Thursday, 22 July 2010

Speed and the girl

    Name the fastest motorcycle on the planet. Go on!
I'm guessing the list of replies to that question will include the usual contenders from Japan, superbikes named after mythical Japanese birds of prey or weapons. Or perhaps an Italian handcrafted masterpiece in red with a name that sounds a beautiful as it looks but terrifying reliability and spares prices.

    Tasty machinery all, but not the answer I'm looking for.

    The fastest bike on the planet is your first bike. No other machine you will ever ride will come close to it for that first experience of speed. The 16-year-old on a 50cc scoot may look slow, but sitting on that patched-up Honda Melody is someone who's just taken the biggest step in their life from the snails pace of pedestrianism to the freedom of motorised transport and will never experience the same liberation again.
    I remember the first time I pointed my first bike at an open A road and opened it up. My little 400cc Honda felt as if it had jumped to warp and I was being scraped from the seat by the sheer force of the acceleration. In reality I made it from 30 to 60mph a few seconds faster than my car at the time and I wasn't expecting it. Exactly the same experience now feels so glacial, as though all 39 of the geriatric Japanese horses have just exhausted themselves trying to pull the skin from a rice pudding and have little left for me.
    My riding career never made it as far as owning a superbike. Perhaps that's as well really, they're a little uncomfortable to ride. Like many motorcyclists I became a serial bike-borrower in my early riding days, as born-again 1990s bikers wanted to resample their lost youth on my ancient Honda I had a go in return on their various pieces of garage jewelery. Particularly sticking in my mind is the experience of doing [Smashing the barrier into lose-your-licence territory]mph on somebody's RF900 on a twisty B road somewhere towards Coventry, the point at which I scared myself enough to inject a little realism into my motorcycling. In the end I settled into a comfortable existence riding a monster trailie, able to do slightly crazy speeds if my throttle hand takes the fancy but mostly bimbling along at a more hello-birds, hello-trees pace to the annoyance of reps in their flash German tin cans.
     The first experience of going out into the world presenting as female can be likened to that first moment of significant acceleration on a 400cc Honda. I'll never get the same feeling again from just going to a restaurant in girl mode. The trouble is, just like riding the Honda back in the day, having been there a few times I now want more. Pretty much everyone said it would happen this way, and of course they were right. I want to go faster, if there's a direct analogy between motorcycling and this whole girl thing.
     Like a stunt motorcyclist about to ride a screaming little two-stroke trailie down a ramp into a ring of fire over a pool full of sharks I'm now standing at the top of a very steep slope. I could rush headlong down it as my love of speed and the power of the screaming little engine is willing me to do, but I need to hold it on the front brake because I have promised my wife that I'll stay within her comfort zone.  Not an unreasonable thing to do, I'm damned lucky to have a wife with a comfort zone.
     Pushing the motorcycling analogy to its ultimate limit I can find some inspiration from my Honda. I still have that bike and I still consider it to be one of the the most entertaining bikes I've ridden even though the allure of its speed dimmed well over a decade ago. I can say this because I've found other ways to ride it. Fine, it's hopelessly weedy in a straight line, but on the twisties it comes alive as a bike that requires skill to deliver the results that more modern machines deliver through technology. If like the rider of a 400cc Honda I have little option to move faster and can only experience a slower expansion of my female expression then I have to find more to interest me in the scope I have. Finish some of those dressmaking projects perhaps, or perfect the use of cosmetics without looking like a pantomime dame with a hand tremor.
      I have to remember, it's not as though I haven't got lots of time for all this.


  1. Hi Jenny,
    A very nice post with the MC analogy, I too remember that first bike and opening up the throttle. In my case it was a 750 Royal Enfield (still have it, unridden in years) and the first time 'out' was at a street festival in Florida. As you explained in your wonderful post at t-central, I too am non-transitioning-at this time for some of the same reasons. I enjoy reading your blogs, keep upthe good writing!

    Hugs, Elly

  2. My first motorized two wheel ride was 50 cc Puch (pronounced pook, not puke!). That actually wasn't the first bike I ever drove, though. While camping with some friends down in Duck, on North Carolina's Outer Banks in the early seventies, before it was all developed (and ruined) into sprawling neighborhoods of rented beach houses, I rode a friends Yamaha 360 Enduro around on the dunes. It was the thrill of my life at the time, even though I went flying head first over the handlebars once, and still bear a scar on my shin, from when I laid the bike down on top of me. No burn, thank goodness, just a 1/4" round dent, where the end of a bolt dug into the inside of my left shin.

    Melissa XX

  3. Very nice analogy...

    My first ride was a Kwak GPZ500S. Lovely bike and great for a beginner. And on the twisties (or at least what little we have of twisties here in Holland) you could have more fun than on the R6 I ride now. i could have just as much fun on the 6 I think, but not without doing the kind of MPH that, as you said, means saying bye bye to your license. And in here there would ptrobably take my bike too :(


  4. Thanks all, seems I've provided the excuse for some 2-wheeled reminiscences. And rather cool ones too if I may say do.

    It seemed such an apt analogy.

  5. Well, my first (and only) motorized cycle was a Honda Trail 90. Scared the hell out of myself with that thing. Never driven a motorcycle since, although Rebecca keeps threatening to give me a ride on the back of hers.

    Nice analogy and one I have not heard. The last one was comparing going out en femme to landing a jet on an aircraft carrier.

    Calie xxx

  6. Try it, you might like it :)

    It just seemed such a similar experience. I'll never forget either. Which begs the question, would I also never forget my first time riding a motorcycle wearing a frock? Perhaps that's an experiment best left untested :)