18 Jun 2014

Motorcycling Is The Last Dangerous Thing We're Allowed To Do

Modern cars are safe, clean and largely unexciting.  Motorcycles are the complete opposite - they are dangerous, tend not to be governed by emissions regulations and are the single most exciting thing on the road.

Ian Hutchison hits a seagull whilst doing 170mph in the 2012 Isle of Man TT

Even the most modest of bikes can outperform a Porsche 911.  For £6.5k you can buy a Triumph Street Triple that'll do 0-100mph in 7.6 seconds.  A 911 Carrera with PDK gearbox does the ton in 9 seconds.

A Suzuki GSX-R can do 0-60mph in 2.4 seconds, and costs £10k.  That's not just fast, it's outrageously, brutally fast.

But whilst anyone can do 0-60 in a Porsche accelerating at the limit on a motorcycle requires skill, finesse and experience.  Some bikes have so much power they can wheelie and flip over on full throttle unless the rider controls the machine properly.

At the Isle of Man TT John McGuinness uses a thumb brake with which he can apply rear braking to stop the bike flipping over crests at speed.  Us mere mortals simply don't ride the bike at its full capacity, not only so it won't flip but because we'd be doing double or triple the speed limit if we did.

My bike, the aforementioned Triumph, cost me £6k in 2011, has 100bhp and weighs 150kg.  If I didn't ride within my own and the legal limits I'd be dead or in hospital and would have lost my licence many times over.

This is one of many differences between cars and bikes.  A £6k Dacia Sandero can be driven at its limit all day long whereas a £6k motorcycle needs to be ridden with respect and caution, because it is capable of so much more than the roads can accommodate and most riders can handle.

A lot of wives, girlfriends and mums won't allow their men to ride a bike because they know the dangers inherent.  This is a wise thing to do as long as we accept that we have evolved as a species to the point where danger and adrenalin cease to be an essential part of our make-up.

I, and anyone who rides a bike, don't accept that we have reached that point.  A life spent in front of the television, at a desk and in a tin box on wheels does not provide us with the thrills that our forebears experienced when they had to hunt for food and fight for survival.

And the dangers are real and commonplace.  Riding a bike is 10 times more dangerous than driving a car. We lean over in corners and if we come across something that doesn't provide as much grip as the surface of the road we will come off.  A friend of mine was cornering on his bike and his front wheel hit a bread roll.  The bike dropped and he went sliding down the road on his arse.  He said because it was a brown roll it blended in with the road surface until he saw it at the last minute!

When on a motorcycle we are constantly in risky positions. Overtaking, filtering, riding in rain, riding in town, riding in the countryside, riding around drivers on their mobiles - everything is risky when you're on a bike.  But because of this the reward for getting it right, and for getting home safely, is so much more than any other legal activity.

Modern life is too cushy for some of us, so we ride bikes to remind ourselves that we're alive.

By Matt Hubbard