Hurtle. It’s not a word I use often, quite simply because I rarely hurtle anywhere, but there I was hurtling along the Hampshire highways and byways on the back of an Aprillia Mille RSV. It was the first time I’d ever ridden pillion. In fact it was the first bike over 50cc I’d ever even sat on.
The previous night, I’d joined a couple of friends for a quick pint in Ye Olde Whyte Harte pub in Hamble. I had an hour to pass until the next bus home when I heard talk of tea, at a bikers’ café that I thought was called Loopies or Loonies.
‘Can I come with you tomorrow?’
‘Course you can,’ Mick said.
‘What do I need to bring? Or wear?’
‘Very small knickers and a peek-a-boo bra!’
I paid no attention to the daft remarks and asked for the sensible answer – sturdy shoes. Mick said he would sort me out with leather gear and helmet. I left the pub, singing, ‘Get your motor running…’
‘Vroom vroom,’ I said, as I rocked up at Mick’s front door, the following day.
Mick, clad in a skin tight leather onesie, looked like a cross between Spiderman and a character from X-Men. He told me that unless the helmet fitted, I’d be going nowhere. Luckily, the lid was a perfect fit. The jacket was a bit baggy and the gloves, fitted like a glove. I looked like I’d failed an Extras casting for Grease.
He told me I’d be able to see over his shoulder so I could read the road to anticipate acceleration and braking and asked me to lean into the corners with him. ‘You won’t be using those…’ I said, pointing to the knee sliders on his suit.
‘We’ll take it easy,’ he promised, as he fastened up articulated boots. ‘Just relax and enjoy yourself.’
‘Where do I put my hands?’
‘Here,’ he said, pointing to his waist. ‘Wherever you feel comfortable.’ With that, I squeezed my sunglasses on, flicked the visor down and climbed on.
After the first burst of acceleration, my hands moved further forwards and I began to wonder where they were placed. Am I holding his crotch? I wondered. I moved my hands back slowly towards his waist and slipped them around again. Does he think I’m feeling him up? I tried keeping my fingers still, but they wiggled as if they had a mind of their own.
Ahead, I saw the first road sign for the national speed limit. I sensed a shift in Mick’s posture. He opened up the throttle and I felt the force of a hurricane against my helmet. A 30 mph sign loomed. My body pressed against Mick’s despite my best efforts at bracing myself. Towns and villages that had taken hours to cycle to, were reached in minutes. Road kill flashed by as a blood red streak instead of a gory mess of teeth and fur. Other bikers nodded, united in camaraderie like cyclists. A big sweeping right hand bend tested my leanability, I leaned as if one with rider and bike. I wanted to know how fast we were going but I couldn’t see the speedometer. I glimpsed our reflection in a convex mirror and thought I looked acceptable. I smiled.
We arrived at Loomies Bike friendly cafe, not Loopies or Loonies as I’d thought. The car park was packed with bikes; motorbikes of many types, race bikes, cruising bikes and small bikes for learners. We drank mugs of tea and Mick spoke to some friends.
I popped into the Ladies where I seemed to wait an awfully long time for the ladies to emerge from the cubicles. Perfectly understandable as they were wearing full biking gear. I found the mirror amusing with the visor cut away from the helmet.
Outside, Mick was chatting to another rider, who said he’d just discovered the Interweb.
‘There are people out there who get their kink from all sorts of inanimate objects,’ he said. ‘I’m just getting the hang of it now.’
Thankfully, it was time for us to hit the road. I wasn’t ready for a conversation about getting turned on by bikes. A few moments after leaving, the fuel warning light came on and it was a gentle and steady ride to the petrol station. As I stepped off to let Mick fill up, he said, ‘I had to take it easy.’ I knew the reason why, I also knew that we were leaving with a full tank and there would be leaning.
I enjoyed the Born to be Wild trip. A different type of thrill, an unforgettable experience and one that involved tea. However, I prefer another kind of wild, one where I can hear the birds sing, pant to the top of a hill and earn a slice of cake.