There is a first time for everyone. First time riding bikes, I'm talking about! And it's probably different for each one of us. My first experience on a bike was certainly different, and probably one of the scariest times I've been on a bike!
This was back when I was still at school, about 40 years ago! I had often (illegally!) driven a car, but never a ridden a bike. The bike I rode belonged to a friend of a friend; and it wasn't even registered. He, or his family or someone, owned a small property, and he had carved out a track around the property and rode it around there. And the bike was all he could talk about! Most afternoons and weekends he would spend riding it around the property. I suppose we, his bunch of mates, were a bit envious. So he invited us to come over and ride it. For a while I declined. All my two-wheeled experience had been on push-bikes, and all on bitumen, or at the very least, gravel roads. So I was somewhat intimidated by the thought of riding an actual motorbike, and riding it along a dirt track around a paddock! But the guys who had already accepted the invitation and ridden it kept urging me to come and ride it! And so one day I went; I would ride it!
When we got to the property, the bike itself didn't really look very threatening; I had certainly seen more impressive looking machines! But when the owner took off on it, I was surprised at just how fast it went! He shot off like a rocket down the track leaving a wake of dust and grass flying through the air behind him. I thought he was mad! Youthful exuberence had certainly overtaken any sense of self-preservation! Yet, when some of the other blokes got on and rode it, they went almost as quick; too quick, in my estimation, for a track carved out of the ground around a paddock! The bike was bucking and bouncing on the bumps, and even sliding into some of the corners. Now, call me a wimp if you like, but as I mention elsewhere, I have always had a strong sense of self-preservation; so I certainly wasn't going to ride it like that! And I was beginning to feel more and more intimidated with each time the bike came flying past!
Finally though, it was my turn. I walked up, threw the leg over and settled in, getting the feel of the controls. Then I took off; or wobbled off to be more accurate! Let's just say it was very different to riding the pushie I was so used to! A twist of the throttle brought an instant response, and a rate of acceleration that I was not used to (the cars I'd driven hadn't been of a very high-performance nature!). Especially across the grass and dirt track, it was a bit scary, so I took it very easy; very easy!
The agreement was we had three laps each. The first lap I teetered around at such a slow pace it was embarrassing! The guys at the side of the track yelled for me to "Give it heaps!" and other go-faster type things. So I planted the feet more firmly, gripped the bars even tighter, and twisted the throttle. The bike was bucking around under me, and seemed quite unstable in it's steering. I glanced down at the speedo, and knew that they had been going much faster than this! But this was as fast as I wanted to go; even if my lack of pace was beginning to be quite embarrassing.
As I passed the bunch of blokes for the start of my final lap, they were still urging me on, to go faster and faster! Thoughts of self-esteem began to overtake thoughts of self-preservation, and so I wound open the throttle as much as I dared; no, actually more than I dared! The bike surged forward; the ground seemed to be rushing underneath me at frightening speed. The bike was bucking and bouncing across the uneven ground, as the wheels scrabbled for grip. The bumps bounced me off the seat, and the bars shook violently in my hands. This was crazy! And then I was on top of the next corner; a sweeping, off-camber right-hander. I wasn't going to make it! Fear rose inside me! The tall grass at the edge of the track might have been soft, yet it seemed almost like a solid wall as I flashed towards it. And what was behind it? Perhaps big rocks, fallen tree-branches or anything! Somehow, almost miraculously it seemed, I got it around the corner. I slowed a little, and looked at the speedo. The needle was waving somewhere just above 25 mph.
25 mph I tell you! I had ridden my pushbike faster than that! And not been nearly as frightened! The "bike", as you might now have guessed from the photo onthe left,
was in fact a Lambretta motor-scooter. And to this day (I'm writing this in 2006) I have never ridden one since! And, despite the surge in popularity of scooters in recent times, I still don't particularly want to! There is something about those tiny, wheel-barrow wheels that are inherently unstable.
I have ridden many, many kinds of bikes since. I have ridden along fire-trails on everything from 2-stroke trailies to a thumper 500cc XT Yamaha (sending it's front wheel lofting into the air as I wound on the throttle). I've ridden on almost every kind of road imaginable. I've also ridden lots of road bikes, from single-cylinder commuters to multi-cylinder Japanese sportsers. I have seen the genuine "ton" on the road, once with the bars starting to get a slight shake, but I can't recall ever being as scared as I was on my first ride on that little Lambretta!
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