Monday, May 22, 2006


Oh dear… Why do get a hint of a feeling that I just sold my soul? You’d have thought I’d be ecstatic – a motorcycle must be the best boy’s toy ever. Of course, it is fun, and I’m amazed at how readily the riding skills come back, and the bike is great – just right for me in every respect; it feels an instant friend, easy to get along with.

But it marks a change, and like most changes, that involves giving up something as well as starting something new; an ending as well as a beginning. As well as giving birth to a new era, I can’t escape the feeling that part of my old way of life has died.

I used to feel proud of cycling a 30 mile a day round trip to and from work; when I began at about age 44, I wondered if I’d still be cycling when I was 50; it seemed a good target to aim for. Then when 50 came and went and I was still going as strong as ever, I wondered if I might make it to retirement at 65. I was proud of the identity it lent me, as someone who was fit, healthy, environmentally conscious and a little apart from the ordinary. I was proud of my skills too, being able to move fast and safely, handling a bike to be an equal partner on London’s roads with the rest of the rush hour traffic -once through the first couple of miles of leafy lanes and into the suburbs, I’d be averaging much the same speed as the rest of them. Ahead of anything but motorcycles off the traffic lights (although that technique does wear out chains rather fast - oh, better stop me there before I mutate into a total cycling geek...)

I know, I know; getting a motorbike doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be less of those things that were characterised by being a cyclist; but I liked the me I was, and I’m wondering whether in swapping super-light cycle gear for chunky boots, leather jeans, armoured jacket and uncool but highly visible white helmet I’ve also swapped out some less tangible but equally real part of me.

I have a plan in the back of my mind that I might brush the dust off the old velocipede every now and then – perhaps a day a fortnight, perhaps more often when the weather’s good – if for no other reason that I don’t want to give up all that healthy exercise. After all, it was the realisation that I wasn’t getting much exercise that got me started on it, although the economics also came in handy when I had two out of three children at university.

I guess though that the thought that’s niggling me is that my carefully thought out justification for getting the bike might have been flawed. Cost-wise, it would break even compared with the train after 5 years, but the clincher that swung me into getting it was the thought of winning an extra hour a day; the train takes an hour and a quarter each way, I can do it in less than that on a push-bike (by taking one side of a triangle rather than the two taken by the trains), and I was reckoning on the motorbike taking at most 45 minutes each way, and hopefully significantly less. Well, it was 55 minutes today, which I have equalled on a couple of occasions on its muscle-powered counterpart. So my primary rationale looks like being blown out of the water.

Oh well, who said you need an excuse to have fun, anyway?

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