For the past week or so I have been on less than top form, being the victim of a pincer attack by a nuclear-powered cold and a bad back. The cold caused my nose to become a Mount Etna of snot and my lungs a pulmonary Smith & Wesson firing bullets of phlegm as I attempted to immerse myself in the Open Championship from the depths of the sofa. I’ve had colds before, obv, but none like this.
The spinal aches, however, are a recurring niggle that can be traced back to my lifelong yen for the sport Jordan Speith mastered at Royal Birkdale last weekend. Twelve years ago I was still sufficiently robust to carry my golf bats in a bag, and while sauntering blithely down a muddy slope at Littlehill in Glasgow I took a tumble, the weight of the clubs and my torso coming down with an almighty thud upon my coccyx. The resulting herniated disc and associated spinal issues have given me gyp ever since.
What does this have to do with motoring? Simple. I have, you see, been thinking about risk.
Golf, or at least the variant in which most amateurs such as myself participate, is not perceived to be a dangerous pastime, whereas motorcycling is widely seen as colossally treacherous, both by those in the know and those, er, out the know.
A question I have been asked more than once since becoming a rider is: why do something so potentially disastrous to my capacity to walk/talk/breathe, besides for fun? And while it’s tempting to drone on about how my appetite for golf – not alpinism; golf, for God’s sake – has seen me temporarily unable to stand upright, and what could motorcycling possibly do that would be worse, the truth as I see it is that the regular navigation of perilous circumstances is a central pillar of what it means to be alive. And the more you do it, the better you get at it.
Unlike the so-called dangers that governments and corporations insist lurk in every cranny of daily life, on a bike the risks are slap-bang front of you, in darkest black and brightest white. In seven months of riding I have been forced into an emergency stop when a car cut me up (wobble factor on a scale of one to five = one; I was doing 15mph) and watched, powerless, as a VW Polo lurched across my path to reach a motorway exit at the very last moment (WF = three). Most recently, where the M77 merges with the eastbound M8, I was forced prematurely into lane one of the M8 to avoid being crushed by a straying HGV (WF = five).
What I’ve learned from these experiences is this: if you’re going to ride a motorcycle, never forget your vulnerability to even the slightest hazard. Drivers of cars, buses, vans and lorries will always carry out manoeuvres that endanger you, and occupying the moral high ground doesn’t speed up the fusion of bones or the healing of wounds. Assume the worst and always, always have an out.
Oh – and install an action camera on your handlebars or helmet. The chances of remembering a registration number to provide the police with when facing oblivion are nil.
Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.