7:30 on a Sunday? Sorry, does not compute. But my phone is binging cheerfully at me, the little sod, a cat is asleep on my head, beloved is a whiffling heap under the duvet and I’m struggling with the concept of needing to be vaguely functional in the next twenty minutes and on the bike in a hour. The intervening time is spent knocking up bacon butties and coffee for self and Fiona, the proprietor of the famed Green Welly Stop, as she drops in en route to Tulliallan for today’s Scottish IAM Motorcycle Forum meeting. I’m worried though: TGW does totally excellent coffee and I need to ensure I’m on decent form to repay the hospitality.
Thirteen years ago, egad, I wrote this
about one of the IAM’s
track-based skills day. I’ve just been to another one and had once again, a rather mixed experience. At least this time, there weren’t any actual accidents, damage or injuries, which has to be a major step forwards. But there were a few ‘issues’, he says, through clenched teeth.
A little personal context here: I don’t do commercial track days any more: I’m just fed up with the testosterone-soaked antics of too many people who don’t have the gumption or skill to go racing but who seem to think that a track day is a competitive environment and an excuse for poor and deeply inconsiderate behaviour to others – it only takes a few to screw it up for everyone.
It’s the 29th of December. The temperature’s -4°C, the roads are like glass (the bits that aren’t are caked with diesel and salt) and it’s 7:15 am — a time I normally only ever see from the other end of the day.
So why am I even thinking about getting my bloody bike out? The usual excuse of congenital insanity doesn’t even hold this time, as the decision was made several days in advance, following a call from the IAM’s examiner for the advanced test — something I’d applied for back in November, when ‘dry roads’ wasn’t an oxymoron. I’d had one non-attempt at the test already — earlier in December, we’d arranged a Saturday morning. On the day, it was throwing it down and I had major-league jetlag. My server had also crashed so I obviously needed to go into London to reboot it (turned into a three day rebuild, but never mind :)), so that was a good enough excuse to cry off. This was the rerun.
I’d even managed to get some practice in — for a couple of hours on Boxing Day the gales died down and a strange yellow light appeared in the sky. That was enough to persuade me to kick the tyres and head out for a quick 70 miles down my second-favourite local road, the infamous A272. There is a certain perverse pleasure to be had in successfully and semi-smoothly negotiating conditions that, taken on their own, you’d simply choose a motocross machine for — washdown, leaf residue, tractor mud and diesel from numerous elderly horseboxes heading out for the Christmas Point-to-Points. All good practice at keeping a smooth line and learning good throttle sense — accelerating and slowing as far as possible without using the brakes — I managed thirty miles of twisties and villages at a halfway decent pace without touching either brake lever.