I organised a motorcycle ride last Autumn to get out and enjoy the roads before the clocks went back. I had planned a route of interesting country roads so that we could enjoy the changing seasons. With motorcycling one experiences the road and the weather first hand, not insulated by hermetically sealed wall-to-wall in-car-entertainment and ‘is my phone working?’ So the rain from the day before had left its mark and the trees were shedding detritus, which, when you are in contact with the road through a couple of small rubber bits, makes a big difference and gives a new level of alertness.
There were 12 of us on a wide range of machinery, from mechanical-only to modern computer-controlled superbikes. However among the variety I was reminded what motorcycling is all about and how to live in a fully analogue way. My wake-up call was an Italian Laverda Jota from the mid 1970’s, the bedroom poster of all teenage boys at the time, along with the Lamborghini Countach and the tennis player scratching her buttock.
The Jota was and is an unashamed, uncivilised, racing motorcycle. It’s hard to ride; with design characteristics that make it want to fall into bends the whole time. The engine shakes and shouts and wants to spit you off. The Dellorto carburettors suck and blow aggressively. The owner was running with narrow cross-ply tires and original suspension. To run it on the autumnal country lanes of the UK after rain was a test of analogue skills almost like no other; constant careful judgement using all four limbs in total co-ordination. His right hand feathering the heavy throttle, his left hand feathering the clutch to give just enough slip to keep the rear wheel from skidding on the muck, his right foot feathering the back brake trying to avoid locking up and skidding and his left foot flicking the gears in a not very compliant gear box.
His riding was a fantastic example of his art. Technical mastery of the skills of riding and how to live life to the full and enjoy our time on the planet.