I first rode a motorbike at Dave Taylor’s Trial Park over 40 years ago and haven’t looked back, though obviously I did just then, and while I’m here make a note of ‘back’ as well.
Dave, who for the most part has been consigned to history, was a prominent figure in the 70’s. He was a vociferous road safety campaigner having become famous for, ironically, pulling huge fuck-off wheelies; the dude even rode the whole of the TT course (37.73 miles) on his back wheel. My hero, though, was Barry Sheene. In the 70’s he was mega famous, and for most kids growing up in that decade part of the cultural landscape along with strikes, flares and Spangles. He was vivacious, charismatic and cool, he shone through the brown and grey of the decade and made other sports and their protagonists look prosaic and banal.
The 70’s was also the decade when the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers started to make serious headway into the UK market. As the British motorcycle industry dwindled to virtually nothing, streets and TV’s rung out with the scream of high-revving two strokes. In comparison to the British stuff, the Japanese bikes were faster, lighter and oil-tight. If the British bikes were Black Sabbath then the Japanese upstarts were the Sex Pistols and I loved both. My fate with all things motorbike was sealed.
By the time I was 10 I was doing motocross at a place near Slough. Dad got hold of a burnt out caravan that he converted into a trailer, onto which was loaded my stolen-recovered YB 100cc Yam [that my dad had] converted for off road use. It wasn’t really up to the job but I couldn’t have cared less, I lived for Saturday afternoons. Age 12, when my parents realised this bike-thing wasn’t a fad, and after dad convinced mum that I was learning important skills for when I was on the road, because I would be (he was right on both accounts, I could provide actual examples but this isn’t all about me) I got my first proper MotoX bike, a Yamaha YZ100e. The bike was pretty old by the time I got hold of it, they came with some stinking second-hand leathers that were so baggy around the arse that you could’ve fitted Hazell Dean’s chin in there, but as far as I was concerned I was living the dream, even when I broke my ankle on a post and wrecked all the tendons in my wrist after I hit the deck and a bloke on a CCM stalled and then started his bike on my arm.
For five, occasionally painful, years, I couldn’t have been happier than when I was riding my bike, until that day I was hit in mid-air by another bike, it knocked my front wheel south west so when I landed I was catapulted over the bar. I vividly recall hitting the ground and thinking ‘where’s my bike gone’ before it came crashing down onto my lower back. I don’t remember much after that save the hospital.
A month later I was back on the bike, as far as I was concerned I’d dodged serious injury and made a full recovery, but something had changed. Because the accident hadn’t been my fault I started to become wary, then paranoid, of other riders. I couldn’t ride with impunity as I was too busy checking to make sure someone wasn’t about to smack into me. One afternoon, after an hours riding, I rode into the paddock and told dad that I was done. Six months later the bike was gone. It was dreadful.
A quarter of a century passed, one totally normal day I was walking across the road with my bro when, all of a sudden, I went down like a sack of the stuff (I mean shit) and my bro had to scoop me up and carry me to the pavement before I was hit by an Iveco lorry. I was diagnosed with a perforated disk and required to hobble about with a stick for a while until a combination of the NHS, a chiropractor and some good old fashioned exercise sorted me out.
Until recently this was just fine, I had the measure of the condition and despite seizing up after Slayer at Sonisphere five years ago (my two dear friends had to drag me all the way out of the venue to get a cab, right in the middle of Metallica’s headline set) I’ve been pretty much okay.
But not all was well in lower-back land. The perforated disc was having an adverse effect on the disc below; having been charged with undertaking the additional task of managing a colleague’s injury it was somewhat inevitable that it would file a complaint. Sciatica isn’t as agonisingly painful as the perforated seizure (which would make a great name for a black metal band) but the constant pain running up and down the leg like a cow in heels wears thin after a while. I mean it never bloody stops and nothing over-the-counter relieves it apart from Co-codamol. The prescribed Naproxen merely manages the injury but it does cause agonising stomach cramps that the prescribed Omeprazole, designed to suppress the agonising stomach cramps caused by the Naproxen, fails to curb and all of this amounts to even less sleep than we weren’t having before the Sciatica kicked-in.
I ruminated on all of this lying awake one morning at 3.30 with my left shin and buttock on fire waiting for the umpteenth cody to kick in… Actually, this is bloody Dave Taylor and Barry Sheene’s fault, bastards, my innovative dad should’ve listen to my told-you-so mum and I should’ve stuck with Judo. Even if Brian Jacks was a monumental arsehole with the personality of a bread board.
Then I remembered, the only other time I wasn’t in pain, and this was true of both the perforated disc and the more recent Sciatica, was when I was riding my bike. Sure, I may have had an issue getting on and off but once there, the pain was gone. I guessed it must have something to do with the way the body is positioned on a sportsbike, you lean forward so the spine is relaxed, all the weight is taken by the limbs, bingo.
So there you go, another excellent reason to ride a motorbike.