First things first. Here at Independent Motoring we are pro-bike. That is, we value our readers who prefer two wheels to four.
First things first. Here at Independent Motoring we are pro-bike. That is, we value our readers who prefer two wheels to four. We rate the machinery they ride. Handsome Triumphs, powerful Yamahas, beautifully engineered BMWs, feisty little Vespas. Not to mention Suzukis, Ducattis, Hondas and Kawasakis. We're intrigued by developments such as the amazing hydrogen-powered bike featured on page 10 - where you'll read Tim Luckhurst's road test, a first for the national press. They all enrich our lives whether we're fortunate enough to be able to own one or not. But there are limits.
The limit, for me, is the appropriation of urban roads as bikers' test tracks. I don't know enough about motorcycling culture to understand how or why this happens. But I do know it is a disconcerting experience for the docile driver of a modestly powered Renault Clio (me) who suddenly finds a peaceful road in the Peak District, or the North Circular or the Embankment in London has become a racetrack.
The mornings are worst. To drive along the Thames between 8am and 10am, as I do, is to find oneself in the middle of a swarm of scooters, like a motorised, two-stroke-buzzing, avant-garde production of Ride of the Valkyries. All the usual hooligans of the road - black cabs, minicabs, reps, white-van man - are cowed into submission by the aggressive but smart scooterists around them.
We see them and we are becalmed. Wait at the lights and you're surrounded, torn between fear and loathing of the sheer arrogance of so many of them. "OK, knock me over," they seem to say, as they weave through the fast-moving traffic. "We know what'll happen to your no-claims bonus, your standing in the community, your self-esteem if you topple a poor little scooterist. Look, I'm only wearing a helmet. We're the inheritors of the spirit of the mods, ready to mix it with greasers in Brighton. Clio driver? Who do you think you are, mate?"
Think once, think twice, think bike, I was taught, in a laudable effort to increase car drivers' awareness of their fellow road-users. Well, fat chance I have of not noticing the existence of the early-morning Vespa hordes.
But the real fun starts late at night when, in what I strongly suspect are preordained events, the chaps on the more serious machinery turn some of the posher districts of the capital into a free-for-all. They all seem to think they're the late Barry Sheene or something, and competing for some vast monetary prize and the chance to go to bed with a supermodel.
Car drivers are ignored and treated with contempt. Like the scooterists in the morning rush hour, the bikers in the wee small hours are sending a similar message: it doesn't matter how powerful or fine handling your car may be (and a 1.4-litre Clio isn't) or how snug and warm you are listening to your daft phone-ins on the radio, we can out-accelerate you any time, grandad.
Maybe it's the adrenaline. Maybe it's something deeper that they need to prove. I have no idea and I have no wish to denigrate motorcyclists as a whole. They suffer terrible carnage on the road from careless car drivers. However, I really would like to know why they want to try to intimidate even the most timid car drivers and why they think that they might come off best in a collision. If they don't realise that even a hatchback can crush their bones to mush, they shouldn't be banged up for doing motorway speeds in the middle of a city but referred for psychiatric reports.
Me? I promised my mum I would never get on two wheels and, with the exception of a trip round a mate's garden on a Honda C50 moped when I was 17 (I fell off), I have kept my word. So I've never felt the unique thrill of just missing a Renault - clearly indicating early - turning left into a Westminster side street. Think once, think twice, think car; that's my message.Reuse content