Moments That Mark Your Biking History

Moments That Mark Your Biking History

The best thing it’s possible to buy is a motorcycle.

Since that first iconic moment 15 years ago, where I took my CBT test and bought a scrappy little Yamaha TZR125, there have been a few moments that have been milestones in my biking history, for whatever reasons.

On the fourth day of riding, I was following a mate towards an island, and went in a little too hot.

I don’t know if I locked the rear, or it hit something slippery, but either way it ended up highsiding me big-time as I tried to get slowed down on the curve entering the roundabout.

I still remember quite vividly flying through the air several feet up, and looking at the shocked faces of two Police Officers who were driving towards me around the island.

Considering this was my first ever crash, I did well to be thinking about trying my best not to roll as I hit the floor (grass, luckily) so it didn’t snap my back or pull my limbs off, but the bigger thought as I slid along on my back was that I had to get up and back to my bike before the Police closed the road off.

I hurt my shoulder a bit, but was fine to ride the bike away from the scene.  I actually dropped that bike a few times, and always rode it away.

I put many miles on the bike after that, and loved every one.

A few months later I was filtering (badly) through some very heavy traffic in Worcester.  Two ZX7R’s came past me with ease, and I tagged onto the back of them.  It taught me so much watching them – I don’t think they put their feet down once as they carved through the gridlocked roads.  I don’t think I’d enjoyed filtering until then, but that all changed when I saw the skill needed to do it this well.

Having got a bit more experience, of course it was time to learn how to get my knee down.  I raced around as fast as I could, hanging off the bike like a drunk monkey as I did my best to get my sliders to touch down, to no avail…

A big bike came past me on a local road one day, and even though he wasn’t even exceeding the speed limit, he was sweeping the road on every corner with his knee.  I couldn’t believe how that was even possible?!

I upgraded to a Kawasaki ZXR400, which is just an awesome bike for learning to ride fast on.  The front end was like it was on rails and inspired masses of confidence.  Despite this, I still couldn’t quite get my knee down.

Alongside the ZXR, I bought an old 1988 Honda VFR750 FG for courier work.  At first I was terrified to lean it over in case the centre stand bottomed out.  So different to the ZXR it felt like trying to ride a big old skyscraper!

I soon settled in with that bike, and one day I was having a spirited ride around The Cloverleaf, and it was just starting to rain.  I leant it over and hung off and *SCRRRTCH!*!

I nearly jumped off the damned bike until I realised this was my kneeslider touching down!  Even today it amazes me how loud it is when you scrape your knee!

Jumping back on the ZXR after this, I’d crossed a barrier, and could get my knee down on any corner, at any speed.

My mates all got bigger bikes, but the little ZXR had no problems keeping up because of it’s cornering ability.  I still remember my mate trying to get his knee down on a Bandit 1200, and me going around the outside of him about 30mph faster with knee, toes, pegs and damned nearly my elbow touching down!

Life was good – riding was great.

One Sunday morning I left my girlfriend in bed and jumped on the ZXR to grab some food for us.

Before pulling out of my road, I let a Land Rover pass me.  I followed behind, and started to cover my brakes as the Land Rover slowed randomly in the road.

It was about then that something hit my visor, and suddenly I felt a wire across my throat.

Thinking of recent stories of kids tying wires and rope across road to get bikers, I slammed on my brakes, expecting the wire to tighten at any second and take my head off… By some miracle I got the bike stopped before the fallen telephone cable could decapitate me.  That Land Rover driver in front, who had stopped realising I was behind after he hit the wire himself, undoubtedly saved my life.

It was a stark reminder that I wasn’t invincible – and also that however skilled a rider you are, something totally random and beyond your control can take you out in a split second.

It took a while to get over The Fear from that one – I ducked every time I passed that spot for a long time…

Still, my biking continued with a growing love.  I could get my knee down on anything, and as well as being a fast road rider, I was also a safe one.

It was years later that I finally got around to booking my first track day at Donington Park.  I still have no idea why I left it so long, as I have been around racing all my life!

Pulling out of the pits onto that famous tarmac, I rounded the first two bends and nearly shot my beans as I got my first view down the Craner Curves!

So awesome it was almost spiritual!  I had a similar experience around Oulton Park a few weeks later… then a few other tracks as the trackday bug bit me hard!

I have had a couple of crashes during my time, but I’m alive and well.

More alive for riding bikes, I reckon.

And every time I swing my leg over a bike, even today, it still moves my soul.

‘Merkins Vs. Brit Riders

Merkins Vs. Brit Riders

You’d think that riding a motorbike would be a universal skill, with the same style and technique used by riders everywhere in the world.

Looking at the vids on YouTube, and those of friends, I have come to the conclusion that this is certainly not the case.

Now, I could be here all day poking at people, but for the sake of this I’m going to just include sportsbike riders. More specifically, those from the US and those from the UK.

We’ve both got equal representation overall in World class racing, and let’s face it – we ride sportbikes to emulate out on-track heros.

When I got my first Yamaha TZR125 from the off I was concerned how far I could lean the bike over. If you’ve never ridden a bike, then the answer is that you can lean a bike over to an unbelievably stupid angle that your brain simply does not allow you to do without significant practise and experience.

Many bikers, myself included, have crashed where we could have made the corner safely had we just leant it over more instead of panic-braking or going straight on. Even my 1991 TZR would have been awesome in the corners had I had the skill back then to exploit it. I’ve always said that I’d love a go on a 125 again just to see what they’re like in the corners when you can actually RIDE a bike!

Sadly, most of us move on and up the cc’s well before we have any real riding skills…

Even though, I did try to get my knee down on that TZR! A lot. For a year.

Then I tried for another year on a Kawasaki ZXR400 with no success. I actually did it for the first time on a 1988 Honda VFR750 FG streetfighter with raised bars and a 130 section rear tyre! Once I’d done it, I could do it. I still had the ZXR, and once that was back on the road on the very first run I took it on I could scrape my knees on any corner at any speed at will! I still have memories of riding around The Redditch Cloverleaf with my footpegs scraping as well as my knee – when my knee was still tucked into the tank!

Anyway, my point is that doing the two-odd years of my trying to scrape my knee, I read every article and watched every video I could about how to do it, and the biggest factor other than leaning the bike more was Body Positioning.


On a bike your body position is vitally important for it’s stability, and in my opinion it’s the first thing any rider should look to perfect to improve their rising skills as a whole. I’ve followed many mates who should have been able to get their knee down but just couldn’t get down that last inch or two whatever they did. Just like I was on the TZR and ZXR.

Which brings me to the ‘Merkins.

There is an excellent poster on YouTube called rnickeymouse, who films riders on the irrisistable road that is ‘Mulholland Drive’ in California.

Unlike the Brits, the Americans seem able to jump on a brand new sportsbike and lay that sucker over on its side like most Brits never build up the balls to do.

The problem is that their body position is absolutely terrible! This has the unsurprising result that solid bits of bike touch down whilst the rider sits bolt upright, or twisted in the saddle at an obscene angle, and the bike either grounds out or the suspension runs out of, err, suspension and they highside or lowside. Often without even the lightest scrape of a kneeslider.

The idea of getting your knee down… well it’s for fun! But the original function, and as used on a racetrack, is to gauge how much further you can lean the bike over before solid bits of it hit the deck and you crash.

So is it that the Yanks just don’t have that same thirst as us Brits for getting their knees down? Maybe they just have no interest in studying how to ride, and just want to get out there and thrape it?

Or are Brits too scared to lean their bikes – and could our weather and crappy roads be the cause of that?