Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
Five Tips if you Want to Get Back into Motorbiking
I rode motorbikes all through my youth. I have fond memories of the electrifying sound my old CBR400RR used to make on full throttle and I’ll be honest, though I’ve very sadly lost friends and had some accidents myself, I never stopped loving motorcycles. A combination of circumstances meant that I stopped riding about 15 years ago but I never lost the love for it and about 4 years ago, I made the decision to ride motorcycles again. It was a tough call for me. When I had ridden bikes before I was young, unmarried and responsible only for myself. Now I’m a Dad of three and the main earner in the family and I need to think differently. Here are my top 5 tips for people returning to riding.
1. Get Some Training
My bike training was years and years ago. In the interim between then and now I had plenty of time to develop bad habits, the roads have also got a ton busier and I’ve grown used to changing gear with my hands. I did not feel at all prepared to step back on a bike. The answer was simple, before I did so I went and did a day of refresher training. It was a lot of fun and I got used to controlling the bike very quickly. I also refreshed a lot on all of the defensive techniques I’d learned when first started and this time without the worry of a test looming over me. When I get time I think I’m going to try out the Institute of Advanced Motorists, again because I enjoy riding but also because it never hurts to learn safety technique.
2. Get New Gear
If you can fit into your old leathers, fair play, keep those, but things like helmets have a definite lifespan. You may or may not agree with the lifespan thing, but do you want to risk your head in a helmet that the manufacturer says should be replaced? In addition, technology has come a long way. With things like pin-lock visor inserts, foggy visors are a thing of the past. Most manufacturers now have either an internal or external sunshade built in, so you can do away with naughty black visors (not that I ever had one, or a loud pipe, or a small plate officer). My back protector was also long out of date, the elastic had gone in the straps and the impact protection was lagging far behind the Forcefield I replaced it with. Yes, it increased the cost of getting back onto a bike, but with kids, I simply can’t do anything other than get all the protection I can. I can’t remove any element of danger from riding but I can definitely do my best in terms of protective gear.
3. Remember, Reactions Slow Down When you Get Older
It’s not something I really like to admit, but there’s a reason why Logan gives me a caning when we play computer games, his reactions are an order of magnitude faster than mine. I need to bear that in mind when I ride, my reactions are slower. There is, of course, an up side in that my experience is greater, but on the bike it means I have to try and listen to my head rather than relying on good tyres and fast reactions to dig me out of a whole. It’s not nice to admit that you’re not as quick on the draw as you were at 21, but it’s a fact of life. If you can’t handle that, don’t get back on a bike.
4. Think About the Bike
I did have my old 600 in a mate’s garage but it was long since the point of repair, so in coming back I was gifted a lovely ’94 VFR750. This was perfect for me as it’s about the same power and handling as I remembered. Of course, soon enough I returned to my dream of owning a Fireblade and after some wife bothering and a few empty promises I was the proud owner of an 05 Blade. Thing is, in my day a Blade was putting around 115 HP out at the crank, and they were regarded as mad bikes. My (12 year old) Blade is putting out over 150 HP at the rear wheel and is considerably lighter. In short, it is mind-bendingly fast. By today’s terms, even that is slow, a modern Ducati is over 200HP with electronic rider aids that allow you to get all of that power onto the road. I need to bear this in mind, every time I ride. I am not riding the bikes I am used to, I am riding their insane grandchildren and if I go too heavy on the throttle, I’ll get into trouble that much quicker. Just because I can afford to buy a bike, that does not mean I can ride it to the limit. Again, this is where specialist training like the IAM can come in handy. That being said, this does not imply that one should buy some stupid transformer looking ‘adventure’ bike, sports bikes are still viable, you just have to respect what you’re riding.
5. Think About your Riding Companions
This might be a little controversial but here goes anyway, I don’t ride with groups of bikers. Yes, a shared passion can be fun and there’s camaraderie and stuff, but there’s also an increased tendency towards silly behaviour, close riding and general tomfoolery. One of the things I like best about being an old git is not having anything to prove (yes, I ride like your Nan, yes, my chicken strips could feed a family of 4, no I do not care) and for me, I’m happiest riding at my own speed, not that of a group. All the accidents I’ve had so far have been when commuting, but without a doubt the maddest riding I did was when out with a group. Very occasionally I do ride with close friends but, if I am honest, the company at lunch time doesn’t outweigh the sense of irritation I feel at going too fast / slow / somewhere I’m not interested in due to a companion. Also, those running light things ‘adventure’ bikes have, try having that sitting behind you at night. No, I love bikes for freedom, speed and solitude, so forget the groups.
I realise we’re all different, bikers more than most, so feel free to disagree, but above all else, ride safe because we all know that no-one else on the road is looking out for you.