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To Ride Or Not To Ride

Blog Date - 14 January 2013

Snow.  Hmmmm.  Not deep layers of white crispy snow, not picture postcard snow just typical Manchester wishy washy slushy wet snow.  Enough to stick on the wheelie bins and garden walls.  Enough to leave slushy patches on footpaths and quiet side roads.  Worst of all, enough to leave patches of rock hard ice for the unsuspecting biker.

It's snowed today.  And now I face the decision whether or not to use the bike this evening for a short 5 or 6 mile ride.  10 years ago this was not a question as there was no option as I had no car.  Unless conditions were particularly dangerous I'd venture out in all kinds in search of an evening's entertainment and social engagement.  Now with a car I find the temptation to sit in the relative safety, warmth and comfort of a tin box somewhat overwhelming.

I try to justify it with logic.  I'm 41 and I certainly don't bounce like I used to.  I've one arm and one leg full of metal due to motorcycling and I don't fancy any more.  I can't afford the time off work.  The roads are salty and they'll rot the bike...even more.  I don't want to damage the bike. Why would I risk it all for a short trip?  They're all perfectly valid and sensible arguments and I really should listen. 

Then there's the other side.  I'll loose my skills and confidence in riding in adverse conditions if I always avoid them.  It's not that bad out there, the roads are salted and I can stick to the main roads.  Am I a man or a mouse?  There's the excited little kid in me desperately trying to prove to himself that I can do it and I'm up to the job.  I fear that by not riding in all conditions I'll become just another of those fairweather bikers.  I fear I'm getting old and sensible.

I read these ridiculous "mantras" on facebook and such like, one that comes to mind is "We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing".  Hmmmm.  I fear it is true.  I fear that because I no longer wish to, yearn to and hope to ride in every possible weather situation that the UK or the world can throw at me then I must be getting old.  That fire has gone, that passion is dead and all I can hope for is telling stories to younger bikers about the time I rode to Southport in the snow because I wanted to, because there was a rock night on at The Floral and because I was hoping to win the charms of some young lady.

Where is that young man?  He's buried beneath at least a quarter million miles of dirty, wet, salty, slippery and occasionally sunny roads.  He's worn away from the nightmare of one very bad crash and a handful of minor incidents.  He's lost the novelty of doing it all for the first time.  He's cynical to the cars and lorries and pedestrians that he's been dealing with endlessly for 23 years.  And he's scared.  Scared about hurting as he recalls past agonies.

So...will this stop me riding.  Tonight I think it will.  Tonight with the roads being at risk of freezing the car makes sense.  Will it stop me riding indefinitely?  HELL NO!!.  I recall after my big crash I'd not ridden for 7 months.  I'd purchased a CMX 250 Rebel, a dinky little custom cruiser.  I'd purchased this bike because the easy rider seating position meant I did not have to bend my still healing knee too much.  I'd bought it because it was light enough for my withered muscles to cope.  I'd bought it because it wasn't too powerful to scare me.

The bike was delivered in the back of a van and left outside my house.  With great trepidation I donned my new bike gear and helmet, the old kit was in shreds after the air ambulance chaps, to whom I owe my life, removed them with scissors.  The sun was shining on a cool but clear and dry February morning.  I heaved my bad leg into place and started the timid little motor.  I rode for a mile, terrified and fearful that it was all going to start again, looking, twitching, shaking and scared.  

Then as I opened up onto a straight something just clicked.  A smile grew, a smile I'd not really had for 7 months.  I felt at home, I felt like I was where I belong, I felt as though my world was complete and that there was a future.  This is where I belong, in the saddle.  I'm more risk averse and more inclined to skip the bike than I was when I was a young man.  I'm not afraid of everything though and I ride in most bad weather, just not the very worst.  But as long as I can ride I will.

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Reader's Comments

Tom McQ said :-
Makes perfect sense not to ride in conditions such as those forecast for tonight - heavy frost and ice. You'd get to your destination without any real problems I'm guessing, but coming home at 10 or 11 o'clock is different. Good chance of black ice. Go in the car - tin box is better than a wooden box!

john. said :-
very deep thoughts there ren, I have come of two wheels loads of times, the diff is i was on vespas and lambrettas so not to heavy and not to fast but it still haunts me. Like Tom said, tin box rather than wooden box mate, nowt to be ashamed of. I noticed tonight that only 2 bikes turned up at the club and im sure if the young uns had a car they would have used it.
Sharon said :-
The fact you got back on any bike after your horrific accident proves beyond any doubt that you are no mouse and that you were born to ride!! And knowing
when the conditions are not safe for ridng is just showing your wisdom not your age. xx

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