This is one of the earliest photographs of my mum; she is stood next to her dad’s motorcycle and sidecar with the infamous Mrs Kipper securely fastened aboard in furs and compulsory hat. Mum looks to be about four so I would guess this is the summer of 1927 – no helmets for the passengers in those days, the speed of the bike, the state of the Hampshire roads and Mrs Kipper probably militated against any dare-devilry: “Slow down Fred my hat’s coming off!”
As a teenager there was never any possibility of me acquiring a motorbike – “too dangerous; not to be trusted; you would break your neck” are just a few of the phrases that echo down the years. Judging by my subsequent exploits in a Mini 850 my parents were probably right, nevertheless, it is odd that my mother, raised with motorcycles, should be so set against them (Peg was always Chief Whip). She passed away in May 2012 and in a final act of rebellion there I was, just a few months later, taking my CBT and buying my first motorbike.
This was the start of an unexpected journey – my RV125 Suzuki Van Van is a sensible, modestly powered first bike, ideal for roaming the back lanes of deepest Northumberland with none of the effort required by a pushbike. Feeling moderately confident on two motorised wheels and embarrassed by the ugly learner plates, I decided it was time to acquire a full licence. This is a complicated process in the UK but suffice to say I am old enough and therefore deemed sensible enough to acquire the full Category A licence which meant supervised riding on a significantly more powerful Honda CBF600. The first time out on one of these machines, scales fell from my eyes – so this is what all the fuss is about – four wheels moves the body, two wheels move the soul – I was hooked. No longer a ‘nice to have’, the full licence became an imperative.
It has been a long and testing summer which involved re-learning how to behave on the road with two wheels after developing 45 years of bad habits on four. The experience has been enlivening and frustrating, culminating in the on-road test which I finally passed this week having previously gone through the rigors of the theory and manoeuvrability tests.
And so to the real point of this post – an electronic thank you to Newcastle Rider Training who had the wit, intelligence and patience to teach this old dog a new trick. In order of those most exposed to my limitations – many thanks to Kevin, John and Neil – in particular Kevin whose patient tones I can still hear through the headphones as I invented yet more ways of doing things wrong. If you live in the Newcastle area and want to learn to ride a motorbike, these guys are the best.
Now I have the wonderful prospect of trading in the 125 and acquiring a meatier machine – if you are aware of the design connection between a certain bike manufacturer and the Beloved, you can guess where I am heading next 🙂