There are three perfect smells in the world. One is rain on pine. One is broken chair burning in Gwyrch Castle, Wales. And one is the bloom of petrochemicals coaxed by the warm sun from my motorcycle. Lean closer, take a deep breath and hit the starter, because on a sunny August day with just the right amount of fresh in the air to stave off Friday night’s hangover, there is no finer duty than to ride a hundred miles to eat cake with cix_bikers.
Some might say that a two-party weekend, the first in Worcester and the second in Hackney, was overambitious. I say to them, as a certified finisher in the first Brit Butt Lite, there is no such thing as too many miles, (This reply sounds almost as credible as my attempt to persuade the alarmed onlooker in Reflex that I wasn’t exceptionally drunk, bruises and broken toes being the regular consequences of my dancing style) . And if you are going to ride a hundred miles on a perfect English summer’s day, there are no finer roads to ride them on than the quiet leafy lanes of the Cotswolds.
It was a weekend for revisiting old haunts. On Friday, I was back in the 1980s. Between 1987 and 1989, you’d find me three nights a week, dressed in black from head to foot, scaring the unwary and drinking Southern Comfort and lemonade at the Cheshire Cat, Nantwich’s premier nightspot. In the 80s, purple flock walls studded with fishtanks were the height of sophistication, a look wisely eschwed by the Reflex club in Worcester in favour of giant posters of Mister T. My dancing companion and I being the only people in the bar actually of legal drinking age in the ‘80s, we persuaded the DJ that no authentic experience could be complete without The Passenger, The Only Way is Up, a little Smiths, and Blue Monday by New Order. Distressingly, it appears that the youth no longer know that the correct response to Oops Up Side Your Head is to sit on the floor in a long line and clap. Nor are they aware that when Come On Eileen comes on, you form a hokey-cokey circle and do a lot of stamping. My apologies to the gentleman in the Hoff-style leather jacket who was enlisted into my attempt to demonstrate correct form. No wonder he later armed himself with a rubber truncheon.
On Saturday, the two natural laws of my existence came into conflict. The first is this:-
Highwaylass + motorcycle = rain
The second is this:-
Highwaylass + hangover = brilliant sunshine
The sunshine won, and a hundred miles later I was back in the 1990s, when, back before the internet had pictures, I first encountered cix, the online conferencing system populated almost entirely by tech guys and programmers, a large number of whom were also bikers. The cix_bikers argued, swopped fettling tips, organised track days and rideouts under the banner of Team_Waste, and welcomed wannabe learners (like me) with warm insults and open hearts. I never knew anyone’s real name, but they sold me my first bike, delivered it to my door, verbally dusted me down after I crashed it and kept me on two wheels until I started to enjoy myself. After an OLR lag of about a decade, it was fabulous to be once again talking about fettling and arguing about the politics of personal freedom, this time with the benefit of being plied with cheesecake.
And since I have given up sleeping, I also got to do my third favourite thing which is to get up in the small hours and ride through pre-dawn London, when everyone except the shady, the romantic and the insomniac are in safer and warmer places. All bikers are grey in the dark, but I’m happy that my grey hairs remind me that sometimes on my journey so far I got to come in from the Wet Wild Woods and sit by the fire in the cave.