NOT TOO LATE, BUT A TOUCH LAST MINUTE!

It all started in the Italian Dolomites, 2003 . My wife, Margaret, and I were on a car touring holiday and shared a hotel with many motorcyclists, from various countries and they were mainly middle aged to elderly men and women. On one particular day, we were walking on the hills and watching a succession of bikers snaking their way up the various hairpin bends to the summit of the pass. “Now that is something I would really love to do”, I idly said. “Only a couple of problems” my wife said, “no licence and no bike!” adding the final coup de gras! Being bullheaded, I replied, “well that can be put right”.

Fast forward to June 2015, now aged 66 and my idle boast was still unfulfilled, so it was perhaps a case of now or never, when I telephoned Steve at Raceways Motorcycle Training in Fleetwood, and embarked upon my quest to obtain a full licence. As I approached the final section of the instruction and DVLA testing, I decided to buy myself a bike in preparation for the big day, and so I took delivery of an immaculate low mileage 2005 BMW R1200RT (known as Big Bertie). On 9th September I passed my Part 2 and having taxed and insured the bike I was ready to go. I can remember to this day my silent thoughts as I rode Bertie down the drive for the first time; “Ye Gods, this is big!”

One of my very first trips was to Ribblehead, where a complete stranger came from nowhere and introduced himself as Dave Little (SLAM). “Have you done the Advanced course?” He asked. Well, I had to laugh as the ink was hardly dry on my new licence! I told him that it was my intention to do so in due course.

During the winter of 2015 and 2016, I rode out on dry, frost free days and slowly gained experience in preparation for my planned “Big Trip”. In early June, I set off for a solo trip around Europe including Holland, Germany, Austria and Italy, even managing to have a few days holiday with my wife who had flown out to Italy to join me, having previously declared that she would never ride on the back of a motorbike. Somewhat like a pilgrimage, my route included riding those wonderful roads in the Dolomites.

vfr1200

 On my return, I decided that I had enjoyed riding so much that I decided to splash out and I purchased a most appropriate personalised number plate, which just happened to have a much newer 1200RT attached to it, so along came “Bertie 2”. I embarked upon the SLAM Advanced Course, and was most fortunate to have Phil McEntee as my observer/mentor, and was delighted and honoured to pass the Advanced test at the beginning of November 2016. Without wanting to sound utterly sycophantic, I have to say that I found the course and the whole SLAM experience to be excellent in all respects.

By this time, Margaret (aged 21x3 and plus some), had decided that if I was enjoying my motorcycling so much, then perhaps she should give it a go, and I must say that she has taken to it like a duck to water and is a superb pillion rider, so together we began to plan another “Big Trip”. As I write this article, we have just returned from a solo five and a half week tour of the French and Spanish Pyrenees (See photo on Col de Tourmalet), followed by a tour of the Dordogne, the Atlantic coast and finally a tour of Brittany.

We are already thinking about 2018 and a trip to Portugal and Spain is looking the favourite. I can say that I have done many things in life, but my experiences on the bike rates amongst the very best, and I would encourage anyone who is wondering whether or not to learn to ride in their mature years or to undertake an IAM course, to stop wondering and just get on with it!

Not much point in sitting in a nursing home and wishing you had done it!

John Spencer

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