Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Burn rubber on me

Suddenly it's spring... the weather has warmed up sufficiently that threats of snow or ice on the roads have pretty much gone until next winter. So, barring strong side-winds (which I loathe) I can plan on riding Cruella... well, whenever I want, really! :-) And the racing season is underway, with the second round of the World Superbike Championship today in Australia, the second round of the British Superbike Championship next weekend (at Thruxton, the fastest circuit on the calendar, and just a quick blast up the road from here) and the first round of Moto GP next weekend in Spain. And all, this year, available for viewing on terrestrial TV here in the UK! Motorbikes... some of the best moments of my life in the last few years have been directly or indirectly associated with them; yet I was reminded of one of the saddest and most painful aspects of my present situation when I walked past my bike on Thursday.

When I ride Cruella, all the worries, concerns and hassles of everyday life disappear. My senses are heightened, my concentration rises; it's just the sheer pleasure of me and the road. I could happily never sit behind the wheel of a car again (at least, not until I'm no longer able to ride) but not being able to ride again would be a terrible blow. Which is one reason why I'm so pleased that the TV documentary series in which I've been participating will (hopefully) include some juicy bike-related footage which we shot a couple of months back. Not just shots of me riding, but also me talking about biking, and the significance it has in my life.

Biking builds connections; not just transportation links, but connections between the people involved. For the last four years, I've been going to the World Superbikes race meeting at Brands Hatch, around the last weekend in July. I'll certainly be there for the whole meeting this year. I believe it holds the distinction of being Britain's largest spectator sport event; race-day over the last four years saw attendances of 120,000, 122,000, 126,000 and 115,000. Over the course of the the three day meeting, well over 200,000 people (closer, I believe, to 250,000) attend. I've never seen any trouble, nor heard reports of any, other than some road traffic incidents after the race which usually stem from some jerk thinking he's a race-track hero and finding out the hard way that he isn't. So many people, crammed into a natural amphitheatre, without hassle. Biking (as a rider, racer or spectator) builds connections.

It builds connections on a personal level, too. I didn't notice a single person give me even a sideways glance last year, when I was a lot less passable than I am now. My pal Andy, with whom I attended on the Saturday and Sunday (much as he enjoys it, he isn't quite the extreme fanatic you have to be to want to attend on Fridays, which is only about practice and qualifying) wasn't the slightest bit concerned about being seen obviously in my company; and why should he be?

Riding with friends is a real pleasure; but so is riding alone. One of my fondest memories is of a bright, clear day in 2001, which I spent riding around the South-West of Scotland visiting sites which had been used in the filming of The Wicker Man, still my all-time favourite film. (Incidentally, I learned recently that the film is being remade, with Nicholas Cage starring; I look forward to seeing the results!) I'd been house-sitting for friends, and waiting for a clear day to ride the route I'd planned. Scotland's weather was up to standard that summer (i.e. it sucked) but one day before my friends were due to return from holiday, the weather was fine. A perfect day.

A couple of months later, I rode back up to Scotland for a long weekend. We were going to the Knockhill round of the BSB on the Sunday, but on the Friday evening, five of us went for a ride through the Duke's Pass, a phenomenal piece of twisty, challenging riding. That evening, and for the ride-in on race-day, I had a pillion passenger; I didn't tell her until afterwards that I hadn't had a pillion passenger for, oh, seventeen years... but I don't think she noticed! :-)

And last Thursday, as I walked to my car, I remembered another pillion passenger I had ridden with a few times a couple of years ago. A troubled individual; someone whom I desperately wanted to connect with, but didn't know how to. And then, one day, I took them out for a ride on the bike; and we connected. It was wonderful. I didn't try to impress them, let alone frighten them (I could swing for bikers who frighten their passengers and potentially turn them off biking for life); I didn't need to. We needed few words, but I knew they were enjoying the experience as much as I. Bitterness and resentment (on both sides) disappeared; for a while, at least. We rode together again, a few times, and I really believed that we had found a common vocabulary, through which we could communicate in ways that words alone had failed us.

But then life intervened; and it was not to be. We no longer ride together... and three lives are, I believe, the poorer as a result. I know that mine is.

If only life were as simple as riding a motorbike.

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  • At 2:07 pm, Anonymous Sharon said…

    Your comment "wasn't the slightest bit concerned about being seen obviously in my company" surprised me

    Do you find people are often concerned about being seen with you? I think they should feel honoured!

  • At 2:16 pm, Blogger Koan said…

    Maybe I didn't phrase my point very well... in an environment like an open-air, all-day sporing event, on a blazing summer's day (which it was, Saturday and Sunday, last year) I didn't stand much chance of carrying off a convincing female presentation on both days. Yes, I think some people would feel intimidated in a situation like that; if someone wants to give me some attitude, bring it on, but I don't want my friends to take the heat simply *because* they're my friends. In fact, the situation didn't even arise; and while Andy wouldn't have felt bad had anyone caused a scene, *I* would have felt bad, for him.


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