Why do we do it?

By Dick Henneman

This week, Dick Henneman, touring guru, scooter expert and, um, mature gentleman, gives us his take on why he rides.

For me, it all started with money - or more correctly a lack of it.

You know, it's the usual story. Just got married, first mortgage, both out at work, one car between us but we need two because public transport is non-existent. We need another set of wheels, but it's got to be cheap to buy, cheap to run, so really it's got to be a bike. And that's how I first got onto two wheels - although some might blame my choirmaster for giving me a lift home one day on the back of his pre-war Matchless, but we don't want to go into that now! Even more surprisingly it was my wife who first started off the riding thing in our family, as I was quite happy to stick with four wheels, having been a petrolhead from a very early age.

Now let's be honest. To begin with, riding a bike for me was just a means of getting from A to B. But then circumstances changed, we didn't need two vehicles any longer, but I found that I'd rather go off to work on the bike than the car. Why? It can't have been a speed thing, as a 125cc trailie is not renowned for its ability to leave "blackies" on the tarmac (although it did wheelie quite well!), and divine handling was not a characteristic of early-70s Japanese chassis technology. So what was it about riding a bike that appealed so much then, and in fact still does today?

Looking back all those years - pause while I don the rose-tinted glasses and fire up the background violins - I can only put it down to one thing. Total involvement. There's something about riding a bike that means you have to be, as near as possible, in complete control of the machine and the environment around; and while this is clearly impossible to achieve, the act of trying to attain it gives me an intense amount of satisfaction. It's a buzz! Ok, so maybe I'm a control freak, and I won't deny that, but getting on a bike gives me a rush, something that I've only ever found behind the wheel of a racecar on a race circuit, and that's not something that you can do every day on the way to work - well not if you want to keep your licence intact that is!

I've been soaked to the skin - early motorcycle clothing wasn't particularly waterproof (and some of the current stuff isn't that brilliant either), been knocked off more than once, broken down on countless occasions, suffered frostbite and been so cold when I arrived that I needed help to get off the bike. But none of this has ever put me off riding. I don't think I'm a masochist (stop hitting me woman!) and I don't consider myself to be one of those people who feel the need to live constantly on the edge. You'd certainly never get me to go bungee jumping. But there's something about riding a bike that makes me just that little more alive.

And strangely enough, it's doesn't need to be the latest mega-horsepower, tyre-shredding track refugee in order to do this. Even a 50cc scooter can be a hoot in the right circumstances, but let's face it, power can be addictive. Riding a bike just gets me into a different frame of mind. There's no room for worrying about the mortgage payments or whether I'll get that pay rise I've been promised. Just tune your mind into the surroundings and the world around you, get the feel of the road under the seat and through the bars, and move into a different level of experience.

I suppose part of it has to be the risk. No one will argue that riding a bike is safer than driving a car, yet few riders (and I'm one of them) will willing and deliberately place themselves in the same dangerous environment in their normal lives as they do on the road. For me it's the belief that I can manage the risk by exercising and improving my skills and remaining in control. That's not to say that I'm the world's greatest rider, far from it, and many of my friends(?) who've ridden with me will testify to that quite willingly! But the thing is, I want to get better at it, and it's those times when you take that corner just right, when you're in exactly the right position on the road to see that idiot who's just about to pull out, when that planned overtake is done to perfection, these are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

The other thing that gets me about riding bikes is the intimacy you achieve with your surroundings. Forget all about side-impact protection bars, front and rear crumple zones, air bags, tinted glass, air conditioning and millions of engineering man-hours dedicated to the eradication of noise, vibration and harshness. In the saddle there's just 1.2mm of leather and a couple of millimeters of Lexan between you and the world around you. This brings you much closer to scenery and the environment than you can ever hope to be in a car, and is one of the reasons for me that makes touring on a bike so good.

And that's why I ride a bike.

We’d really love to hear your reasons for riding, and ideally to share them with everyone else as well, because we’re trying to understand what makes everyone tick. So why not let us know?

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