I have only ridden a motorbike once – I crashed it.
I was fifteen years old and I was in the back garden of a mate who was seventeen and had bought his first motorbike, a Honda 50.
I sat on it and twisted the throttle and it surged forward, uncontrollably, like a an angry mechanical horse. By the time my brain had realised what had happened, I had shot across the garden, narrowly missed a tree and crashed into a fence.
My speed was negligible in reality and the only thing hurt, apart from the fence, was my pride.
Since then, I have been very wary of motorbikes and have never been tempted to get one myself.
My dad had a motorbike and used to go to work on it every day. He loved it and never once came even close to having an accident. At the time, I was a small child and the thing looked huge to me. I was both fascinated and terrified by it. I used to watch as my dad rode down the street and disappeared around the corner. At night I could always tell when he was home thanks to the distinctive roar of the engine as it approached the house.
I know a few people who are motorbike enthusiasts and each one of them can turn their mood around by climbing onto their bikes and roaring off into the distance. Whenever the subject of riding comes up, their whole demeanour changes to one of youthful exuberance and I see the child within come to the surface.
They talk about their bikes as if they are people – in some cases, guys care more about their bikes than they do their wives and girlfriends. Their pride in their bikes is almost immeasurable.
I asked what had happened.
He told me that he was riding his bike at 70mph in the middle lane of the motorway when a car had hit him from behind. The driver of the car was a woman who had been to the pub at lunchtime and had a couple of drinks. She claimed that she didn’t see the bike. When she hit him, he was thrown off the bike and bounced into the first lane of the motorway before crashing into the hard shoulder. His bike followed him but thankfully didn’t hit him. More importantly, there were no vehicles in the first lane. If there had have been, he would have been killed.
“Oh my God,” I said. “Are you okay?”
“Yes - just a few bruises,” he said.
“I guess you will be selling your bike now and getting a car like the rest of us.”
“No way,” he said with a look of total bemusement. “I can’t wait to get back on my bike.”
Somebody else I work with had an accident on his bike and was, again, lucky to escape with a cracked rib and a few bruises. The thought of giving up his bike never once crossed his mind.
“I guess that’s the way my brain is wired,” he said.
I think I agree with that. My brain is wired in such a way that I will never ever buy or ride a motorbike. When I am driving on the motorway, these guys roar past me, their bikes tilting slightly and the same thought always crosses my mind: if you come off that thing you will be seriously hurt.
People have tried to explain the thrill of riding a bike in the country on a beautiful sunny day. The scenery is amazing and they become one with the bike as they push themselves to their limits. The speed of the bike, the wind, the curving roads and the scenery all combine to make the experience almost orgasmic for them. It switches something on in their brains, something that is almost primeval.
I don’t get it – I guess I never will.
Another mate has offered to take me out for a ride as a passenger, perched on the back of his bike.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll take it easy. The last thing I want to do is ride quickly just to scare you. I want to stay in one piece too you know.”
I think he’s hoping that he can find the same primeval toggle in my brain and switch it on.
He won’t – and so far I have politely refused.
I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy, another great TV show from America about a motorcycle gang and I get the same sense of primeval enthusiasm from each of the members. These guys ride Harley Davidsons, a great looking and legendary bike.
While they might be great to look at, they are ferocious animals. When I see one, I feel like I am watching a tiger in a zoo; I can marvel in the beast’s beauty but I wouldn’t go anywhere near it.
In fact, recently, I was going for my usual lunchtime walk when I heard the roar of a motorbike engine behind me. It was a Harley Davidson being ridden by, what I initially thought was a member of the Sons of Anarchy. As he swept past, I saw his huge bike, and his leather riding gear. Covering the back of his jacket was a huge logo not too dissimilar to that of the Sons of Anarchy. The difference was the words.
His jacket said Sons of Hell.
I would have loved to have spoken to the guy and ask him about his bike, his club etc. but sadly he disappeared in a receding roar of noise.
It’s probably the closest I will ever get a motorbike club.
My brain just isn’t wired that way.