Thursday, March 01, 2007

Last gasp of Morton the motorcyclist?

Maybe. I arrived at BBC Radio Shetland to be admonished by Mike, who remains a consistent biker, for having yet again given up motorcycling 'for ever'. 'You need to make your mind up, Tom' he said. And of course he's right. I think I have, honestly. Perhaps.

Coming down the road from Hillswick to Lerwick today on the BMW (very cold, but mainly dry) I was trying to stay alive, and there's the problem: As soon as you start motorcycling solely for survival, flinching at every pothole, every wobbly bend, it's time to head for pedal power or the protection of sheet metal and airbags: The margins in motorcycling are just too narrow. It's a youngster's game, really. And besides, I still can't get that Beemer onto its centre stand.

So I consigned the bike to SBS for its trip south. I packed the panniers with tools, spares, documentation and my Belstaff rain suit. I kept the helmet and gloves, though. You never know. Then I walked away with just one backward glance. It looked good, the Blue Beast.

How many bikes is that, then? Let's see:

In 1970, there was a Vespa 150 scooter, used for scaring dogwalkers in Fullerton Woods, Troon, and golfers on the Lochgreen course. The following year, I acquired a terrible old Raleigh moped for the same purposes. Finally, I took to the road in 1973 on a Honda 50. By the end of that summer, I'd passed my driving test and had a car, an old MG1100.

No more bikes until 1987, in Shetland, a Honda CB125T. That lasted a year, and then nothing until 1992, and the Orange Beast of Spirit of Adventure fame - an MZETZ250 with Squire sidecar. Sold on telly to a man from Campbeltown. After that, let me see...1994, having at last passed my bike test, an old Kawasaki Z650, followed by yet another MZ ETZ250, this time without sidecar. Bought in Fort William and ridden, illegally, back to Cromarty in the middle of the night. Madness.

A decrepit Honda Goldwing GL1100 (lovely to ride, kept breaking down, and my first BMW, a really nice R65LS. There was also a truly mental Yamaha RD400E, violently fast, allegedly the fastest air cooled two stroke ever made. For two wonderful years, there was a Triumph Tiger (the old one, an ex-police bike with Bonneville cylinder heads; leaked oil everywhere. And then my only new bike, an MuZ Skorpion 650 Sport. Lovely design, a great Yamaha engine, too wee. Moving swiftly along, there was a horrendous Jawa 350 two-stroke, in 2004 a Kawasaki GT1000 (very good, and cheap, tourer)then, in 2005, a Harley Davidson Sportster (worth owning, if only for the noise. But too wee for me, really. It looked, as one friend said, like a 125). Finally, the BMW, bought last October, and sold today.

That's it. Sixteen motorbikes. Enough is enough! To the folding pushbike!

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