From our youthful days when boys were trying to be men, running riot with their plastic guns and fir cone grenades, making dens and climbing trees, we were always envisaging adventure and had a desire to role play our wildest dreams. Some wanted to be engineers and would cause horror when mum found out we’d dismantled the brand new TV or record player, others dreamed of being explorers, and would head off into the unknown abyss (the local parks wooded area) on a mission to discover land that no man had tread before (other than every man and woman with their dog) but that didn’t matter, we had imagination.
We could pretend we were walking on the moon or climbing the highest mountains, or treading through the haunted forest, and for us it would be real, so real, in fact, that we even announced our achievements and challenges to our parents, only to be received with a patronising, “well done, Johnny, I bet that was exciting, did you get attacked by the tigers and bears?”, our response, would inevitably be, “yeah, and one of them caught my leg and tried to drag me into its den but I threw a (fir cone) grenade at it and its guts and brain splattered all over the place”, we believed ourselves, our story, so much so, we were convinced it was real, we could see it in our minds and that, for us, was justification that it was indeed a genuine encounter and that we were brave and fearless to the end (at least until we got home and got bollocked because we were covered in grass stains and mud)
As kids we had wild imaginations, we didn’t care if we got hurt, it wasn’t like we had a job to go to Monday morning or kids to feed. We failed to see the consequences of our actions. Despite being grown ups we occasionally have a lapse of sensibility and our minds revert back to times when we we held no responsibility. There’s no denying it, but as adults, it would seem for many, those wild imaginative thoughts never quite go away.
Adventure bike owners, ask anyone of them if they’ve ever ridden off the smooth black stuff on their big, brutal, unwieldy bike and you’d have to walk down a row of 50 of them at a bike meet to find just one, that can say, “yeah, I tried a bit of green laning but the bikes too big for that kind of nonsense”. We still believe we can head off into the unknown, unknown at least for us as an individual. Our hearts and minds longing for discovering and adventure, much like when we were kids.
Many of us will head off to the local motorcycle dealership in search of the action we so miss that we experienced as kids, the action we desire and long for now that we’ve become responsible adults with families, work and timescales to meet.
The salesman does a little jive as he walks up to you, arms outstretched (rubbing his hands together in his mind) , identifying that glimmer in you eye, which tells him he has a full grown adult in desperation to find his childhood adventurous side once again. Sliding around the floor with excitement, he takes you from one “adventure” bike to the next, in a bid to make your eyes pop and then he can hone in on your weak spot, your naivety, and begin reeling you in, like a big fish into a world of exaggeration and dreams.
You’ll stand there, mesmerised by all the bling, the 21″ front spoke wheels with tubeless tyres, the rally one piece seat with less foam than a frothing dog with rabbies. You’ll drool over the digital dash display that has more mini icons than the latest smart phone, realising your annual eye test is way over due. You’ll run your hand across smooth contours of colourful plastics and vast array of decals that give the bike that “rally Dakar” look, but wondering how much it’ll cost to replace it all when it hits that gravel surface and makes the decals look like they’ve been attacked by a pack of mischievous wolves. Throwing your leg over the bike, doing your best to keep it upright whilst you attempt your first and failed Ballet dance, toes barely touching the polished tiled floor of the showroom, as the bike sways gently from side to side so that you can feel more secure knowing you have at least your big toe on one side touching the deck.
Bouncing up and down relentlessly on the bike in a bid to try and get more of your body into the seat and feet further on the ground, hoping the suspension will sag enough, but your attempts are futile, instead you begin to look like a child that’s just eaten a pack of 1970’s smarties, looking down at the floor in a confused state trying to come to terms with the fact you are a short arse.
Sitting there, or rather more aptly, balancing, your mind begins to wander, you begin to head back to your youthful days of wild, vivid imagination,. Suddenly, the A1 sized wall posters of highly experienced off road riders, some of which have competed in the toughest rallies worldwide, riding the very bike you’re sat on, become you. You see yourself belting down forest fire trails, letting the rear slide out, powering on and slipping the clutch, right foot hovering over the rear brake pedal, kissing it ever so softly now and then to keep your line, dust angrily spewing from the rear Continental TKC80 tyre as you head further into the forest to go and throw fir cone grenades at tigers and bears. You’ve gone, you’re in that world again, and it feels fucking awesome.
Suddenly, you don’t give a shit that the bike is 5″ higher than your inside leg measurement. You make another attempt to settle in the seat that has only a smidgen more comfort than sitting on an iron girder, in doing so you inadvertently strain your bowels and let out a silent fart, dismissing the fact it may have actually been the turtles head popping out for some fresh air.
Your kids are hanging off the panniers and crash bars, shouting “can we buy it daddy, can we, can we, can we.. “. Desperate not be distracted by their excitement, which at this time, is greater than yours, as you still attempt to believe you you’ll be able to get both feet on the floor whenever you come to a stop, you begin playing with the mass array of buttons and joysticks that sit before you on the handlebars. A confusing array of icons symbolise their meaning but you have no understanding of what 3 parallel lines with a spark through them means, and guess it must be the ejector seat.
Your wife stands beside you, as you look for reassurance you can’t help notice she’s on a comparison site on her phone, comparing life insurance quotes, still unfazed, you go for the big one…. “so, what’s the best price you can do for me on this then mate”. You’re wife spits her complimentary coffee provided by the salesman in a plastic cup across the floor and chokes, “you OK love?” you ask, as the remains of the mouthful of coffee dribbles down her perfectly applied foundation. Picking up her phone from the floor, she is now pressing “Buy It Now” buttons on the life insurance quotes and doesn’t notice that your kids have begun using projectile coffee remains on the tiled floor as a mini skating rink.
The salesman turns and walks towards his boss, making a secret “I’ve got one” sign with his hands in front of his chest and making facial expressions like a boy that’s just kissed his childhood sweetheart for the first time, making sure you don’t see him. On his return, he informs you it’s your lucky day and there’s a deal on (what are the chances of that you say to yourself)
The deal is done, you’ve signed the agreement, agreeing to pay the equivalent of your wife’s monthly beauty therapy bill for a 12′ adventure motorcycle you could hardly reach the floor on, never ridden off road in your life and haven’t ridden a big boys bike for 9 years because you had kids instead???? . Part of the deal is that you get matching helmet and gear for a bargain price (because no one wants to look like a dick head do they) to keep you safe when you wrap yourself around that oak tree on the first bend you ride off road.
You head home, no one can get any sense out of you, your wife drives the car because you’re in a comatose state. Saliva dribbles down your stubble beard, head slightly tilted, eyes glazed, dreaming of fire trails, byways and standing proud on your new adventure motorcycle.
As the days go by leading up to collection day, you’ve not noticed that your wife and kids have left home because you failed to acknowledge them. Instead you’ve spent every spare moment, sometimes, until 4am in the morning watching YouTube videos of your bike and buying cheap Chinese blingy bits from Amazon and Ebay to add to the “Beast”, which you have so aptly and originally named it.
The salesman hands over the keys, asking as he does, “the wife not with you today?” you respond, “who?”
With all the matching kit on, a sign that you must be a proficient off road rider and adventure motorcycle riding god, you head out off the forecourt, waving as you go, like an explorer who is heading out into the horizon on an indefinite journey to unexplored lands. After an hour or two familiarising yourself with dancing at every junction and set of traffic lights, trying to get some sort of footing, you head over to the local byway, believing you’re good enough for the dirt because you haven’t fallen over or off yet . Pausing at the edge of the trail, where the black, smooth, reassuring tarmac that keeps you safe, meets the death slide of hell, with all its devilish mud, gruelling gravel and those nasty slippery rocks await.
Fiddling with all the controls and pressing the ejector seat button, you can’t help feeling midly disappointed it wasn’t what you originally thought and that you weren’t catapulted into space by a rocket built into the seat, only to realise your hands and buttocks were becoming very hot. Trying to work out how to turn off traction control, (which you know nothing about), ABS and activate “I’m a Rookie, Please Save Me Mode”, you look up and take a deep breathe of that clean, crisp, countryside fresh air.
Nerves racing like a pack of wild animals trying to escape, your inner child, your youth, your childhood boy begins to manifest inside like a superhero changing into their Marvel character. Fear, becomes as much a distance memory as your wife and kids and responsibilities, such as work and mortgage.
It’s time, you’re ready, you’ve waited long enough. You flick the clutch, yank the throttle, an almighty and immense surge of power thrusts you backwards, you’re on the dirt, your eyes are sucked back into your skull, your hands and fingers gripping for dear life like you’re falling from a tree, your stomach falls into the crack of your arse, struggling to hold on as the bike weaves and wallows on the soft unfamiliar squishy surface, your nerves out of control but you’re committed now, despite questioning what the bloody hell you’re doing, keeping the bike upright, still powering through, looking down not up, fighting with your foot to find the rear brake lever but instead you grab hold of the front brake, you enter the first bend on the wet, muddy and very slippery trail…..
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