Editor's Note: David is one of my oldest friends, and my oldest surviving bike buddy. I was partly responsible for the Oxfordshire shenanigans. David is also covering this year's NEC show for us and will hopefully be doing more over the coming months and years, so it seemed reasonable that he should get a proper introduction. And here it is...
Whilst at school in the late seventies, I always dreamed of the open road, the wind in your hair and the sensation (or illusion – Ed) of power between your legs!
The reality, as we know, was slightly different, but as I turned 16 I managed to save up and buy a TS50K - a small, restricted trail bike. It got me from A to B throughout Oxfordshire and my dream became getting up to 34mph lying flat on the tank or, more often, getting up hills without being wiped out by an artic. I then moved up to an RS125 so I could take my test. In hindsight the Micron Powerpipe (Trade description error) was not my best idea, but at least my friends in Oxford knew I was on my way from about 10 miles distance.
What was obvious was that I had The Bug. I loved the freedom of not waiting for buses or a lift, so when the opportunity arose, I did my training, took my test, passed, and looked to upgrade to something with a bit more power and kudos!
A series of bikes latter including a GSX400 four and a GPZ 550. I was a king of the road. Quick, safe(ish) and stylish. In a 1980’s sort of way. The world was my oyster and, following a drastic change in career the country lanes of West Wales my playground.
Then one day on a back road to Cardigan, I had an intimate meeting with an Audi 100 on my side of the road. Left side broken, bike written off, very long stay in local General Hospital. And for a long time, that was it. Couldn’t walk, no bend in left leg and my desire to experience the open road was gone.
A far as I was concerned, I needed to learn to drive and so I did, never thinking I would ride again. I was lulled into a false sense of apathy being in 4 wheels and living the day to day commute. OK I didn’t need to think about waterproofs. Rubbish weather and road conditions just meant a longer journey and flies were nothing more than something to use the windscreen wipers on.
Should you consider this a sad story of youth cut short and lost opportunities? Hell no! This, you see, is only part of the story! 35 years after the earlier events about I am the proud owner of a VN900 Kawasaki. So how (and why) did I get from an apathetic, safe car owner, back to leather clad road warrior?
Fate, circumstances and a latent desire for fun. (Possibly a mid-life crisis!)
Honestly an opportunity came about through an offer to help. One minute I’m supporting a charitable bike ride with my time and planning expertise and next I’m not only involved, but the principal rider in a 16 day tour of the UK.
First challenge. Find a bike I cansit on (Knee still very stiff as both have now been replaced) and buy it.
Second Challenge. Learn to ride again. In 35 years there have been incredible advances in tyres, suspension, brakes, safety and the number of cars on the road.
Third challenge. Get over the fact that my last memory of being on a bike, was not ‘being on a bike’, but flying through the air, smashing myself up, eating hospital food for 18 months and a significant amount of surgery and pain. (Things were very different in 1986)
Challenge one – Found the Kawasaki, liked the riding position, although it was very different to my previous bikes and took some getting used to. Interestingly, I kept wanting to try and bend my leg back and up, not straighten and forward.
Challenge two – I’m very lucky that I have some good mates. When they found out what I was doing, the offers of support were incredible. Advanced riders were coming out of the woodwork to help and I soon started to remember things from three decades earlier.
Challenge three – This was actually the most difficult. On one occasion I decided to take the bike for a solo ride on the country lanes of Warwickshire, where I now live. On getting ready, starting the machine and riding up my drive to the kerb, I found I could set off on to the road. I was stuck. Nothing would make me let out the clutch and move off, I must have been there 15 minutes. In the end my wife came out to help me and we wheeled the bike back to its stand. For two weeks this went on, but eventually I got over this hurdle, and starting slowly got enough confidence to go out early morning, for short distances and was able to move forward.
So how to end this story.
With the help of my friends, we completed a 2515 mile trip around the country, seeing the sea on all UK coasts, we raised £15,500 for charity and I found that I still love to ride bikes.
Do I enjoy the open road – Hell yes!
Do I relish the wind in my hair – In what I have left, anyway, yes!
Do I enjoy the sensation of riding a Kawasaki VN900. – Well I still go out although the charity ride finished over a year ago.
Bikes are in your soul. I do avoid nasty weather (Don’t like polishing chrome), but I’m so glad that I came back to two wheels.
MY VN 900 is NOT FOR SALE