It’s there. Right now. Outside. I can see it standing there from here. There’s nothing to stop me from going out on it now, except another one of these infernal deadlines.
And the fact that the kettle’s nearly boiled. It is a motorcycle – my first ‘big’ bike for nearly a decade and my first bike in two years to not be in several project pieces. I feel like I did when I passed my driving test: liberated, able. By gum, motorcycles are brilliant. By God, they’re dangerous. But by gum, they’re brilliant.
I picked it up two days ago. More on it in a minute. The first ride? Initially suburban, then A-road, then motorway, it goes thus…
My word, I’d forgotten the feeling of vulnerability. Cars are big. Trucks are huge. Are they all driven by idiots? Have they seen me? A 50mph dual carriageway feels lively. I’m sure people pay less attention than they did a decade ago. Maybe it’s just me.
Relax. Lordy, the bike’s responsive. It is not a fast bike, but the acceleration is instant. Ditto steering response and braking. Your body moves, the bike responds. No car, no kart, no machine with more than two wheels does that.
Other things you remember? It’s a brilliant place to think. No radio, no distractions, just sights, sounds, smells.
You’ve time to remember to do things, to think about people, to miss people, to plan, to want to turn left and head south, passenger behind, their hands on your waist and no particular destination in mind, carving between mountains, sun on your back. Is there a more romantic way to travel?
Probably. Because you also remember it’s possible to be both too hot and too cold at the same time, your arse aches, the buffeting is a nuisance and you’ll run out of fuel in 90 minutes, which doesn’t get you very far very quickly but is long enough if you get something in your eye as you set off. But those memories fade more quickly than the romantic ones.
And the bike? It was going to be a 650cc Honda Dominator trail bike. There aren’t many around. One good one I’d seen was quickly sold, and with savings, irresistible urge and the internet in hand, I found a late Honda Africa Twin, a big adventure bike.
The Twin was launched in the late 1980s to capitalise on Honda’s four consecutive wins in the Paris-Dakar Rallye. By 2003, as production was nearing its end, its 750cc engine was outclassed in a sea of 1000cc-plus monsters, but today its reputation as the original adventure bike is growing.