900 miles (part 1)

early startThere was no time to worry about it. After two days of travelling back from South America to Europe (a bus, two flights and a rental) I arrived home late at night, had a beer, repacked and went to bed. The jet lag would disappear somewhere along the 900 miles I had to go I hoped.

Next morning I woke up at 3, got up at 6 and started the engine at 7am sharp. The sound made my heart jump. I was on my way North; 900 miles just me and my new Suzuki Intruder. We had to go on this run north because I need a bike where my partner lives, which is unfortunately rather far from where I live.

The Harley stays at home.

I know my VS1400 is not a touring bike, far from it but all the more reason to feel great about doing it and about doing it alone. I like to have the freedom of riding alone. Yes, sometimes I miss the thrill you get out of riding in a posse. But my trip was different and personal.

I had got a lot of amazed incredulity when telling people what I was going to do – ride a chopper in two days from the South of Germany to the Scottish Highlands. Alone. Most women looked seriously shocked at the mere thought. Men mostly looked uncomfortable.

every 100 milesI wonder why? I have a credit card I can use; the bike is insured and has road coverage. My route takes me along busy European motorways, no deserts to cross anywhere, hardly an adventure, really.

So what is the problem? The only one I encountered on the first part of the trip to Rotterdam was my bum. Yeah, the seat looks great but it doesn’t feel it after two hours.

I must admit I was a bit nervous about going up the ferry with that long fork but it turned out no problem whatsoever.

There was a group of racers from the Isle of Man on the ferry with me. We gave each other a nod, no more. They must have thought it weird as well, that woman all by herself. So they rather didn’t talk.

nothwards boundHad I been a man, I am dead sure they would have been over in two seconds.

If a male biker is on a trip alone he is either cool or independent.

A woman on a bike, alone and unattached is strange and awkward to handle, it seems.

As if there was a difference.

No matter how far I travel, women still have a long way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harley City

I never expected this place to be a Harley place. Tells you how much I know about this world. Brazil is new territory for me.

HDI am in Rio de Janeiro and they are everywhere, parked on pavements, squeezing in between dense rows of traffic and roaring along the beach front late at night.

This is Barra de Tijuca, a noble suburb of Rio de Janeiro. It is young and it is rich and it is always warm, mostly sunny: A perfect place to own a bike. But the crime rate being as high as it is, it makes you wonder how on earth they manage hold on to their machines.

Barra de TijucaThe bikers seem as artificial as this place full of high rise flats and hotels along the vast stretch of white sand and blue water. I sat in front of a bar with a tattoo studio the other night and  the local MC turned up, one after the other. All shiny new Harley-Davidson models parked in a row. The guys sat down and their colours were as shiny as their exhausts. Brand new.

Owning a Harley-Davidson and wearing colours seem the necessary ingredients for life in one of the most intriguing cities in the world. It seems to go with the mentality of showing what you’ve got that seems an integral part of all areas of Brazilian life.

In a way a motorbike is equivalent to a new handbag or expensive shoes. Show-off material to let others see you are cool and you’ve got the means.

The upper middle class is taking over. At least in Harley city.sunrise

 

 

bro bonding

I know I am certainly not the world’s trendiest person, I know next to nothing about fashion, clubbing or in-weekends and I had never ever heard the term bro bonding.

The term came from a woman who knows all these things because she lives in one of the trendiest European capitals and works in an office where they seem to do this kind of thing, this bro bonding.

I got curious and did a spot of research on the internet. Soon I found a paperback by Wes Yoder, with a title, that says it all….

Bond of Brothers: Connecting with Other Men beyond Work, Weather and Sports

This triggered a laughing fit because suddenly, I really understood.

We had been out in the car and I had to stop on a narrow stretch of single track road to let three men in their late fifties pass. All sitting on big Harleys, geared up (to my horror) in yellow high visibility jackets, looking like the local bin men in the process.

“What the f*** are they doing?” I had cried out, thinking about the jackets and the way they tried to pass too close to the car.

“Oh, I guess they are bro bonding.” the woman who knows about trends had answered.

Isn’t it hilarious, that the office people actually believe they have come up with this?

And do all those brothers who have “bonded” since the forties know that they are actually bro bonding?

Guess being a member of a motorcycle club does not sound so trendy.

Who cares about trends???

A biker has always been able to connect with another biker beyond Work, Weather and Sports!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daughters of Anarchy ???

Are you watching the Sons?

I have seen five seasons of Sons of Anarchy so far, but I still have rather ambivalent feelings towards the whole idea of portraying club life for a wider audience.

Who is watching it and why? Can’t be all bikers and guys wearing colours. I for a start am a woman and do not wear colours.

But it remains a rather odd choice of soap opera for ordinary people.

And why on earth do I like it?? Finding the true reason for my choice is surprisingly difficult.

Sons of Anarchy For a start, it is not really about bikes at all. Do you ever see a model in detail or close up for a longer shot? No studies in customizing, So it can’t be the bikes then. Because I have strained a few neck muscles trying to catch a glimpse of a handle bar or a fork, a riser or a foot rest.

The actors? Do their faces draw me in? No.

I still think of the ugly monk in The name of the rose when I look at “Clay”. I still see Peggy Bundy from Married …. with children in “Gemma”.

And it does not look like the real thing to me either. In my world, bikers do not wear white trainers. They have dirty hands from working on the bike. And they do not drive around in cars around all day and they certainly do not kill a man a week for drugs, women or revenge. Sons of Anarchy Kurt Sutter’s done a touch too much.

How can an outlaw drama series appeal to so many? I guess it is the touch of danger, action, the temptation of evil. Insight into a life very different from the nine to five with a semi and 1,4 children. It is more like watching a crime movie or a thriller. And it is very retro.

Why it appeals to a wider public is, because it is all about “family” in the end.

Sons of Anarchy – sometimes a true copy of club life, sometimes not.

I jut wish the women were a bit more anarchistic.

Gemma, the queen of the horde, the magna mater, the alpha female who gets raped and beaten by her husband, who kills to protect herself and her family, who rules from the background. She is in no way an emancipated women, not in the way she dresses, she behaves, she acts. She has no voice in the club but still people listen. An integral part without being allowed to be one. A part apart.

No colours for women.

Gemma

 

Women in the middle ages used their powers like that. Ancient queens like England’s Elisabeth I or Scotland’s Mary Stuart. More than 500 years ago.

Have we not come any further than that in the meantime???

We certainly need more Daughters of Anarchy!

on the radio

What do you need to do, to get your 10 seconds of fame? To be on the radio, to be recognized, noticed?

Being a biker it seems a fairly easy thing to achieve.

 

All you have to do is die.

 

What a brutal and ignorant media world this is out there!

It was the Easter week-end and I was on my way back home from work. I did what I very rarely do when I am in a car, I listened to the radio, looking for the traffic news because the motorway was very busy. International news, national news, regional news, sports, weather and then, just before the traffic, they had two more news items coming up that left me speechless.

“A 50-year-old biker was killed this afternoon in …, two hours later another one died near …. because he lost control over his bike in a long bend.”

on the radio

They never, never ever put dead car drivers on the news. Then why on earth a dead biker? Two even.

I fear it is partly this patronising attitude a lot of non-bikers have: we told you not to go so fast, we told you it is dangerous, we told you you could die…!

Ah, thanks very much. We didn’t know that. No, we never had a clue. We never lost a friend, a lover, a brother, a husband on the road, did we?

We know about the danger and we ride nevertheless. Some maybe do because of that.

People, who are no bikers never really understand.

The media have no right to be so patronising. No right to use the death of a biker as a juicy piece of tragedy at the end of the news.

I refuse to be instrumentalized by editors grabbing for higher ratings.

What biker would want these 10 seconds of fame?

 

 

 

addiction, passion, obsession

I am nuts. I know that. Crazy because I have this passion for riding bikes.

It has become rather addictive now. I enjoy the Harley thoroughly.

But…..

I want more. So I went and got another bike. I had seen it late at night on the internet and drove to the dealer who was selling it the next day.

A couple of local men were standing at the counter as I walked in. I saw the Intruder in the show room straight away. What a dangerous looking beauty. I walked around, taking in every detail. So were the guys at the counter.

A woman, all by herself……???? They exchanged glances. What is she doing here…???

I ignored them while I adored the 1400 cc engine. It was in good nick.

When I asked if I could take her for a test drive the local jaws dropped simultaneously.

I took my helmet and jacket out of the car. In the meantime  the shop owner had maneuvered the bike outside in front of the entrance.

Suzuki Intruder VS 1400

Sitting down I realized just how big that bike was. And what a sound it had. It felt a very male thing to me. I can’t say why. Much more than my Sportster did.

I took off and felt a bit wobbly at first. The sound was fantastic. I soon came to the first roundabout. Some challenge that was!

custom

That was the moment when I was sure.

I would take it. And why?

Because it was not an easy bike to ride and not at all a girlie one.  That one would probably cause me a lot of trouble and nerves.  I would fear every tight corner I had to master. And I would relish the challenge. I had to have it. A beautiful and loud piece of ultimate emancipation.

I parked her in front of the entrance and walked in, putting the key on the counter. The locals were still standing there, openly staring now and not even pretending, that they had anything to do in there anymore.

“”I take it.” I said and smiled. “I need another one.”

Fate is no matter of choice

Did your life turn out the way you thought it would? Have you made the right choices at the right time in your life?

Lucky you, if you can say yes to both vital questions.

Today I walked right into the envy and regret of another middle-aged woman. She met me and asked herself the same two questions.

I do not know what answers she found, I do not have answers myself. But maybe that is impossible.

Right, here’s a little story about parting, making choices and maybe regretting them.

I had to part from my little bike today. My old Suzuki LS 650 Savage I have had for nearly 14 years. The engine was gone and I gave her away for scrapping.

all year round

It felt painfully final. The trips we’ve made together, the places we’ve seen, people we’ve met.

Scotland

So I went to get her de-registered. I pulled a number (105) and waited for my turn, filling in a few forms in the meantime. The woman, to whose desk I was being summoned by a modest bell, had long greyish hair, glasses and a pale complexion; nondescript, really.

She was typing away but she kept looking at my passport.

I had lost the number plate recently, abroad. She dealt with that, too. And she showed compassion because she could tell I was sad to see her go.

“Well” I said, “I have still got the Harley.”

Her eyebrows went up.

Yeah, I went on “A woman of today should have two bikes, shouldn’t she?” and gave her a big grin.

She just looked at my passport again, than at me.

“I don’t. And I am only a year older than you.” she said with a sad voice as if she wanted to say: And look at me!

Then she grabbed my arm and said: “But I have four children.”

“This is something you don’t have, do you?” she went on and then apologised for it straight away.

There will always be times when you regret the choices you’ve made. And there are times when they feel very right. Successful choices are matter of degree. 

Applecross

But your life is not only shaped by the choices you make. Fate makes most choices and leaves you to deal with it.

Yes, I have always wanted a Harley-Davidson. For as long as I can remember.

Is it poetic justice not to have children, then?