What happens when a person who can’t ride a motorbike develops a passion for dirt bikes?
People who are really good at things usually start doing them when they’re young. I left it until my 5th decade to get into motorbikes. There may not be enough of my life left to get in those crucial 10,000 hours of practice, but I can’t be bothered to ‘do the math’. My first ever attempt was at an offroad site somewhere down the M1 where my friend said I could have a go on his Yamaha WR at the end of a coaching day with the legendary Graham Jarvis. The seat was too high for me to reach the ground. I’d no real clue about coordinating clutch and accelerator but I managed several circuits of a muddy patch of ground without mishap. I even changed into second gear – oh yes…I’d got started!
The same friend, realising that my interest wasn’t going to go away, started to scour eBay for ‘suitable’ machines for me. So it was on a dark Friday night that we headed to Castleford to look at a 1994 Honda CRM 250. We found the house eventually. A party was in full swing with people crowding the small but lavishly purple front room. I was offered a large gin which I happily accepted. My friend rode the CRM up and down the street a few times and decided it was OK. I completed the paperwork in an alcoholic haze and there it was, my first motorbike.
Unsurprisingly, there were one or two issues with the CRM. But basically, this was a good bike. It was just my lack of riding experience meant I was scared of it. First off, it had to be kick started. Second, it was a very lively handful of two-stroke engine. Third, it wasn’t road legal and I didn’t have a licence. But once I’d sorted all (well, some) of that, I did begin to practise and gain a bit of experience.
Stalker MX, Grantham
However, it was a massive step up to find myself at Stalker motocross track some months later. Clearly I had no business there, but the same friend thought it would be a good idea and kindly offered to take me. I had a poor understanding of what a motocross track was until I arrived and saw dirt bikes flying around the course –‘flying’ in the sense of leaving the ground at speed and landing 20 or 30 metres further down the track. Jeez, this was impressive.
I signed on and declared myself a ‘novice’. To denote my status, I had to wear the hi-vis ‘gilet of shame’ to warn other riders of my lack of experience. Frankly, I was relieved that other riders would be giving me a wide berth.
The track at Stalker MX is over a mile long with banked turns, berms, the Dragon’s Back, Rhythm section, bombhole and over 20 jumps. “It’s a technical track but very forgiving, suiting all levels of rider” states the website. Thank flip for that, I thought. I kicked over the CRM and nervously revved it as I waited for the first of our 25 minute sessions to begin. Through the gate and we were off, my friend shepherding me for the first couple of laps. Gradually I lost my anxiety and began to get a feel for the bike and how to ride. The laps are meant to take 2 minutes for a decent rider. Mine were about 5 – 7 minutes long and the bike remained solidly planted on the loose, crumbly soil! At the second session, my confidence improved. By the third, I had my foot out on the corners and I got air. WHOOP!!
Marks out of ten?
Well, I had a great time even if I was really slow and low compared with the good riders. For me, it was about giving my comfort zone a big hoof up the backside and just getting on with it. I have such respect and admiration for the skills and courage of motorbike riders. But onwards and upwards as they say! Especially upwards….it’s important to keep aspiring.