Monday, 19 April 2010

Random thoughts on motorcycling

I am, and always have been, an avid motorcyclist, or biker, or whatever you want to call me that I can deny.
BUT - just because I'm a biker, it doesn't mean I'm a second-class citizen.
I recall, a few years back, going into a well-known computer store, and being ordered to leave my crash helmet on the floor just inside the door. The reason given, was that motorcyclists steal things and conceal them in their helmets.So what about the old dear with the shopping bag? Is she any the less capable of being a thief than me? Such treatment sucks.My comment was, that if I complied, and my helmet was either damaged or stolen, would they replace it? Of course not!
There was also an instance where my husband and I went camping in Wales. We arrived around Midday, but it was gone 19:00 before we could find a camp-site that would take us. Most camp-site owners said they'd had trouble with bikers before, so they weren't going to let us in. So, if they had trouble with a couple on a Ford Fiesta, would they then ban all Ford Fiestas? FFS we were a middle-aged couple on a Honda GoldWing Aspencade - about as expensive and classy as it gets.
I appreciate that motorcycle clothing may not always be appropriate, for example having tea at the Ritz, but surely our money is as good as anyone else's?On the other hand, I've stayed in some pretty exclusive hotels, where I've turned up on my bike and been treated with the same courtesy and respect that they would extend to a visiting Prime Minister. A classic example was Wroxall Abbey, where, if I arrived back at the hotel wet and cold, they almost fell over themselves to offer me a cup of hot chocolate to warm me up etc. Nothing was too much trouble, and to me, this is the sort of thing that distinguishes good service from bad.
It shouldn't matter what form of transport a person chooses to use, how much that transport cost, or even what type of 'biker' they are. We're all people, just getting on with our lives.
All of the above makes me sound as though I'm a Rich Urban Biker, with money to burn. In fact, I'm not that at all - average job and average income. But motorcycling is my biggest expenditure in life. The posh hotels generally coming about as a result of my work, not through my personal preference, which general speaking results in B&B in a pub somewhere.
It is true, that over the years, my life style has to a large degree been dictated by my love of bikes. It influences how I dress, and to an extent, where I go and what I do. But that in itself, doesn't mean that I'm like every other rider out there. I'm still an individual - as are most motorcyclists. The only thing most of us have in common, is our love of bikes.
And what about that love? Do all riders ride for the same reasons? Definitely not. Ask any group of bikers why they ride, and you will get a myriad reasons, from 'because all my friends do' to 'it's something I've always fancied doing'But I bet, within that group sample, you will more than once hear the word 'freedom'.
For me, I grew up with bikes. My dad, his brother, my brother, all rode. It was natural then, when I became a teenager, to gravitate towards lads with bikes. When I started riding legally, in 1964, I was one of perhaps 3 women in my part of the world who rode. Now the sight of a woman on a bike is commonplace. However, I have serious doubts about the reasons some of them ride.A lot ride because their husband/partner/boyfriend rides. Often they are talked into it almost unwillingly. Others ride because they think they've got something to prove. No dear, life ain't like that. Ride bikes because you love them - what other reason is there?
You know the people I really hate? Those women riders who make a big thing about 'riding with the lads' and then ask for women only events. Do you hear men asking for men-only track days etc.? If you want to participate in a predominantly male pursuit dear, then do it on equal terms.Anyway, I feel that women only motorcycling events are self-defeating. How often I've heard women say that they want a women-only event, because they feel intimidated by the men. So you end up with a bunch of women who are only comfortable interacting with other women. Learn to do the job properly, and you'll get treated like an equal.I suffer from a bone condition, and I know my weaknesses. I'm grateful for assistance if I run into a problem because of my poor health, but I certainly wouldn't want it 'because I'm a woman'. After all, I would help a disabled biker, irrespective of gender.
So, what makes a true biker? Is it someone who does, like me, 25,000 miles a year on bikes, someone who only has a bike licence and not a car one, someone who has the latest trendy crotch rocket and matching leathers but only rides on sunny Sundays, the old boy down the road with his 1933 Rudge, or the young pizza delivery lad on his twist and go? For me, it is all of those. A biker, at the end of the day, is someone who chooses to ride a powered two wheeler, for whatever reason, whatever distance, and however he or she is dressed.
I could get started on philosophy, and books about biking, but maybe I'll leave that for another time

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