Who’s afraid of the big bad bike?

23rd April 2019 |

For ten years now I’ve been going to Arizona in May to face sand-storms, mud, wind, rain, snow and even occasional good weather (I’m kidding: there was lots of good weather, but it’s the other stuff you remember). And the reason for taking such risks with my health and good humour is to be among several thousand other fools like me worshiping at the feet of Apollo, who must, I think, have been the God of Adventure.

It’s called the Overland Expo and it’s an assembly of all the daftest vehicles you’re likely to see, from millionaire multimogs to all-terrain strollers. I came to love the crew that runs the show, through all kinds of adversity. In particular the Land Rover guys, like Duncan and Andy and Graham and Chris, who thrive on mud and disaster. And I really admire Roseann and Jonathan Hansen who started the whole crazy thing.

Anyway, I go there to talk. That’s all I do. I used to do it with pictures like everybody else, but somehow instead of helping, the pictures just got in the way. For some reason people like listening to me. I don’t usually know what I’m going to say – one thing just leads to another – but this time I DO know. I’m going to talk about fear, and how to make it work for you.

The idea came to me when I took my bike out for a spin round my village today. It was only a short ride, but it was the first time this year and for me it was quite significant. The truth is that when I haven’t been on a bike for a while I begin to wonder whether I’ll ever get on one again. Every year it takes a little bit more courage to believe that I still belong on the back of this old warhorse. The problem is age, old age. Perhaps a few of you are already thinking about it. To stop or not to stop, that is the question.

I’ve just been visiting in England, meeting new people. It’s not long before they discover how old I am and sooner or later someone asks, very politely, “Are you still riding?”

Of course I say “Yes,” but I’m fudging it really, because that was last year.

I took that picture of my bike here in the garage under my house, where it’s been gathering dust for many months. It’s the same one that cost me a fortune and a friendship to bring to France, and I’ve hardly used it. I do a lot of work in my garage and the bike keeps staring at me. In two weeks I will be 88 years old. I’m very aware that many people would say a man my age has no business riding a motorcycle, so I have that to contend with as well.

“I’ll have to take it out soon,” I told myself, but I kept putting it off and I have to admit I was scared. I was afraid that when I got on it I wouldn’t feel safe, that I’d get the message, “It’s over”. For someone who spent many years on the road with nothing but a bike for company, that thought is ultimately depressing.

So today I took my fears out of the horror film category, and put them to use. I took the bike on the road and In no time at all I felt fine, and I’m good for another year.

You can’t seek adventure without taking a risk. And if there’s risk you’d be a fool if you didn’t have some fear. The trick is to make it work for you. I learned a lot about that during my four years around the world. We’ll have lots to talk about. I hope some of you can be there.