It's that time of year again...


...when the road is calling... the tarmac is generally dry and it’s warm enough even at high speed not to shiver. Being cold is bad as it affects your bike handling... at least, it affects mine anyway, stiff muscles mean I can’t relax and so the ride doesn’t flow, apexes are missed, and the experience is poor. Possibly even unsafe.

I did ride a bike through one winter. My first bike, a Suzuki 600F otherwise known as a Teapot. The yacht I was racing, Abrasive, was based in Ramsgate, a fine yachty place and handy springboard for the French and Belgian coast, with Calais being only 4 hours away. On one occasion our new flash lightweight rudder snapped at the water line, leaving us bereft of steering. Actually, you might think that, but of course you can steer a sailboat by trimming the sails; the headsail takes you away from the wind, and the main spins you up into the wind, but this isn’t the most precise method of steering. 

As it happens, fair stood the wind for France and Calais was an easy hop, and a sailing challenge too, being rudderless, but alas we wanted to get back into Ramsgate which was less of a challenge, more of an against-all-known-laws-of-physics-impossibility, so we resorted to the time honoured tradition of calling out our mate, the harbour master in his powerful RIB, and buying a round when next in the clubhouse... although we did, we really did valiantly try the RYA recommended “emergency tiller” of lashing a wash board to the spinnaker pole and using that as a steering board by lashing that to the starboard rear quarter.... not a great success.

Back to the winter on two wheels. It’s a nerve jangling experience, or can be, as you tiptoe your bike around frost covered corners, fearful of the off that’s unlikely to damage you much, so although the NHS body shop may not be troubled with a busted arm or leg, it would generate expensive bike body shop bills. Motorways don’t have sharp corners on them, which makes them so dull to ride, but in winter this lack of a requirement to lean over can be quite re-assuring.

But there’s no such thing as a free lunch and there’s a compromise to be reached; to get the journey over quickly you have to speed up, but that increases wind chill factor so you freeze; alternatively you slow down to reduce the chilling effect of wind and consequently stay out longer and freeze. And your bike and you get covered in salt too.

So I’d been on an ice-breaking early season round the cans event outside of Ramsgate and chugged back on Suzy the Suzuki with my sailing gear all stowed in my kit bag bungied to the pillion seat and had reached a “steady state”; speed vs frozen assets, occasionally warmed gloved hands on the engine, the bike’s fairings kept most of the Arctic blast off me. But even so after two hours, I was an immobile block.

Manoeuvred down my drive and onto the patio at the back, and killed the engine. Cocked my leg over the back of the saddle to dismount, only, as I was so bleeding stiff, and my kit back was on the wide side, hanging over the side quite considerably, my heel caught the corner of the bag and my momentum was unstoppable... over I went, landing on my side, in the dark, alone, with warm bike lying on top of me, pinning me to the floor.

Bollocks, as Roger Melly the Man on Telly would say.

On the plus side, I was alone and it was dark, so no immediate embarrassment, but on the other hand it was dark and I was alone... and it was going to be a cold night and I didn’t really fancy cuddling up to Suzy for the night, besides who would ever find me? I’d be a frozen corpse or if left long enough only my bones would occupy my helmet and leathers... I could see the headlines in the local rag already and wondered whether I’d be entered for the Darwin Awards.

Must be all the rock climbing or something as with a deal of grunting and shoving and not a little swearing, I managed to lift Suzy off me, pick her up and get her back into her lodgings and I haven’t ridden through a winter since.