I haven’t been out on my bike since the Xmas Toy Run at the beginning of December.
Before getting togged up I check that the bike starts ok-which thankfully it does.
Then its inside to get layered up. The sun may be shining but it’ a pretty chilly day.
First a pair of tights, then thermal leggings , then kevlar Go-Go leggings , then on my top half ; a vest top, long sleeved T shirt, thin thermal base layer, then my Gerbing Heater liner topped off by my bike jacket and fleece neck warmer.
It might sound like a lot, but it works to keep me toastie on even the coldest of rides.
And whilst on the subject of cold rides I’d like to share this wonderful bit of prose with you “Season of the Bike”, by moto-blogger and excellent writer Dave Karlotski.
Those of you who do ride will be nodding your head in agreement and those that don’t-well hopefully it will give you some idea of why we do it!
There is cold, and there is cold on a motorcycle. Cold on a motorcycle is like being beaten with cold hammers while being kicked with cold boots, a bone bruising cold. The wind’s big hands squeeze the heat out of my body and whisk it away; caught in a cold October rain, the drops don’t even feel like water. They feel like shards of bone fallen from the skies of Hell to pock my face. I expect to arrive with my cheeks and forehead streaked with blood, but that’s just an illusion, just the misery of nerves not designed for highway speeds.
Despite this, it’s hard to give up my motorcycle in the fall and I rush to get it on the road again in the spring; lapses of sanity like this are common among motorcyclists. When you let a motorcycle into your life you’re changed forever. The letters “MC” are stamped on your driver’s license right next to your sex and weight as if “motorcycle” was just another of your physical characteristics, or maybe a mental condition. But when warm weather finally does come around all those cold snaps and rainstorms are paid in full because a summer is worth any price.
A motorcycle is not just a two-wheeled car; the difference between driving a car and climbing onto a motorcycle is the difference between watching TV and actually living your life. We spend all our time sealed in boxes and cars are just the rolling boxes that shuffle us from home-box to work-box to store-box and back, the whole time, entombed in stale air, temperature regulated, sound insulated, and smelling of carpets.
On a motorcycle I know I’m alive. When I ride, even the familiar seems strange and glorious. The air has weight and substance as I push through it and its touch is as intimate as water to a swimmer. I feel the cool wells of air that pool under trees and the warm spokes of light that fall through them. I can see everything in a sweeping 360 degrees, up, down and around, wider than Pana-Vision and than IMAX and unrestricted by ceiling or dashboard. Sometimes I even hear music. It’s like hearing phantom telephones in the shower or false doorbells when vacuuming; the pattern-loving brain, seeking signals in the noise, raises acoustic ghosts out of the wind’s roar. But on a motorcycle I hear whole songs: rock ‘n roll, dark orchestras, women’s voices, all hidden in the air and released by speed. At 30 miles per hour and up, smells become uncannily vivid. All the individual tree- smells and flower- smells and grass-smells flit by like chemical notes in a great plant symphony. Sometimes the smells evoke memories so strongly that it’s as though the past hangs invisible in the air around me, wanting only the most casual of rumbling time machines to unlock it. A ride on a summer afternoon can border on the rapturous. The sheer volume and variety of stimuli is like a bath for my nervous system, an electrical massage for my brain, a systems check for my soul. It tears smiles out of me: a minute ago I was dour, depressed, apathetic, numb, but now, on two wheels, big, ragged, windy smiles flap against the side of my face, billowing out of me like air from a decompressing plane.
Transportation is only a secondary function. A motorcycle is a joy machine. It’s a machine of wonders, a metal bird, a motorized prosthetic. It’s light and dark and shiny and dirty and warm and cold lapping over each other; it’s a conduit of grace, it’s a catalyst for bonding the gritty and the holy. I still think of myself as a motorcycle amateur, but by now I’ve had a handful of bikes over half a dozen years and slept under my share of bridges. I wouldn’t trade one second of either the good times or the misery. Learning to ride one of the best things I’ve done.
Cars lie to us and tell us we’re safe, powerful, and in control. The air-conditioning fans murmur empty assurances and whisper, “Sleep, sleep.” Motorcycles tell us a more useful truth: we are small and exposed, and probably moving too fast for our own good, but that’s no reason not to enjoy every minute of the ride.
My original plan was a quick round trip down to Uckfield, turn right and head back via Sheffield Park.
But as so often happens , once I’m out and enjoying my ride , I continue on at Uckfield, heading south , towards the sea.
I have ridden this road (A26) so many times- it isn’t a particularly challenging road but has a few nice little twistie bits and some straights where you can open it up and of course – a great tunnel at Lewes, where one always has to rev the throttle to fill the air-its the rules as any biker knows ;o)
Just before I enter Seaford I take a turning right to take me to the seafront.
As its out of holiday season I sneak onto the promenade for a photo opportunity in front of the beach huts.
The sign said no cyclists-it didn’t mention motorbikes!
Looking out across the English Channel.
A kind passer-by, an ex-biker himself, offers to take a photo of me on my bike.
The temperatures are starting to drop, so I head home , taking the route back via Alfriston.
It feels like 9 times out of 10 on this road I get stopped at the level crossing.
But on the plus side, it does mean I can filter to the front of the queue so that I have the twisty country roads clear in front, not getting stuck behind much slower cars.
I arrive home, just as it starts to spit with rain-perfect timing.
But, annoyingly I realise that I had forgotten :
- To take a photo of my starting mileage for the year
- To put on Rever to record my ride
but I reckon it was about a 60 mile round trip and make a note to myself to remember to log my mileage at the start of my next ride.
Here’s to many more rides in 2018.