Bye-bye Bonneville

I was having a blast. The engine growled with every twist of the throttle as I negotiated the twists and bends of Suffolk’s back roads. It roared as I gunned it into the straights, blasting a crap day into the depths of memory and leaving it rotting in a place called ‘the past’. The wind carried a chill now that the sun had dipped low behind the trees. It whipped through my jacket’s lining suffused with all the smells of the countryside and brought both a pleasant chill and remembrance that I lived somewhere truly beautiful. I passed crumbling farm buildings that have stood for generations and wide open fields lined with hedgerows and mighty trees, all of it in Springs full bloom. The odd cow or sheep cast a curious gaze as I rumbled past, perhaps wondering, I like to think, what it would be like to be so free on a Triumph Bonneville.

Time moves on and I’ve slowed her down. It’s dark now and although my bike’s single headlamp cuts through the gloom and casts a nice yellow cone of light ahead, I know my limitations. I do not see well in the dark. I always carry my glasses with me towards the end of the day because there’s always that chance the light will fade before I make it home. I had them with me on this day, in my bag, strapped to my back. I doubt they would have made much of a difference in the coming situation though had they been on my face, where they should have been. I’d already slowed, and what was about to happen was beyond anyone’s ability to predict.

I let her purr around the first corner and noting the long straight ahead was empty of traffic I moved into a more central line to tackle the second upcoming corner. I slowed again and began to bank to my left when from my right a shadow emerged. In a car I might not have paid much attention to this strange apparition but on a bike, well, I shit my pants. I had no idea what it was other than it was big, moving fast and closing on me. I remember having enough time to grip tight to the handlebars and brace myself.

A deer, certainly the largest I have ever seen (though this could be some odd post-event perspective) leapt from my right where it had stood upon the bank within a line of trees. It leapt straight up and over me. Not in front, but over me. I watched its front legs sail over my arms which were rigidly holding on tight to the bars. It’s body followed. I smelled its warm muskiness and had an odd sensation of running my hand through a horses fur – a recent memory linked in all probability to me living on a farm where we have horses. I’ve often wondered what it would actually be like to watch your life flash before your eyes. If this was it then I’m not impressed. A smell and watching my own hand grope at a horse? How exciting.

The deer leapt over me. Out of my peripheral vision I watch its hooves sail away in slow motion. I wonder what it would be like to be kicked by them and then suddenly, I’m wondering if I am have been kicked by them because my bikes smooth course has changed. I experience an odd and very frightening change of perspective as I realise I’m looking down at the front of my bike. I shouldn’t be able to visualize the front mud guard in a normal riding position only now I clearly can and it’s moving rapidly away from me. Or rather, I’m moving rapidly away from it. My eyes roll away and upward as my brainĀ realizes I’ve taken flight and it tries to orientate me toward the ground again. I watch as that ground comes crashing toward me and two thoughts immediately come to mind. Firstly, I note the ground is grassy and therefore likely to be soft. This, I recall thinking, is good. I’ve seen more than enough gravel rash injuries to known that skin parts from bone very easily. Secondly, I note that this is still going to hurt.

I think my head hit first followed by my right shoulder. I can remember the tiniest fragment of time, almost as though it has been placed on permanent pause in my mind wherein I’m pointed straight at the ground at a 45 degree angle. My legs are arrow straight behind me. My head is in contact with the grass and I think, just for that tiny moment of time, that I’m stuck like an arrow in the ground. Then, like the Titanic, reality comes crashing back, gravity takes over and the rest of me comes crashing over. I paint a nice picture of a man leaving his bike as though he’s been shot from a bow, arching into the sky like a graceful ballerina before landing in a clean if not comedic fashion. I imagine reality saw a leather clad gorilla flailing as though, well, as though it had just crashed a motorbike.

I lay in a heap on the ground. This is perhaps the oddest moment that my wife has ever tried to ring me but honest to God, no sooner had my body stopped moving and I lay there still, my mobile chirped into life in my pocket. I might have answered if it were not for the fact that my arm was suddenly very painful and also that I hadn’t a clue what I would say. I knew it would be my wife too. Don’t ask me how, I guess you just know who its most likely to be given the time of day.

Anyway, somehow I got the bike up and was able to ride it home. I was in agony but I made it the ten or so miles through the dark with my headlamp pointing straight up into the sky and my mirrors more bent than Gary Barlow.

This was my second crash and so with a heavy heart I’m hanging up the leathers and selling the bike. I know, I’ll miss it but I can’t help thinking that had a car been coming from the other direction or if there was a tree on that bank, I’d be dead.

I’ll always remember that last ride though, at least up until the crash, as one of the best I ever had.

Bye-bye Bonneville. It’s been a blast.


M šŸ˜¦


The other day I was watching the tele and I saw a couple of guys riding around the world on motorcycles and I thought ‘Fuck me, that looks fantastic.’

Which is basically the entire back story to me wanting to get on a motorcycle again and go for my full motorcycle license.

The last time I had a motorcycle it was a puny 125cc. I loved the bike though. It was a Honda Shadow and it really looked amazing. Yet, like i said, it was puny. Alright for nipping around town but get out onto a major road and all of a sudden your being overtaken – by heavy goods vehicles. It had a top speed of about 55mph which for a motorbike is really quite pathetic. It was this reason, and the fact that I almost froze on the way to Norwich once, that caused me to sell up and go back to driving a car.

Yet here I am again. I think that once you’ve been on a bike and really enjoyed getting out and about, that it just gets into your blood. That’s how I feel anyway. I’ve caught myself looking wistfully up a road as a motorbike growls past more than a few times.

Sure it’s dangerous, but we all have a choice and if my nipping in and out of traffic with nought but an eggshell on my head is akin to a man on a pogo stick nipping in and out of a herd of buffalo then that’s my choice.

But I digress. This post was supposed to be about the day I went and did my CBT and so hence forth, it shall be.

Oh, CBT stands for Compulsory Basic Training and it’s… Guess? Compulsory! It’s basically the minimum legal requirement for riding a motorbike of up to 125cc on British roads. It’s also essential if you want to go and train for your full motorbike license. I booked my CBT for a Saturday and paid in advance to do my full bike training the following week. I should also note that in order to train for your full bike license you need not only a CBT but also to have passed the theory test. My theory test was booked for the Saturday morning – the day of my CBT. Now, your probably thinking that’s an awful lot to do in a few days and you’d be right. The CBT isn’t really a pass or fail as such. Worryingly it’s more of a safe or unsafe kind of thing. I wasn’t particularly worried about this though, after all I’ve done it before right?

I arrived bright and early at the training academy on the Saturday morning. I have to confess, I was pretty nervous. Yes I know I’ve done it before but that just means I was going to look like an even bigger tit if I couldn’t get on with the bike or I don’t know sent it through a hedge or something.
The training academy I had selected shares a building with a motorcycle shop and service station. I walked in through the shop and straight away went up to the counter where a young lad and his father were going through some paperwork. The young lad had that kind of slack jawed staring look about him – you know the look. Teenage lads cant really be described as having any other look. I can remember thinking ‘I wonder if I ever looked that thick?’

Anyway, the father was buying a moped for his son for when he completed the CBT. That’s confidence right there. I mean, there’s me wondering if I’m even able to ride the bikes and he’s all like he’s already passed. Mind you, the father had arrived driving a 2011 plate Mercedes. I’m sure he could afford to take the chance. Then again he didn’t look as though he was used to failure either.
The stern looks he was firing at his drooling boy were amusing to me but had the lad practically shaking.

There was four of us in the end and after a short introduction and safety chat it was off down to the training area.

I took my own car down to the training area as I would shortly be heading off to do my theory test. Fact was, I was there for a grand total of three minutes before the alarm I had set rang. So I hoped into the car and was off.

I passed and a few hours later I was back at the training area where I had been told I would have some catching up to do as the other students had a few hours on me.

My first task, or test, as I saw it was to simply get the bike on and off the stand. The bike I was learning on was only a small 125cc but christ it was difficult. If you get the technique wrong you could quite easily drop the bugger. The instructor was patient though. He kept me doing that – lift off, lift on for about 10 minutes. Eventually I got the hang of it and it was onto my next lesson. Sitting on the bike!

I was cacking myself at this point. I had a lot riding on this CBT. The instructors had gone ahead and booked the following weeks tests already so that even if I failed now I would still owe them the for both the CBT and the test slots. No pressure then.

All I had to do at first was to simply find the biting point between clutch and throttle and allow the bike to move forward a few foot, without falling off. I revved high a bit at first, which was a bit frustrating as I felt I was showing my nerves, yet the instructor was a diamond again and told me back off on the throttle a bit. I did so and promptly stalled it.

That was it though. Once I’d got moving and my body remembered to balance there was no stopping me. I completed each task set and before I knew it I was back in with the rest of the group.

The CBT is in two parts. The first part is manoeuvres in a controlled and safe environment. That’s what I’d been doing for most of the morning. To complete that section you then go onto approaching mock junctions and roundabouts the instructors have created with cones. This is a piece of piss really and quite simple. It’s your basic mirror, signal, manoeuvre bollocks with a life saver thrown in just before the manoeuvre. A life saver is what bikers call that last look over the shoulder before you change position or direction. It’s a vital concept to get to grips with as it quite literally could save your life. In fact, if you can’t do it, and some can’t (some struggle to look anywhere other than straight ahead for fear of falling) then you won’t be aloud to proceed to part two, which is a two hour ride on the real roads.

All in all the whole day was going swimmingly. I say ‘was’, because for me it was clear I had been worrying about nothing, but there was one guy who just couldn’t do it. He could do his manoeuvres, he could operate the bike and he could just about handle doing a life saver but he could not do all three together. He was just a mess on two wheels. This guy had paid for a full weeks training in advance but he wasn’t even going to make it through the CBT. It was painful and I did feel for him. It’s never easy to start out on the same path as someone, share the laughs and jokes and then watch them fall. When the instructor walked over and told him it was over the guy went absolutely ape shit. He was blaming everyone, especially the instructor. I have to hand it to the instructor though. He just stood his ground and calmly said,
‘Sir, you have to be safe to go out on the road. You cant ride safely in a straight line toward our cones.’

Fair point I feel.

There’s really not much to say about the two hour ride. It flew by and it was fantastic. If anything, I ended the day wondering why I had let my last CBT lapse.

I’ll write again soon about the bike training proper.

Bye for now.