You Cataracts and Hurricanoes, Spout

My first actual meeting with the Curvy Riders whilst on a bike! Actually double booked myself but since both meets were in the same place (Owl’s Nest) I just turned up and pointedly introduced myself to people to prove I was there.

I was in two minds whether to go or not, the weather was cold, damp and damn windy. I didn’t realise just how windy until I got on the Briton Ferry bridge on the M4…  I’ve ridden in highish winds before but having to keep up a reasonable motorway speed whilst actively fighting a bike that wants to take a sideways dive into the Tawe was a new experience. Not one I’m keen to repeat soon to be honest. The Vulcan S is lower and heavier and therefore less vulnerable to wind, but then again it’s heavier and therefore a bit harder for me to wrestle when it does decide to take the scenic route. Yes I was going too fast… but then again, it’s one of those lifestyle choices. Keep up the speed and fight the wind, ease off the speed and get rear-ended by Dewi in his race-tuned Impreza. (Yes I saw you, yes you’re a knob.)

I also now have experience of what to do when your back wheel hits a patch of diesel at 70mph at the same time as a gust of wind batters your front one. Scream like a little girl, cling to the bike like a baby monkey and be thankful the bike knows what to do.

Very glad to get off the M4 and potter gently up the A40. Owls Nest not as busy as I’d expected given the Motorcycle Engagement Day on Easter Sunday, but a very impressive turnout of Blood Bikers nonetheless. Probably more of them than actual punters! A small and select gathering of Curvies, Friends and Relations, but it was fantastic to be out with other bikers, shooting the breeze and discussing the best way to restrain someone who is trying to bite your face off. (Basically, dogpile).

Couldn’t face the M4 again, given the Shakespearian weather so decided to follow M and P across the A40 to Brecon and down the A470. They stopped for petrol, I buggered off thinking they’d easily catch up with me but they didn’t and now i feel rude. Only one truly sphincter-tightening moment on the A470 when a gust of wind blew the Vulcan upright again on a 300 degree hairpin, then a 30mph crawl along the side of the mountain while my heartrate went back to normal.

A forced pitstop at Talbot Green for toffee latte and an apple pie, and finally home to a much needed whirlpool bath. I’m sore, I spent most of the day way outside my comfort zone, I bloody nearly bottled it a couple of times, but I’m here and I’ve learned some more about the bike and myself. Keep on buggering on.

On The Road

2 hours yesterday on the road with K for some Mod 2 training. Since we’ve got such a long gap before going up for Mod 1 again we might as well get some road training in 😉

My biggest problem is as always, the bloody nerves! As soon as I get my leg over (no sniggering at the back there) I’m fine, but for 72 hours beforehand I’m a gibbering wreck. My brain is actively trying to kill me. It’s not like I don’t ride most days anyway – why should the rather gentlemanly Suzuki SVF650 (Gladius) be exponentially more scary than Little Mike the Bike? It’s more stable, more responsive, the clutch works, even I can manage the ABS…

Still, as I said, once astride the massive 650 (unrestricted!) I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and by the end of the 2 hour stint was actually getting some real flow going. Well until some oblivious bint simply stopped in the road and reversed at us round a blind bend. I do hope she could hear what K was shouting at her, I missed most of it as the language actually melted my earpiece at that point.

Speaking of which, are those things designed for human ears? Being as I am, completely lopsided, I can only fit it on my right ear, which is of course the ear that doesn’t work so well. Rides with K are a confusing olla podrida of instructions, observations and animadversions upon the parentage of certain other road users interspersed with crackles, bangs, hurricanes and the strange whistling noises he makes when particularly contented. This last noise is always welcome as a sign of his satisfaction in our riding but is a bit like having a large, bald bearded parrot sitting on one’s shoulder.

The How and The Why

You’re not really a what I call a natural biker” – K, my CBT instructor on realising LTG and I will need another day of CBT

You’re neither of you natural bikers really” K, our Mod1/2 instructor faced with the task of getting us through Mod 1

You’re still not natural bikers but you’ve failed with smiles on your faces and that’s what counts” – K, on being told we had both failed our first Mod 1 attempts.

This is Mike the Bike. He is my mid-life crisis. He is a Yamaha YBR125 Custom. He’s not all mine, I have to share him with Long Tall Gary, my oversized other half.

MtB YBR 125 Custom

MtB YBR 125 Custom

Like my fondness for 50s-style British Trad Jazz and Golden Age hard sci-fi, my wistful and so-far unfulfilled love affair with motorbikes started with my Dad. He started riding in the mid 1950s and had a succession of unreliable but gorgeous British bikes and sidecars for several years until I arrived on the scene in 1969 and he never owned another bike since then. It’s no wonder I often feel I should apologise…

Both my brothers are bikers (Fazer and V-Strom respectively) along with a couple of ex-boyfriends so why has it taken me this long?

Although Ole Papa Bear denies it, I have a distinct memory of being told at 17 “if you want a car, I’ll teach you to drive, I’ll buy you a car, I’ll maintain it for you, but if you want a bike you’re on your own”. As a penniless VIth Former living in the depths of rural Shropshire I went with the car option… Speaking to other Fathers-of-Daughters who are bikers this attitude seems pretty common – it’s not sexism, most of them have no issues with women riders (Ole Papa Bear follows Jenny Tinmouth with awe) – it’s just too dangerous for their own little princesses. And of course they don’t want their own babies mixing with oily hairy bikers. I have removed any possibility of my own daughter (14 going on 35) mixing with hairy buggers in leather by becoming one and thereby rendering it the most uncool occupation on the planet. She’ll probably become a Tory-voting accountant as a form of rebellion.

An ex-husband who didn’t even like cars (?!?) let alone bikes, followed by post-divorce penury took care of the next few decades until Long Tall Gary learned of my secret love and decided if he couldn’t beat it we’d both join it.

Part of me really wishes I’d done all this 25 years ago when I was young, fit, slim and knew no fear. However the more sensible part of me remembers the girl racer I was, looks at Ole Papa Bear with his single remaining knee-cap and facial scars, and an ex-boyfriend who is largely titanium and wonders if I’d still be here now if I had.

So Mod1 is re-booked for the morning of Bonfire Night and we keep on buggering on. x