Tag Archives: motorcycle live

Standing in the shadows

Slightly odd day at the bike show. A kind benefactress sorted me out with a ticket, meaning my sorry skint ass could get through the gates – but how to get to the show?

I’ve recently become a convert to getting the train to Birmingham International and walking over the bridge, but the car park for my starting station is always rammed by 9am. So I could have taken the 125 to the car park, then got on the train carrying my lid – but we’ve all seen That Bloke who drives to the NEC, parks up, and opens his boot to reveal full race replica leathers and a helmet, which he changes into on the tarmac.

I don’t want to be that person!

I consulted.

Take the wee bike and have an adventure, said @scunjee, and since I have outsourced all major decisions in my life to my twitterati, I did.

We trundled doggedly along the A45 and round the back of the exhibition halls to the bike parking, shadowed by an Africa Twin. Way to rub it in, universe. And then when I was about to take a photo to show that little bikes can have big days out too, I discovered that being well-organised and putting your camera battery on to charge is only helpful if you remember to put it back into the camera.

Nothing to report on, nothing to take pictures with. I had become strangely invisible, written off as Not A Biker, despite my Overland tshirt.

Perhaps the Adventure Handbag was confusing people. Perhaps I have resting bitch face.

“Excuse me! Were you at the Overland Event?” asked a bloke in the Adventure bit. No, I said, sadly. Dogs aren’t allowed so I can’t go. Apparently that’s a conversation killer.

“Hello! Would you like your boots cleaned?” No thanks, I had them done at the Classic Bike Show last week. “Oh, you’re with that gentleman? Sorry!”

Not fit to be out alone, it seems.

Sam Manicom was warm and friendly as always, but I worry that if I chat too long I will stop him from selling books, so I bought Elspeth Beard and wandered along. Triumph’s new clothing range looks fantastic and after payday I might buy myself a birthday present from it. More importantly, it’s Shakey’s BlightyVersary soon, four years since he came to live with me from Portugal, so he now has a Kickstart mug from the cunningly disguised Tim Midlifeclassics, who had come to the show as Team Ogri. If you know an Ogri fan (with or without a coffee table) then buy them the magnificently presented complete works and keep them quiet until Spring.

As I trundled home, I had a moment of revelation.

In recent years, I have been experiencing my motorcycling at one remove. I could have said hello to Alun from Adventure Bike Rider, as a friend of Clive. I could have said hello to Nathan Millward, who I know through Nich. I could have said hello to Nick Sanders, as I bought a ticket to Mach 2 after Nick cleared me to attend in the Lomax with the Wingman, but couldn’t go (office politics from hell.) But that would have been odd.

The cure seems simple. Ride more.

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Objects of desire…

When it comes to visits to the NEC, I feel like a chameleon. Obviously if you’ve met me this stretches credibility. How much blending can a 6 foot woman built for comfort with hair the colour of a London bus do?

It’s more of an internal adaptation. The first year I went to the show I had a guest ticket courtesy of Craig Carey-Clinch. It said VIP on it in silver leaf and I enjoyed the insider status that came attached to a job working as head of campaigns for a Large Motoring Organisation. I spent the next few years getting closer to the industry, until one year I found myself with a staff pass, which came with an obligation to spend my time in the show having meetings with chief executives about sales data rather than having meetings with the rest of the lobby, motorcycling friends and journalists in the bar. Though I did sneak off for the Wall of Death.

Paradoxically the nearer I got to the centre of things the more of an outsider I felt. So I walked away from that job, and 10 months later out of work all together. Oops.

Last year I went to the show in a new disguise – freelance journalist. I’m still not sure it’s a role I’m playing terribly well. I feel like there’s a Haynes manual for it that everyone else in the motorcycle media has got, and all I’ve got is a smudgy pdf of the page that says “reassembly is the reverse of disassembly.”

But it must be true because editors ask me to write for them. Sometimes they even ask me twice.

This year was my second visit on a press pass. I’ve come full circle and am about to start again. Instead of discussing data with Chief Executives and Chairman I talked travel with Paddy Tyson and Sam Manicom. I looked at off-road bikes and I asked lots and lots of questions. KTM were happy to let me stand inexpertly on the pegs of the new Freeride 350. The lovely people from Bumpy’s walked me in a nervous figure of 8 on their Gas Gas, finishing their lunch ten minutes early to make it possible and offering me a warm welcome at their Yorkshire Trials Park. And I entered all the competitions offering trail riding holidays in warm places with the gusto that I used to enter the ones offering shiny new fast bikes.

What’s it all in aid of? I’m going travelling. I’m starting with Australia, and when I get back I’m going to find out just how little money it’s possible to spend on the tedious business of living so that I can build up enough funds to just keep rolling. It’s not an original plan, but it’s the one with my name on it.

I nearly bought Building the Ultimate Adventure Motorcycle: The Essential Guide to Preparing a Bike for the Journey of a Lifetime for three pages in it by Austin Vince. He’s incredibly rude about guided tours and writes of the importance not only of making your own plans but also of creating your own diary, movie or website about what you did. His view is that we should be doers, not passive consumers. Something that it’s been too easy for me to forget these last few years. Slightly ironically, it was the point about not being consumers that stopped my buying the book, because one of my great failing is the belief that reading about something is pretty much the same as actually doing it and that’s a trap I’m trying to escape.

So this year for me, just as it was way back in the beginning, the NEC was all about possibilities. It’s about becoming a new rider again, and about finding the allies who are going to help me reach the horizon. Probably rather slowly, and with a lot of stopping and putting my feet down, but, after all, as Ted Simon said, the interruptions are the journey.

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