When was the last we rode together?
The question hung in the air, the years had passed, more than we cared to remember.
An unexpected opportunity meant that 3 friends replicated a photo taken 29 years before.
Then there was 5 of us, each on a moped, a total capacity of 250cc and 5 cylinders. Now there was a total engine capacity of 2500cc and 7 cylinders. Where before there were 4 Japanese bikes, well one with an Italian engine and one East German one. Now there was two from the land of the rising sun and one wearing a German badge, with an Austrian heart and a frame built in Italy.
The changes in not just the bikes, but in the riders, spoke volumes.
Middle age has crept up, it seems bike clothing shrinks for all of us. Surely that must be the reason why once loose fitting jeans seem tight? Hair has become flecked with white, faces lined with experience. Yet, if you look closely, you will see the pleasure in friendship and motorcycles. A few moments before, we had been making a temporary repair to my bike, a little alternative engineering (bodging) that is such a part of motorcycling. Another aspect that bonds us together in more ways than we care to imagine.
Roads have become so much more dangerous than ever. The amount of traffic now combined with the brain numbing effects of satnav means that riding is more a lesson of risk management than enjoying the open road. The bikes we now ride reflect this.
Well for two of us anyway…
One of my friends has owned his 1200cc Suzuki Bandit for 10 years. The bike still looks as good now as it did we he first got it. One of the ultimate expressions of the once was known as a UJM, or universal Japanese motorcycle. But that would be unkind, the 1200 Bandit was as hooligan’s bike when introduced and can still surprise a few now. Like all things it seems, motorcycles have become larger and the 1200 bandit has shrunk, but now it is condensed, focused and understated.
My other friend has owned his Honda 650 Deauville over 3 years, has toured all over the UK and Europe two up on it. The bike is typical of the Honda being well built and thought out. Based on the long-running NTV 600/ 650, the engine will last forever. For today’s roads, it is ideal and I have no doubt my friend will still be riding it in 10 years’ time.
I was sitting on the joker of the pack, my newly acquired BMW F650. Unlike my friend’s bikes, I’m starting my relationship with it. It has already done more miles than their bikes. Being unlike anything I’ve ever owned before yet seems to work for today’s roads. I’d only ridden about 200 miles over 5 days at that point. After not been on a bike in about 2 years and enjoyed riding for far longer, I’m rusty, unlike the BMW.
Shortly after we left for a ride (scratch), clearly my friends have ridden together often. Their close formation and fast, but safe pace only one expression of that. I was tail end, Charlie. The spot allowed me to ride at my own pace without the pressure of holding someone up.
With old friends, we have no need to prove anything. We can all ride or drive just about anything quickly, but understand it takes a few miles to truly settle down on something new. I sat back and enjoyed my own pace, keeping up, but not too closely.
With the promise of a mug of tea and bacon sandwich, we pulled into the café near Kit Hill.
The three of us once more riding together. Almost 30 years may have passed, but for us, it seems like only yesterday.
For the record, the line-up is the same from the left to the right.