Most of us will have had the misfortune of seeing an increasing number of MAMIL’s on Britain’s roads. For those of you who don’t know, that’s short for Middle-Aged Man in Lycra, and the sight of them in ill-fitting cycling gear has become an all too familiar sight on our roads. But, at the tender age of 51, I joined the ranks of the other, lesser-known breed of MAMIL – the Middle-Aged Man in Leather.
For years I had stayed clear of motorbikes, convinced by all the scare stories I’d heard and too fearful to take the ‘risk’. Something changed however, when in an effort to recapture my youth having turned 50, and with the encouragement of a new bike-mad wife, I finally decided to give it a go.
I’m thrilled that I did but, make no mistake, being the oldest ‘kid’ in class and with all the deeply ingrained bad habits from my decades of seeing the world through a car windscreen, it wasn’t easy. I suddenly felt very old, not physically, but in the brain. I just couldn’t adapt, compute or work out the basic behaviour of a bike.
Happily, I persisted and can now proudly boast that I passed all the modules of my bike test first time and with commendations all round, but becoming street legal was only the first part of my journey to become a bona fide biker.
What was really holding me back was the not the environment in which I was riding, but the dynamics of the bike itself. My fear of the machine I was riding – by this stage I’d graduated to a powerful Honda VFR800 – was holding me back.
It’s a fantastic bike for the open road, I know that, but while other riders were enjoying its power and performance, I’d often be found lagging behind the rest of the gang, and my other half, on rides out. Outwardly I was smiling, but inwardly I was doing little more than hanging on for dear life.
For me, overcoming this fear is still a work in progress, but something I’m determined to do.
As a result, I formed a new plan. Our friendly local bike dealer is selling the sportsbike for me, and I’m planning on building myself a classic brat bike – something light, low-powered, stylish and highly personal. In short, an older bike that’s perfect for low speed rides.
Even my wife, bless her, who is far more confident and speed-loving in the saddle than I, will be downsizing from her ludicrously fast Suzuki GSXR1000 and join me in the slow(er) lane.
The idea is to turn biking into an adventure on bikes we love, where actual speed isn’t over-riding, erm, the riding. I can’t wait to start.
Do you have your own experience of learning to ride a motorbike? We would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.