Middle-aged men and motorbikes don't mix

When they remove their helmets, they are all balding accountants with rather high voices
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The Independent Online

It cannot be a coincidence that my GP, my dentist and the man who was supposed to come round last week to assemble my new flat-pack garden shed, all three middle-aged or even elderly men, are not currently available to service my feet, my teeth or my impulse-buying needs because they have fallen off their motorbikes. What is it with middle-aged men and motorbikes? It couldn't simply be an obsession with speed - you can go just as fast in a souped-up Ford Fiesta.

It cannot be a coincidence that my GP, my dentist and the man who was supposed to come round last week to assemble my new flat-pack garden shed, all three middle-aged or even elderly men, are not currently available to service my feet, my teeth or my impulse-buying needs because they have fallen off their motorbikes. What is it with middle-aged men and motorbikes? It couldn't simply be an obsession with speed - you can go just as fast in a souped-up Ford Fiesta.

When my ex-husband bought his first new car, a blue Datsun Cherry with go-faster stripes, he used to push the driver's seat so far away from the pedals that in order to reach the steering wheel he had to have his arms stretched out straight in front of him like Lady Macbeth sleepwalking or, more to the point, like Michael Schumacher winning the French Grand Prix. He loved driving fast and, when he was not falling asleep at the wheel (my ex-husband was a congenital narcoleptic), he used to get us from A to B, Aylesbury to Bristol, in a record 80 minutes, but he never had the urge to ride a motorbike.

My nephew and my daughter's ex-boyfriend are bike fanatics, but they are both in their 20s and young men have the same appetite for speed as they have for sex. I have to say I wasn't over the moon when my youngest daughter introduced me to her biker boyfriend and announced that they were going on holiday to Sardinia on the Yamaha which he had had specially kitted out with huge panniers, a driver-to-passenger walkie-talkie system and a pillion seat that looked more like a Parker Knoll armchair. Admittedly, my reservations may have had less to do with the choice of vehicle than the lad's preoccupation with material possessions and creature comforts.

For someone who had spent two years meditating at the feet of the Baghwan in an ashram in Poona, had changed his name from Kevin to Sanundra, become a vegetarian and, at the drop of a hat, would get you into a corner and lecture at length about the joys of simple living, he seemed to spend an unnatural amount of time and money on his bike. Did the Baghwan's teaching allow disciples to spend £20,000 on a piece of machinery that polluted the atmosphere, deafened innocent bystanders and rang vague alarm bells in the subconscious of every mother old enough to have seen Easy Rider first time round?

Still, he was young and everyone knows that young men have to sow their wild oats; it's the oldies who should long since have exchanged their leathers, their helmets and their calf-hugging biker boots for a laptop on which to email Terry Wogan about the shocking service you get in shops these days and how Ovaltine just doesn't taste as good as it did that get me down.

My GP's accident didn't involve any other vehicles. He was going round a bend at 80, lost control and hit a tree. It has laid him up for three months and sprained his knee so badly that he probably won't be able to indulge in his second favourite activity, in-line skating, for some months. Before he developed his passion for motorbikes he was a simple home-loving man, his wife told me, who liked nothing better than to spend the evening with his family, talking to his pet one-winged crow, which lives in a cage at the bottom of his shirt cupboard, and playing with his pet boa constrictor.

From my bedroom window I can see the corner of my favourite King's Road café, the Picasso, which happens to be next to the Harley Davidson shop. Every Saturday afternoon 30 or so bikers zoom up on gleaming machines, park very carefully and stride manfully into the Picasso. In their black leathers, gauntlets and body armour they are the last word in machismo. It's only when they remove their helmets that the myth explodes. They are all balding, bespectacled, middle-aged accountants with rather high voices who make a great fuss about putting their helmets under the table so they won't get scratched.

The waitresses are good-looking Italian girls in tight, black mini-skirts, but the bikers don't lift their eyes from the menu as they order their pots of Earl Grey tea and jam doughnuts. I was sitting beside a couple of them last week. "I don't know what to do about my new boots," one was saying to his companion. "I've only had them a week but the left one has got a cream stain on the toe which won't come out."

The other one looked at the boot. "I'm not promising anything but I should try the new Stain Devil for chewing gum. It worked a treat on my mitts."

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