summertime … and the riding is easy

Shieldaig, Torridon

What is the perfect ride?

Scottish HighlandsMay be many things: a busy rally, a desert trip, a cruise along Sunset Boulevard – there are so many bikers out there, so many different ideas what a perfect ride should be like.

Even my own idea of a pefect run differs occasionally.

But very often, this one song goes through my head as my bike takes me to the horizon: Summertime and the living is easy….

 

chopper dreams

sea and gorseA perfect ride – what does it take?

Fun, for a start. And sun, not to forget. Me and my bike and some breathtaking scenery – that is a perfect ride for me. No breakdowns, no annoying cars, not a soul in sight.

Just summer and the coconut smell of Scottish gorse, a sea breeze and a powerful engine roaring through the wilderness.

….and the riding is easy indeed.

 

With a little treat – a fruit scone, home-made jam and cream when the road takes you back into civilisation.

Perfect!

 

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Freedom is the absence of what if

summerI wonder if it is a German thing or if it is a general attitude?

I do not know. But I know that the concept of freedom seems to scare people more than it seems to make them happy. Most people don’t want it, some even shirk it. Why does freedom scare them so much?

The bike is my idea of freedom in perfection, no matter where I am, no matter which bike I take, no matter where I go.

Most German bikers seem to differ.

Last summer I walked into one of the big motorcycle shops, I had to work round the corner and had half an hour to waste and money to spend so I decided to have a look at half lids, I fancied a new one, the strap on my old one had come a bit lose.

While I perused the helmets on display I couldn’t help but overhear a German biker giving advice to his son who obviously bought his first bike and needed a lid. And took his dad along to the shop, maybe his dad took him…

See son, the guy said, this has EU norm …. and a safety badge from ….. and it has been tested by ….

He went on and on and on discussing the security aspects of just one helmet.

Better be safe than sorry, son!

Better grow up soon, son, I thought.

Then I spotted my favourite one, a US police helmet remake, Electra Glide in Blue style that would go nicely with my blue sunglasses. I put it on and (since I had come in the company car I had a handbag with me) checked what it looked like with my make-up mirror, looked great from the back as well, so I bought it.

I can still feel the German father’s shocked eyes upon me as I walked away, completely flabbergasted because I had never even checked the security features once.

How could I be so free?

 

Just because I can, man! I want wind in my face!

 

But I have another story to prove my point.

 

It has been rather hot here lately, often way over 30° Celcius. If you wear black leather in this heat, you are more likely to faint at the next set of lights than arrive safely at your destination of choice. I set off on a trip (200 km, minor roads) with denims, trainers and a T-shirt. How great to feel the wind caressing my skin and the sun shining on my face, no heavy gear to restrict my movements, nothing to make me sweat more that necessary, it still felt more than riding through the desert but that was ok. It felt right, it felt Californian.

When I arrived at work my colleagues looked at me with reproachful expressions because I didn’t wear any protective clothing. They (no bikers) felt the need to point out the dangers you face when you are riding a bike without a jacket.

Why do these people always assume they know more about the danger of riding a bike that the biker. I have been on one for more than 25 years now. Believe me guys, I have seen dangerous moments aplenty.

And then they said….. But what, if you have an accident???

What if?

Forget you “what ifs”!

This is what freedom is about. It knows no restrictions. Freedom is the absence of worries, it starts in the head and it makes your heart burst with joy. Freedom is happiness and it is the choice you make despite the danger that comes with it.

All things come at a price. Of course they do.

Why do you car drivers think we do not know that?

We do know and we choose to do what we think is right for us because we want freedom. We know what it feels like.

You can have all the “what ifs” and keep them!

amazing encounters

Funny, how a motorcycle can form an immediate bond between perfect strangers, I have encountered that a number of times lately.

Kirschblüten Ortenau (7)I work for television and have taken up writing as well. My next book, a travel guide for bikers to the Black Forest (Southern Germany), is due to be published in autumn and I am in the middle of research and photo shoots. On the Harley of course.

Seelbach (13)The more people I meet, the more I am fascinated by the power of my bike as a common denominator; it immediately establishes trust because you know, you share an experience, a dream even.

Even in places that have absolutely nothing to do with bikes or bikers, I find them, those who have the same passion.

Seelbach (15)

In a pottery in Seelbach I met a wonderful guy called Georg the other day. Turns out he used to have a bike as well. And his bike (him being German it was of course a BMW) was the reason why he was able to train as a potter all those years ago.

He took his future boss out on a ride, who enjoyed the run so much, he gave George the apprenticeship. Now he runs his own beautiful pottery. Thanks to his BMW.

Do we not all know stories like this, where the bike has really made a difference and has even changed the course our life was taking?

Seelbach (19)I guess this is what I love most about this book project – meeting people, hearing their stories, taking pictures of their work and finding out more about the power of  riding a bike.

What absolutely and utterly amazes me is the fact, that even though you seem to have nothing whatsoever in common with some people: you have, the minute you start talking bike.

Age starts in the head

on the roadFor a biker age is always the enemy, no matter what age he or she is.

Just think back on the time when you were a teenager and just could not wait until you were of age and finally allowed to ride.

How can you passionately wait? Who can count the endless nights you lay in bed dreaming of your future bike?

Age is agony when you don’t have it.

Things get better in your twenties. With a driving license and a passion for bikes, you are as close to heaven as you ever will be. You take on the most impossible trips, ride in the most impossible conditions and simply believe it is absolutely and utterly impossible that you will ever get old.

You do and you do realize that in your thirties, but nor because you feel any less about riding or ceased dreaming about it. No. You cherish and polish but underneath the sparkly surface you begin to feel the pain. After you have lost the first friend on the road, you see that age is: age is what some people never have.

Which then, in your forties, makes you wonder about the things you don’t have but always wanted. This is, where the Harley kicks in, at least it was in my case. And you fulfill that dream because now, you can. Now you must, because if you don’t, it might be too late.

HD Sportster 48 edition

rainy driveWith a lot of people I know, age becomes awareness of being old when you have turned fifty. Some never stop talking about it. Others try to hide it by dressing like they did thirty years ago. Most just don’t ride anymore because they feel old: their eyes find it difficult to focus at close range, their backs hurt after two hours straight riding and cold, rainy weather makes their bones sore. Age kills will.

I talked to the guy today. He used to own my other bike, the customized Suzuki Intruder.

I sold her because I found her just too difficult to handle and I never did more than two, three hundred miles a year on her.  I am 62 now I am too old for this so I bought a BMW. he said.

Suzuki VS 1400

I am determined never to get that old!

In my head I never want to be as old as that. I shall never resign to a BMW.

A bike is not for comfort, it is an expression of who you are. I thought so In my twenties and I do think so still.

And I am NOT a BMW!

 

 

 

wherever the road may take me

What is joy?

When the sun sends sparkling calls in the morning, when you have time to spend on what looks like a warm lazy summer’s day, and the road outside just seems to wait for you.

Joy is, when you have time to take the bike for a run and the weather is kind.

 

You get your gear together, that in itself is joy because you are anticipating what is to come, the smell of leather seems like the memory of past miles driven.

I can’t stop smiling. I take the bike for a run, I say.

Where are you going?

Now that is as philosophical as it can get.

Where am I going?

The most amazing fact about the solution to this quibble is – there is no need to know.

Utmost freedom is the answer. And that is pure joy.

I do not need to know where I am going. I don’t need a plan, a map a schedule. There aren’t many roads to take here and I know them all. I can’t get lost. So I can give the answer that includes all the freedom you can have on a bike.

I go wherever the road may take me.

Simple as that.

 

900 miles (part2)

Why had I chosen the night ferry?

So I could get enough sleep for the second part of my long trip.

on the way northI was tired and fell asleep the minute I lay down, even though my whole body was aching and tense. I woke up half an hour later. An alarm had went off on some car on the deck right underneath my cabin. Somehow I managed to go back to sleep, only to be woken up again around 4 am. More alarm!

I cursed cars, engineers and ferry companies alike and went back to sleep. The Intruder has no alarm system, no need to be alarmed.

There were about 12 bikes on the ferry. All racers. A small English group who did not look left or right never mind greet and a Manx group talking races. We were all crammed together in a line, bikes secured with the straps provided. Considering the wobbly sidestand and my fear of my bike falling over I had strapped her tight, real tight. So tight, I had to muster all my strength and I still couldn’t get that bl**y thing off. The lock had jammed.

I turned round and said: “Hey guys, can one of you give me a hand?”

They were at it with the speed of light, started pulling and poking and cursing but they would rather have lost a few fingers than admit failure. It took some time but they managed to get my Intruder free. I thanked them and looked into two big grins. My need for help had made them happy.

I had not liked to ask. A matter of pride I guess. But staying behind, strapped tight to the ferry, wouldn’t have looked much cooler, would it?

But still I felt more “girlie” than I was happy with.

ScotlandThe rest of the long journey was smooth and uneventful. I took several breaks for petrol, coffee and toilets and arrived early and with a sore bum at my final destination.

night on the roadSoaking in the bath I pondered why I had found it so difficult to ask for help.

Does independence mean, you have to manage everything yourself?

Does emancipation mean you have to manage without men completely?

I doubt both.

Real independence and emancipation leaves freedom to ask for support.

I would never hesitate to help somebody who asked me for help. Maybe it is because male bikers never do ask female riders for assistance, that it felt so strange and uncomfortable when I had to. Which it shouldn’t, actually.

Men and women on bikes do the same things but they are not the same.

Or to say it with George Orwell…

All bikers are equal but some bikers are more equal than others.

 

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.