Many who know me would argue (or hope) that I’m a figment of a particularly diseased imagination. “Enough already!”, I cry — this isn’t about my existence, it’s about whether I really want to get a bike again after all these years, or whether I’m just being a sad git in search of the illusory joys of a previous decade — liking the idea rather than necessarily the execution. If I get it wrong, it’s expensive. It’s also about being able to pitch up a dealer for a test ride without looking like a panicked gopher.
Only one thing to do — get on someone else’s bike first. So it’s off to Genesis Rider Training on the old Brooklands circuit near Weybridge, for a day’s refresher course for rusty bikers. In my case, not so much rusty, as completely seized.
They turn out to be a friendly and helpful bunch — I’ve brought my elderly Belstaff, gloves, my faithful old motocross boots and helmet. Ah yes, the helmet: wave circa 1980 Bell Tourstar at the instructor with cheery cry of “Will this do?” Good expression, mate, you should patent it. So I’m in a borrowed Shoei, which while it may be modern and effective, is both somewhat sweaty and almost entirely the wrong shape for my head.
Good start — he then asks what my experience and background are. I tell him how long I’ve been off. Sharp intake of breath. I also tell him I used to be an instructor. Slight relaxation. Things go downhill rather when I’m given a Yamaha 125 and a half hour introduction to the controls, starting with the “this lever controls the clutch; letting go of the clutch lever makes the wheel go round…”. Thanks — I could probably have worked that one out. Another half hour spent trundling around cones is just about enough to get the basic idea back, at which point the instructor obviously spots the evil gleam in my eye and diplomatically hands me a Kawasaki Zephyr 550. That’s getting a bit more like it — we clear off into the wide grey yonder of suburban Surrey, him on his nice blue ZX-9, me on the unbridled power of an aircooled and every so slightly shagged retrobike.
I’m riding like the roads are covered with ball bearings — slowing down too much for corners, taking the 20pence piece cornering lines — lean it over a bit, decide it’s scary, straighten up, run out of road, lean it over again, repeat until pointing vaguely in the right direction.
By twenty minutes in however, I can feel the ear-to-ear grin distorting the helmet’s cheek pads and I’ve started trying to work out what’s wrong with the Kawa’s suspension — by George, it’s coming back! Back to the circuit, a few blasts up and down the runway, a debrief and a few helpful pointers and it’s all over and back to the mundanity of the motor car.
Met Jane in restaurant afterwards and spent the entire evening (I am informed) bouncing off the walls and doing Mr Toad impressions. I think we’ve answered the question — a good start, and one I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone coming back in to bikes.