Confidence is a strange thing.
I guess it’s not unlike trust; it can take time to gain it but even just the hint of doubt and it vanishes like the will-o’-the-wisp in the early morning light, fluttering away out of your grasp.
And with that thought, I got on the R6 and for the first time in nearly a year set off on a 100 mile commute to an office location that was further afield than the London one.
I had taken the bike out two weeks previously for a quick blat down the A3 to check everything was working, me included, but today was for a longer ride and with more challenging manoeuvres than the 10 mile quickie earlier on.
Big deal, you might think, but I am plagued with insecurities and fears – as I’m sure I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion…
Even getting on my own bike after 9 months of not using it, made me a little nervous – just the weight and size of it compared to the lightness of the DT was enough to make me a little jittery.
And this is what made me think about confidence. My first serious set of right hand corners came up and I muffed them big time, berating myself in side my lid. The next set were better and by the time I was at my destination, the cob-webs had well and truly been blown off.
Filtering around the M25 it all started coming back to me, and the usual wobbly bits in the road surfaces didn’t seem quite so troubling as I remembered. The very tight right-hander as I came off a roundabout wasn’t quite as tight as I recalled and without even thinking about it, I was stopping and only using one foot to support the bike. (Previously on the R6, both legs would come down like landing gear on a plane.)
So where did this confidence come from? Why, after such a long time off a large and powerful bike (well – it is to me, ‘cos I’m a little shorty) was I handling it better than I probably ever have done?
The only thing I can put it down to, is that I had truly missed riding my R6. Being stuck on the DT for such a long time and only using it for the same commute had got me stuck in a rut and I was bored and losing the love for riding.
Back on the R6, fast and twisty riding came back and so did the love, which in turn stopped me worrying about cornering and stopping (I’d like to say parking it as well but that would be a big, fat hairy fib. I hate parking my bike anywhere other than my drive way – that fear of dropping it has never disappeared).
All the things I’ve learned over the last year on my DT (and it’s true what they say, you never stop learning) and the off-road course I did a few months ago, seemed to gel and click. I started to remember some of the stuff I read about cornering techniques in Keith Code’s Twist of the Wrist. I remember being told where to hold my hand on the throttle by a track day instructor, where your body weight is best placed for front-end grip (courtesy of Moto GP, thank you) and best of all, Maria Costello saying after watching me on a track day, “You’re actually a good rider – have you ever thought about racing?”
So unlike trust, my confidence came back by the bucket-load, and quickly too. I managed to grab the tail of my vanishing will-o’-the-wisp and plant it firmly on the ground. You’re going no-where, sunshine.
And as I brought my bike home in the evening, over the slippery drain cover and bouncing it up the curb (‘cos a car was parked across my driveway) I felt truly exhilarated and for the first time in a long time, I had really enjoyed a day at work purely because I had had such a great time getting there and coming home.
So you can imagine how I felt when parking it up, I nearly dropped it on the drive way trying to turn it around… bastid!
I like Fridays for a number of reasons; it heralds the start of the weekend, and therefore the end of a working week. The traffic is lighter as well, which makes for a more enjoyable commute and today was a good day ‘cos I saw all my fellow biker commuters and we all nodded.
Great stuff. I felt like a member of a very elite club. Maybe it’s a bit like when Masons meet and do their funny handshake?
I have no idea who these people are, wouldn’t be able to identify them in a line up but on this particular Friday, I felt like they were my best mates in the world. Even one of the sports-bike wankers gave me a slight nod. Either that or he went over a pot-hole.
(Can you imagine what it would be like if you stick ten bikers in a room who don’t know each other? Would we just sit there and give everyone sideways nods?)
Even my biker spider-sense was in top form. From starting the DT in the morning, it was struggling a bit, and then stalled. Got it going again and made my way in to work (nodding like mad) and then starting it on the way home, it wouldn’t start under choke – which is clearly indicative of an issue.
Got in and asked HB to take the spark plug out and bingo, there was the problem, it was starting to foul. I reckon that had breakdown written all over my Monday morning commute.
I think I might be getting the hang of this 2-stroke malarkey – it’s only taken 4 years!
But I couldn’t help but think there was a problem with the gears. It was getting very clunky and not changing very well. In fact it had been like this for quite some time, slowly getting worse.
For some reason, I thought I would check the oil level and so HB held the bike upright and I looked for the level in the vision panel.
Er, hello? Oil?
Opened it up and looked at the cogs (no dipstick on this model, only the one that rides it) and not a drop of oil in sight.
Maybe I haven’t got the hang of these 2-strokes after all. Just hope it’s not too late!