a heartbeat.

Right. The A308. 40mph. Fuck that. I double it.

Past Pinkney’s Green and I’m edging towards the ton. Red lights approaching fast; the Euro-micro-mini may as well be stationary as I blast past. Fuck them; I’m riding like an idiot and don’t give a damn. Fuck me. Fuck it. Fuck you. Fuck everything, fuck absolutely everything.

Left. Right. Jeez I need to sort out my right turns. Odd - I’m right handed but better at going left; left feels smoother, more natural; right feels forced, rigid. Don’t know why.

The road oscillates from left to right, right to left, I smooth the line to an almost straight one. Then a sharp right - push left for fuck’s sake get your act together - then drop down big time onto a sweeping S, force another shitty 100mpg micro-green-boring-box out of my way and hit the roundabout, for once getting a good angle of attack as I bank right over to the right, round and round I go, right over, the kerb of the roundabout close enough to kiss.

Left and onto the A404 drag strip and I have a pair of undipped lights in my mirrors. I let this wanker pass, an Audi A6; my aftermarket undipped beam is brighter in his mirrors. Only a fool breaks the two second rule and I’m a fool this evening. I could clean my front tyre on his bumper and he gets the message and fucks off out of my way; I drop a gear and drop him. Effortlessly. Licence-losingly so. The last time it was an unmarked cop car on the M6 and in my mirrors I notice a car sliding out of the stream I’m passing, so I ease off the throttle.

I’m running out of road anyway.

I find I’m on the M40 going East. Going nowhere; going somewhere; going too fast; going to die and I don’t give a damn. Gerrard’s Cross and I’m pissed off. I just have to go. I have to be here. Now.

I rarely ride with my vizor down and this evening is no exception. Cool night air is pulverising my face, grit and shit shotblast my eyes, but the closed visor is claustrophobic. Shut it and I may as well be in a car or watching more TV. But I’m getting cold and the noise in my helmet changes as I partially close it. The baritone bass of wind deepens and the contralto treble of the V4 becomes fainter.

A suped-up jumped-up teenaged baby-Citroen wants to play; grow up, you’re just kids, your green L plate is on more than just the car; you have a lot to learn. Leave me alone. Bless and Bye Bye.

A slip road. A roundabout; I know I’m going to take it too quickly but do so anyway; right, right, right, push left you git, git, git and you’ll make it; back to basics, eyeball where you want to be. I think the front end is going to let go, the tarmac seems slippery here, I get ready to bail, the surface is rippled from 18 wheelers, but it’s dry all the way round and I make it as we slingshot left, left down a Gatso’d dual carriage way; I know where the fucker is and down-change, using engine breaking to slow past its evil eye.

Petrol. Fuel. A pause. If I smoked I’d have a ciggy.

I pull out and find myself in a small townlette; this Pale Rider looks for trouble, but finds none. The good people are asleep. Shutters drawn, daughters locked and hidden away. Not even any traffic to play with. What the fuck do the locals do of an evening in Hicksville? I ride on out.

The man with money turned out to be a Gatekeeper; a key holder. We’d been at the IoD, that tired Victorian façade of a building. In a former life I used to live there. It’s a tired grey building full of tired grey people in tired grey suits. A recruitment con-sultant is pimping for a client; candidates with forced smiles try to act casual as they prostitute themselves but he already knows who he’s going to recommend and is working out what he’ll do with the fat fee & retainer based on the first three months of performance related bonus driven pay. Cynical? Moi? I’ve played that game too many times my friend, as he eyeballs me.

A Truvelo cyclops stares balefully, indignantly at me as I double the speed limit and laugh. Fuck you. Fuck the system. I may as well enjoy it as much as I can now, under cover of darkness, before the squadrons of robot drones cloud our skies; never have so few been fined so much for so little by so many. Wankers. They’re turning the Green and Pleasant home of democracy into a police state where the troughing pigs are exempt for reasons of “security” and there’s no freedom and there's no Freedom of Information and our servants who are privileged to serve us won’t even tell us how they are squandering our money.

Left at a roundabout and 11,000 revs in 2nd, clutchless into 3rd, 90 on the clock and I’m at the top of the hill and staring at a fluorescent stripped arse moving at 40; I bury the front tyre into the tarmac, the front suspension compresses and rear tyre lifts, but something tells me it’s not a fair cop and I relax; but still not totally sure and as I filter past at a legal 60 it’s just the RAC.

It’s too soft. A perfect all rounder, a jack of all trades and master of none, neither one thing nor the other. It’s OK, but bland. That’s why I bought the Harley; a bike with so much character it’s alive. The VFR is a tool. A machine. Japanese engineered to within an inch of its life; a millimeter; a micrometer screw you gauge.

If the man from Del Monte says yes, a 675 awaits. Or a full litre, maybe a 1098. The Fireblade is superb of course but I already have one Jap bike. The 675 appeals because it looks gorgeous; its patron saint is St George and in the heart of that dragon beats three cylinders, so I’d have 2, 3 and 4, a straight flush; but it’s really a busted flush.

StJohn on a St George. Ha!

Another roundabout, overtaking a Mondeo,we parallel off onto the short dual carriageway and I hit sand, or dust, dirt and my bike slides to the right, to the central reservation, to body-part ripping, bone shattering arco and deadly debris-strewn grass full of shards of glass. Let yourself go and ride it, but you wouldn’t enjoy this ride baby. I ease a millimetre off the throttle, the bike sits up, sorts itself out and we’re back on the mettle, waking the sleeping truck drivers in their articulated caravans; the wailing of the engine echoes the wailing in my soul.

Red raw eyes stare back at me from the mirror, salt stains from mostly wind-induced tears smear across my glasses. It’s too early in the season for bugs, beetles, moths and dumbledores to splatter their insides across lenses, but even so there’s muck aplenty. The peace and quiet is almost painful as normality seeps back with gentle warmth, hugging its way around my body as I peel off my leathers with care.

I stare back into the mirror, blink, and there she was, gone.