I started this project in 2017 and had initally planned a book project, but I got overwhelmed by that concept so a blog split into several parts is the way forward. First we shall delve into my motorcycle journey and then who know’s where it will end up. Stick with it and we will find out.
As I sit here on 27th July 2017 getting ready to embark on another project that I am hesitant to start because of the uncertainty of seeing it through to completion. The outlaw country radio station is playing loud, I’m sipping a cold Coors light, with excitement and apprehension and with every word dripping out of this bic biro onto a child’s school textbook, I am slowly more confident that I can set out to achieve the task at hand.
There will be second guesses, there will be pauses and I am under the impression that this will be a long-haul journey and all of this may prove fruitless. But with a burning determination to engage my mind into something and a need to turn a passion and obsession into something positive and give it, its own life.
I lay out the task at hand, a simple question that I will set out to answer. I am chuckling like a dork to myself already because I already know that ‘simple’ question has more dimensions to it than I care to consider, I’m also mildly amused because I know the tangents, twists and turns my mind is already off wandering about and how much I want to fit into this project. But above all I am also amused by the fact that Elizabeth Cook’s version of “Pale Blue Eyes” is blaring through my speakers in this sleepy little Hamlet in which I reside, Barefoot, Blue Jean, Dolly Parton t-shirt and beer brings a little redneck, white trash wonderment to this village and I couldn’t be happier.
So as out of depth as Dorothy in Oz I will begin my own yellow brick road and pose the question and the statement…
Why We Ride?
My own personal fascination with 2 wheels started when I was very young. Some of my earliest memories include motorcycles. I must have been 5 or 6 when I was bought a blue battery powered motorcycle that had stabilisers, I would ride that thing up and down the road and round the park with my Mum and Dad in tow struggling to keep a hand on the back luggage rack to keep me upright and stop me from tearing away to ride the roads.
I remember clearly being in the playground at primary school convincing my friend that we could go on a bike trip to London, because he could sit on the luggage rack, my only condition being he would just need to sneak out and bring biscuits so we could survive the journey.
If my memory serves me well it was around the same time the Spice Girls movie was released and like many young girls of my generation my entire world revolved around those 5 women. So the plan was set I would ride to London and meet Victoria, Emma, Mel C and B, and Geri.
I’m not sure how the plan unfolded but it is safe to say my parents foiled any escape attempts and as a replacement for my beloved battery powered bike, I was supplied with a red tractor which I had to peddle. London seemed less appealing if I had to peddle there.
The idea also went out the window in that heart-breaking moment where I was beyond consolation in the back of my Dad’s van upon discovery (thanks to the radio) that Geri had indeed left the Spice Girls… Yes, it was the end of an era!
Memories of a young me, stopping at the sound of a bike roaring or tootling past and gawping, drooling over every 2 wheel machine I found myself encounter, are pleasant yet faint and perhaps hold no light at all to the biggest influence on my motorcycle fascination which can be brutally whittled down to one person. My Grandad.
My Grandad was a man who loved motorcycles, from the generation who grew up fixing cars and bikes, who re-built engines and were all somewhat aware inherently of the inner workings of these machines.
He had many interests but bikes and guns are what I will remember him for. Following in the footsteps of his Father and Grandfather who worked for factories like BSA and James Motorcycles, he worked for Suzuki and had his own garage during his time; he would build bikes, just to take them all apart again; make his own bullets, and fire them down the back of his garden. I am struggling to find appropriate words for this section as I’m conscious that no matter what I say, there would always be more to say and more that my Mum or Brother would want to add in.
Iit is only now that I appreciate how much of an influence those interactions had on my subconscious and how all the small encounters I had, have now come full circle and now play such a vital role in my current journey.
I always wanted a motorcycle but it was never burning a hole in my heart as it has started to recently. My teenage years saw me actively engaged in sports, in early years football and tennis but later on Basketball was my ultimate passion. Give me a ball back then and I could entertain myself for hours with/without a net. I also loved Skateboarding and much of my time was spent in EPIC Skatepark in Birmingham racing around all weekend until we were too tired or bruised and sore to carry on. It was only when I managed to break my ankle/leg in 3 places and fracture it in 8 that the Skateboard was laid to rest…reluctantly. A few years later I was thrown off the Basketball team for an altercation with my own team member (who happened to be Mum’s friends daughter.. awkward) so now a professional Basketball career was off the table…realistically was probably never on the table, but DAMN I was good and I beg you to find someone who could say otherwise.
With the drama of Basketball gate unfolding, and the realisation that I would never have the thrill to play in-front of a crowd again, I was semi-distracted by having just passed my driving test.
Freedom and Youth.
A couple of beat up Fiesta’s and an accident later involving a tree that happened to jump out on me (I swear!) I bought myself an old BMW and I was in love. Riding a bike never really featured during that time; life happened.
I went to work from college immediately as an Assistant Youth Worker and quickly worked up to running several projects; my excitement remained when a big chrome’d up Harley would ride by but I just didn’t have the time to pursue it, the job wouldn’t work with a bike it would be too impractical.
And so a 4 year degree, 8 years as a Youth Worker and a house move later, I found myself at a loss and in need of something different to do in my life – I was burnt out and so was my Beemer (off to car heaven he went). What was next? Surely at 25 a mid life crisis was too early? Maybe not.
Personal circumstances and my work proved that my experiences undoubtedly surpassed what some live and see in their whole lives.
I had a passion to set up my own business from watching my Mum run hers and helping her when I was 15; the markets, fayres and shows are hard work but so rewarding. Selling your own product means that every sale is a little reward to yourself, it restores faith that you choose the right path and it means so much more. So I started selling my artwork online initially with some success and interest from all over; but I wasn’t pushing it as hard as I could have and needed the cash flow in order to invest and do things properly.
So a part time job I was in search of and it just so happened a role was available in a new Motorcycle Clothing and Accessories store, with fierce determination about being able to learn all I didn’t know and excitement about being able to get a job that I might actually be interested in rather than some of the more mind numbing jobs I’d been applying for as a means to an end, I applied immediately. 2 hours later, phone call received, 1 hour later I had an interview and 1 week later I started the job.
I settled into the role with ease excited to be there, keen to learn, and a little too eager to please, enthusiasm for hoovering or cleaning the loo’s was a little too much; but I knew that at some point in the day I would learn how a Dainese jacket was made and where the leather came from and why it was worth that price point; or I would be told how to take off an Arai visor without snapping the arms and what the hell a pinlock visor is!
I had come from a role where I was the go to person to know everything and get asked all the questions; on some nights I had responsibility for 30 kids, 3 volunteers and a part time member of staff. Now all of a sudden I knew nothing and it was humbling; I am always keen to keep learning new things and enjoy the process of doing so. I took to the customers with a natural ease too, spending a lot of the time talking about bikes and rides with a cup of tea rather than selling them anything; my first approach before greeting the customer was to take a peek out the double fronted shop and see what bike they had pulled up on; if it was interesting I wouldn’t hesitate on going out shamelessly and studying the machine before returning to the store.
More than once I interrupted other staff members mid sales pitch to ask the customer if I could take a photo of their bike; luckily this never backfired as most people are pretty keen to talk about their bikes.
Keep Posted for the next installment.