How to Mid-Life (part 1)
Lots of things can happen when you’re bored and your mind wanders. You could spend your time working out how to spend that lottery win when it comes up, refine your celebrity dinner guest list or plan your escape from the tedium of day to day life. As I don’t play the lottery and can’t stand eating with strangers, I decided to go for the third option.
Mid Life Crisis?
This happened to Mid-Life with a review option for the new Mutt Motorcycles 125cc Black Sabbath from this very website. I took a glance and was instantly smitten with the exceptional coolness that was emitting from my laptop. I knew it was wrong, I knew my wife wouldn’t like it, I knew people would say it’s a mid-life crisis but what did I care? (If it is that would make me 94 when I depart and that’s an age I’m willing to accept).
“I knew must see this beauty for real. I knew that just thinking about it gave me a smile. Maybe just a quick ride on one would relieve the smog of life and clear my head. There was one slight problem. I’d never ridden a motorbike in my life”.
“With the excitement of a teenager but the resourcefulness of an adult with a safe Internet browsing history, I did some research”
It turns out that, as I passed my driving test just before the end of the Jurassic period, I could just take a simple one-day training course called a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training not cognitive behaviour therapy) and that would be it.
So it was on a wet Wednesday in Worthing I found myself alliteratively standing amongst a group of leather laden lads at the Norton Motorbike training centre just next to the Worthing FC ground. I’m not going to lie. I felt massively out of place. I suddenly felt like when I have to go to the garage about my car and at any second one of the bikers would ask me a technical question that I wouldn’t know the answer to and that I’d have to try and bluff with a ‘well you know…” bluster.
Instead, my fellow trainees and I were shuffled inside a cabin and made a cup of coffee and told not to panic. It was all going to be fine. Our tutor for the day, James, introduced himself and soon put us at our ease. There were 4 of us in total, 2 of whom were young enough to only know the second batch of Jurassic Park films, and had come pre-kitted out in their bike gear. I had decided against purchasing anything in case I sat on the bike and realised that my enthusiasm outweighed my sense of balance. Luckily the training centre has a selection of coats and helmets that you can use for the day.
The day is split up between talks, regarding safety for you and for road users, practical exercises in an enclosed space and then finally out on the road for real.
“I was suddenly struck by how insane this seemed. Sure I didn’t expect to end the day by re-creating the Arc De Triomphe bit from the latest Mission Impossible film but to just be out on the road after a few hours of riding around an old tennis court seemed nuts”.
After the safety talk and several photos that made me want to invest in a Kevlar lined Volvo, we walked out onto the training ground and there was the bike I would learn on, a Zontes Mantis 125cc. A Chinese built low budget bike that retails around £1400 but you can pick up for £700ish second hand.
This I am advised against, as the reliability can be variable from bike to bike. Given my limited knowledge, this one seems solid enough. It also has front and rear side bumpers that just get in the way, which in fairness is their job anyway.
The first thing I have to learn is finding the biting point of the clutch. On a bike, the clutch is on the left handlebar, the gears at your left foot. It’s tricky at first and I feel like a total idiot as I stall it a few times. Tutor James reassures me it’s not my fault and really it’s years of car driving that are to blame.
Over the next 2 hours, I further test James’ blood pressure with a series of exercises involving everything from starting, though not falling off, to emergency stops. At one point I change into third gear for the first time and it feels as smooth as silk as the bike launches to an unbelievable speed of maybe 15mph and as it does a smile appears under my crash helmet that refuses to disappear despite being informed that after lunch we’ll be going out onto the road!
Mid-Life Crisis on the Road?
On the road, an instructor is limited to 2 learners and we each get a radio earpiece so we can be instructed on where to go. When you’re taught to drive a car you’re always told that the speed limit is not a target but on a bike it is. If you drop back or move over too far the cars behind will get annoyed and try to overtake. So after 2 corners and a traffic light, I’m out in front and told to get some speed on. SWEET MOTHER OF GOD THIS IS SO MUCH FUN!
I’m only doing 30mph but it feels amazing and I’m so happy I actually whoop. Momentarily I panic that the earpiece is somehow a 2-way radio but this lasts a second as another whoop is finding its way out into the atmosphere. You really have to look at the direction you want to go and not at the front of the bike when riding and as I’m instructed to turn left and lean into the corner I feel like I could give Tom Cruise a run for his money. (A run that would probably top out at 28mph but a run none the less) The feeling is somewhat muted when I approach a roundabout, pause too long and stall the bike in 3rd gear.
As we ride back to the centre after some emergency braking practices I realise that I want one of these. I want to ride something that gets 120mpg. I want to just ride around on a Sunday and nod knowledgeably when other bikers talk about another bikes specifications. I want to smile this much when driving, even to Worthing.
I park up the Zontes and sadly walk away to get my certificate. It might be a while till I get to ride again but whenever it happens it won’t be soon enough.
Potential mid-life crisis story TO BE CONTINUED…
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Aidan is part of Dad 2.0, but what is Dad 2.0? Find out more in the Fatherhood section.