Under a tarpaulin in a garden in Littleborough is an old Suzuki “Marauder” GZ 125. It’s a lowrider. Her name is Ramona. She is the first of her kind, chassis number 0000001. She’s not the happiest little bike, having been in a garden a long time. She needs some love. I need a starter bike. And I’ve been driving around the North of England in a fat great big Luton with a tail-lift.
It’s almost mandatory for men of my age to start thinking about motorbikes. If I’m not going to conform generally, I’ll choose my areas in which to do so. I reckon I can scream around town dressed like a tank and legitimately be able to refuse beer after work. “Not if I’m on the bike, mate. I value my life.” It’s a great excuse. I grew up in the Isle of Man. You see some horrendous bike crashes over there in season.
Robin – of the whisky collection – broke his spine in three places three years ago coming off his motorbike. He was told he’d never walk again. Miraculously recovered, he’s a motorbike instructor now, and he has a whole hell of a lot of perspective on the fragility of life, on human resilience, and on being safe on one of these big machines. Yesterday he talked to me about equipment. Today we drove around in circles at his workplace. He used to be just an instructor there, but now he runs the joint. In the late afternoon we went out on the roads. I managed not to fuck it up, so I got a certificate that means that I can break my spine in three places legally for two years, (so long as I have a helmet and L-Plates.) Hooray!
Earlier this morning, I’ve been in Littleborough trying to persuade Ramona to get in my van. She’s been reluctant, but she’ll be a good bike to learn on. Her back brake is totally seized. No movement in the wheel at all and it’s a barrel brake so I can’t even get oil on it without taking the thing off and apart, which is outside my limited knowledge. She’s heavy. This is a two man job, and one requiring knowledge. Thank God for Robin.
I go back to his work, and drive round with him for a while on a brand new Honda, getting used to not dying. I turn a lot of corners and do some maneuvers. At the end of it I still have the traditional number of limbs, there’s no blood on the front wheel, and I’m feeling marginally less incompetent, although still a little bit like a glass meteor.
Then I get back in the Luton. After a motorbike it’s strange to drive a massive truck. Glass meteor to Steel Asteroid. They say your consciousness expands or contracts to the size of the vehicle you’re driving. My consciousness today has been like an accordion – expanding and contracting regularly, (and constantly screaming.)
We get back to Littleborough, we manage to bounce Ramona onto the tail lift.
Nowshe’s back in London, locked up outside Metropolis Motorbikes. I’ll go in tomorrow for opening and see what it’ll be to get her up and running.
Now I’m washing the oil off myself and passing out. It’s late…