According to the V5 registration document, I suffered a rush of blood to the head in June ’16. It had been coming for a while. A few years back I got close with a Yamaha 650, then I took a keen interest in a Honda Varadero, only to find that my extended ponderings resulted in me being beaten to the bike by another buyer.
While still working out how to scratch this motorcycling itch, I found myself at Chris Walker’s showroom in Grantham and parting with my cash for a 2008 Suzuki GSX650F. With low miles, a good service history and no signs of having been for an unscheduled trip along the tarmac, I bought the bike on Chris’ suggestion that it would be the closest riding experience to the one I remembered.
To give you an idea of how long it had been since I’d ridden a bike, my last 3 were a CB900F2 Honda (full of Moriwaki go faster bits), a Kawasaki GPZ1100 which suffered a cruel fate when the brakes failed to stop me in the ludicrously short distance I’d given them to perform in before arriving at the back of the Ford Escort that had stopped on the A13 just before the Canning Town flyover, and lastly a Suzuki GS1000S which I sold close to 30 years ago.
As to what had been stopping me from buying another bike before now, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the realisation that I wasn’t as good as I thought I had been. Perhaps it was just the cost of running a bike as a pure luxury while chewing my way through a mortgage and funding two kids. Whatever the reason had been, I was now the proud own of a GSX650F and I didn’t even own a helmet.
In my younger days my head seemed to be the same shape as the inside of a Bell Star helmet, and despite the corporate take-overs and licensing deals, this turns out to still be true. My first choice, however, had been the Schuberth C3 and even though it was a flip-front, the size of the side protection and the recommendation that comes with it being used by police forces around the world made it an ideal choice. That was until Senior Management (the wife) found the Sharp Helmet Safety Scheme. It seems odd that the Schuberth with such a pedigree only rates 3 stars compared to the 5 the Bell M5X scores. I avoided the long and ultimately fruitless discussion with Senior Management and did as I was told, exchanging the Schuberth for the Bell thanks to those nice people at J&S Accessories in Nottingham.
Motorcycle accessories are certainly one thing that has changed over 30 years. Visiting J&S felt more like a trip to a bespoke tailor rather than a motorcycle accessories retailer. Back in the day there were a few helmets on display at the local bike dealer and you took your pick from what was available. The idea of a shop dedicated to helmets and clothing that didn’t sell actual motorcycles hadn’t yet occurred to anyone. Luckily for me, with the concept of dedicated accessory retailers, comes the concept of designer clothing – which also means there’s the concept of “last year’s range”. Having tried valiantly to interest me in a pair of £400 boots and the latest in all-weather clothing, the man at J&S finally relented and introduced me to the reduced rail. I may not be the height of designer biking in my mix and match outfit, but it all roughly fits together and came in at under £500 including the helmet and back protector.
Resplendent in my new two-piece all-weather suit, my J&S boots and with my Bell M5X under my arm, I took possession of the GSX on a sunny Saturday morning and faced the prospect of having to actually ride the damn thing away from the dealer that also has a built-in café, which despite the early hour was complete with a selection of early morning patrons who had arrived on a range of exotic equipment.
Having managed to pull off the forecourt, I opted for a little practice – away from the cafe patrons critical eyes – on the service road at the side of Chris Walker’s showroom. It seemed a much more sensible option than immediately playing with the traffic. Amazingly, it seems that the years hadn’t removed all of my skills and whereas I was certainly off my game I didn’t stall it, nor fall off it – I saved that one for a few months later – and successfully made my way out to the back roads of Lincolnshire to mix some of the finer points of riding I once knew instintively with 30 years of additional road sense.
A couple of months and some 3,000 miles later, I find myself a fully confirmed member of the Born Again Biker Club, who judges the weather each day by its suitability for riding. Rekindling a passion after so many years is a gradual process and whereas so much has changed, so much remains the same. That said, finding a solution to the “boil in the bag” all-weather trousers is high on my to do list.
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