Most of this week has been shit. Healing a broken leg, getting serious self-harm and suicidal ideation that resulted in a long, tearful, wordless phonecall to Best Friend and feeling genuinely low on blood for a few days, and on top of that having to do about eighty hours of sewing and embroidery for everyone’s Christmas presents, since Christmas has been moved forwards to the 19th.
So today I got back on the bike for the first time since my unplanned dismount (saddle ventilation break, inline leg stretch, high-speed tank vault, bike taking a nap, back wheel going on strike, interviewing for a job as a speedbump… insert eumpemism for ‘unpleasant crash’ here) and part of me really didn’t want to. Part of me said “It’s only three months until Spring, the weather is horrible, you’re cold, you’re still depressed, you don’t want to get on a bike with no front mudguard…” and part of me knew, from fifteen years of horseriding, that if I didn’t get back on now, I’d never get back on.
Route planned – Due to the vagaries of the city’s one-way system and the interlocking ring-roads, I would drop down onto the ringroad, go around about a third of it, then turn down one of the radials, then onto one of the long tangents which had once been one of the main roads, but was now basically just the high-street for a few of the swallowed towns, then onto the radial which the garage was on. My destination was the garage, to buy some heated grips, look at a few things for Dearest, and ask about getting replacement parts for the bits of bike that were now littering my bedroom floor.
In the short term at least, I’ve managed to Araldite my indicator back together, which makes it road-legal, and was fairly resigned to just being my own front mudguard for the next few weeks.
I’d not been on the bike for nine days, which is a hell of a long time when for the previous four months I’d been on it every other day.
And, well, it was a good ride out, and a useful one. The ringroad ranges between sweeping dual-carrigeway modern a-road curves, via old-fashioned 30s-build broad-laned straights, down to a few stretches of old, twisty path that’ve probably been there for centuries. The radial road was likewise one of the antique ones, shrouded in fog, with standing water in a few places, and lit with Christmas lights. I stopped into a petrol station, filled up the tank, and turned onto the long tangent.
At this point, I have to have a very stereotypica biker rant: Fucking cagers, man. Do people get blinkers and earplugs stuck on them the second that they get behind a steering wheel, then get some kind of injection of rage- and stupidity-inducing drugs?
The number of drivers that decided that it was more important for them to pull out in front of me, or merge through me, or do a U-turn in the middle of a busy road just below the crest of a hill, so that they could get home thirty seconds quicker than they would otherwise, than it was for me to get home at all, was frankly mind-boggling. On your driving test, you fail immediately if your actions cause another driver to have to slow down or divert their course at all. I would have failed at least a dozen drivers today. One of them – Who had pulled across a busy junction and sat in the middle of it, failing to understand that if a queue of traffic isn’t moving you’re supposed to not sit in the yellow cross-hatchings – Had his drivers’ side door and headlamp completely crunched. That kind of damage on a car terrifies me, since it usually means that the driver is an unobservant fool. Another driver had the amazing idea of pulling onto a roundabout that I was already on, and getting within six inches of taking out my back wheel. A third decided to try to undertake me in a single-lane carriageway, between parked cars, in front of a school.
Cagers, I have a small plea for you. You are wearing the most advanced armour that money can buy, you have airbags and steel bracing and crumple-zones and antilock brakes and climate control. I have a leather jacket, a polystyrene helmet, and three pairs of socks.
Your car is an extension of your house, it’s got room for food and maps and trinkets, you can talk to your passengers or people on the phone, you can take your hands off the wheel and stretch and rest at traffic lights. If you exhausted you can pull over into a layby, lie down across the back seats, and sleep. My bike is an extension of my body, I feel every bump and slip and gust of wind, whether through the back wheel and into the seat, or through the front wheel and into my hands. When I stand still, I am holding up the hundred-and-fifty kilos of bike with one leg, whilst the other foot pushes as much of my weight as possible into the back brakes, stopping it from rolling away.
If you skid on a corner, you will end up embarrassed, with a hefty repair bill and a long wait for the AA to tow your car home. If I skid on a corner, the best case scenario is a few bruises and a concussion, and the worst is a broken neck and death.
I drive carefully, I read the road, I don’t take stupid risks. If I’m doing 35 in a 40 zone, on a wet day, it’s because that’s what my machine can safely do. If I’m slowing down and crawling through hairpin bends on a country road, it’s because the road surface is dusty and skiddy, and I can feel my back wheel sliding out from under me. When you overtake, too close and on a bend, to make those extra five miles an hour, you are saying that a minute of your time is worth more than my life.
There is no moment wherein being on a bike is not tiring. Most of the time, it’s exhilerating, and even on the worst of days and most staid of routes it’s refreshing to feel the fresh air, the smell of the outdoors, the satisfaction of a machine doing what it’s told and letting me travel faster than any human could unassisted.
One of the big things that perked up my day was seeing that the Suzuki Intruder I’d had my eye on earlier was still there, and I got to have a brief sit on it to determine what I thought of the weight and riding position. Answer – It’s shorter and fatter than the Marauder, and obviously more powerful, and heavier, but the weight is lower so somehow it feels lighter. And I want it.
Today has been good. I got to go for a ride, which was fun, I got to look at bikes, which was also fun, and now I’m home and curled up in bed again. Things are good.