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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I’m 63 years old and basically just do day rides now - out into the country and back, once a week. Given up commuting to shops, appointments etc. Once I get all my gear on I don’t like to remove it until I get home again. Thought it might be interesting to hear how old others are and what they generally do (if you feel like sharing?)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The other part of this is solo riding versus riding in groups. Try as I may I just can’t seem to do the group thing for very long. I have very specific rituals and routines when I ride and hate feeling rushed to fit in with the others when it’s time to go. I guess the ancient Greeks really were onto it when they carved “Know thyself” over the entry to their temples 😏.
 

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51. Some commuting to work (only a couple of miles). I am a solo rider and enjoy just getting lost on a backroad somewhere. I often do ~200 mile rides and try to get at least one multi day ride in a year.
 

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42 and I just got my license and started riding last year. I keep a set of easier to get on/off and cooler gear set of lighter gear for around my tiny town and my full riding gear both in my garage. I sold my SUV several months ago, although my wife has hers. I do also have a tiny ancient manual 1989 Honda CRX with no AC, but I only use that for when it is raining hard or I need more carrying capacity, so 95% of the time when I am doing anything by myself it is on my Valkyrie.

My longest try so far was last December about a month after I got my Valk and 2 months after I got my license, I rode to OKC which is about 8 hours each way averaging about 95mph. I live 2-3 hours from every major city in South Texas so I make those trips often. This fall I want to try for either the twisted sisters or the dragon, but it depends how my wife is feeling about the ride on her bike.
 

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Some riding history

5 years full time as a f’ln lunatic motorcycle messenger in London in the early 80's.
Had lived in London for about 18 months. Hated the job I was doing and thought I knew every street Ha-bloody Ha-ha.
Got a job at Pony Express cause I was a warm body on a Honda 400 twin – piece of crap. Looked the dogs bollocks in cowboy boots – what a plonker.

Soon moved on to high tech Belstaff waxed cotton jacket and pants. What a load of crap that was. Wore Wellington boots everyday and thick wool socks. No frickin Gortex back then. Feet so hot and sweaty the weave of the sock would get embedded into the sole of your feet. Your feet looked like white playdough at the end of the day. Closest I’ve ever come to getting trench foot. The Belstaff had to be treated nearly every day otherwise it would leak like a sieve at all the creases like your elbows.

Handlebar muffs that pushed back onto the brake and clutch levers at over 40 miles an hour so you had to ride with your left fingers extended straight to stop the clutch slipping. They would fill up with water when parked in the rain. And of course it rained. It was London. Rain, rain, rain. After a few months you became immune to it. Cause then it got cold and it rained. Wore so many layers I could have steamed a piece of fish in my armpit.

Learned how to ignore all rules of the road except for red lights. Never jumped a one.
Learned all the traffic light phasing for central London.
Learned where all the least used payphones were.
Learned to chat up the receptionists so you could use their phone to call in.
Learned where it was quicker to walk 25 yards down an alley than ride half a mile around the block.
Learned how to fix flats in the dark and rain by the gloom of a street light – if you were lucky. The rain puddles came in useful for locating the hole in the tube.
Learned where all the bus stops and turns were so you didn’t get squeezed by them. Learned which way streets were numbered.
Learned how to get around traffic snarl ups due to IRA bomb scares.
Learned that the Guardian newspaper bag was the best at keeping packages dry.

Hated in this order Black cabs, Royal Mail lorries and Volvo drivers. Still hate Volvo drivers.

Rode the wrong way down one-way streets. Rode up flights of steps. Rode, paddled the bike on the sidewalk when the traffic backed up. Could squeeze thru gaps with about an inch each side at 40 miles an hour and then do it again, again, again. Knew the correct speed to get thru the timed lights in Slough without getting caught at a red light.

Carried the master tape for Supertramp – Crime of the Century. Other important bits and bobs for RAK Records plus many other record companies whose names I’ve forgotten. Went into so many business’s and private homes you lot couldn’t imagine. Had a cuppa with Sting in Hampstead in his gaff near the pub on the one-way system. I had no idea who the Gordon Sumner was the delivery was addressed to.

Got stopped by the Special Branch (police) who couldn’t wait any longer to take a look inside the metal briefcase I had strapped to my bike. I’d had it there for a bout 2 hours as I skipped from delivery to pick up across London. It had about $80,000 of cocaine in it. They’d been watching and sweating that no one would steal it. Wanted me to wait for them to bring their own fake courier bike to deliver it. I’d been paid as a cash job so I didn’t care what happened to it. Figured that the customer wouldn’t be using us again so I buggered off.

Had to pick up dry cleaning, McDonald's, deliver presents to wives and girlfriends. – don’t mix those up – the girlfriends presents were always wrapped better. Paid parking fines. Delivered coffee.

IBM used Pony Express for a multi drop job once a week. This was something like 25 or 30 pick ups and drop offs starting in West London at 4 in the morning and ending up in Essex. Quicker you did it the sooner you got on with the rest of the day. That was a hoot absolutely flying across London with minimum traffic until the worker bees started emerging at around 7am. One time in winter I walked into the last drop and jumped up and down on the entry mat. The front of me fell off. I was cased in frozen slush from neck to crotch and knees to ankles.

Move onto Delta Dispatch cause Pony Express got bought out and sucked. Did buy a green / white leather jacket subsidized by Pony Express that had the horse rider Pony Express logo on the back. Fitted some arrow shafts to the back and staggered into Wells Fargo bank yelling Indians, Indians. Security guards didn’t think it was funny.

Delta Dispatch had better radios so not as much standing around phone boxes but you could tell when the money jobs were being handed out cause a rider would be told to call in. After a couple of months I was one of them cause I was a regular long hour suck up the crap jobs brown noser. I discovered Helly Hansen yachting gear which was 100% waterproof on the outside. This rubberized pull over top was like wearing a tropical rain forest next to your skin BUT it kept out the wet and the wind.

Pulled up next to a grey Ford XR3i turning off Picadilly.The attractive young blonde woman driving saw me leching at her and put her finger to her mouth in a Ssssh manner. Realized it was the young Diana. Nodded my head and looked away. A couple of weeks later the engagement was announced. After that I started carrying a cheap camera with me and earned extra money as a snapper. Took photos of all the “faces” I saw on the streets. Police action etc. The Daily Mail and Express bought my photos. I didn’t ask for a credit – plonker - but the money was welcome. I would dash into the paper and drop off the roll of film and let them decide if they wanted it. Started to carry a pager so they could text me yes / no and the money. If they didn’t want it I’d pick up the negatives and drop them at another paper. Could have made more money but enjoyed riding my bike – masochist. Part of it was just for the adrenaline zipping across London when the dispatcher thought I was in place A and I was in place B and having to get to place C for the next pick up.

Carried a check for 300 million pounds from Esso (now Exxon) to the taxman.
Carried original blueprints for oil refineries. 6 foot tube - that was fun bungee strapped across my back.

Watching a messenger get wrapped around the rear axle of a 18 wheeler who got pissed off at him. Didn’t die – lost both legs. Driver jailed for 20 years cause of my testimony. Yeah I embellished the truth a little to make sure the jury got pissed at him.

Had a good young friend Guy get killed by another wanker. Elton John wrote a song for him.

Riding down Hanger Lane on a CB200 splitting lanes between a van and flat bed 18 wheeler. Van moves over and I end up with my right handlebar and mirror under the flat bed with about to squash me fucking dead wheels in front and behind me. That taught me a lesson.

Smelling burnt wiring on my bike, panicking and then remembering I was going past the coffee factory near Hanger Lane. Did this so many times I felt a right twat.

Racing Keith on his GS1000 from a red light on the Edgeware Rd at 3 in the morning. I’m on a CX; he leaves me standing. A dark blue Triumph 2.5 PI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_2500) whips by with police alarm clanging. Down the road Keith is stopped with police car. I mosey on by looking the other way and circle back to find both him and car gone. Get back to Clapham to find Keith already at the apartment 3 of us shared. It was a Special Branch car and they wanted to make sure he hadn’t stolen the bike. The only rider I know who got pulled doing 120 in a 30 and rode away scot-free.

Going to work early so I could go around and around Marble Arch hanging off a GPZ550 scraping the pegs.

Being seduced by Middle Eastern brown eyes behind a yashmak in a Roller when the oil money came to town in a BIG way.

Getting knocked off by a Nigerian Embassy car – they paid me off cause I had a small hole in my skin on my knee.

Racing down Park Lane with other messengers. Absolutely nuts.

Never got busted by the police – how this happened still amazes me.

Averaged about 200 miles a day every day for 5 years. Thatsa lotta kerb side oil changes, chain lubes and chain adjustments. Bikes were on the whole pretty reliable although the sub frame on the GPZ550 did break. Didn’t notice for a couple of days until I noticed how low the bike was sitting. Stripped it down, got it welded, reassembled and ran it into the ground.

Spraying the inside of your face shield with anti fog every night knowing it would last about 30 minutes in the next days rain.

Drinking too many pints in various pubs after work and then zooming home and up early to do it all over again.

Knowing where every pothole and manhole cover was in central London.

Knowing when the Changing of the Guard took place so as to keep away from the tourist hordes. When is Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, London

Putting pennies on top of the front fork springs on a CX500 (English pennies were bloody big) to help stiffen the front up.

Seeing the Queen Mother cruise down Bond St. in her Roller whilst shoe shop salespeople brought boxes of shoes for her to look over. The bodyguards popping in and out of her limo like ferrets in a rabbit warren.

Having a bank account in Mayfair – hey it was convenient – and getting a kick out of depositing my pay check every week noticing the other clients looking a bit miffed that a messenger was rubbing shoulders with them.

Using a Yamaha 90cc step through moped whilst the CX was off the road waiting for parts. Popping little wheelies on the Yamaha at Oxford Circus. The dispatchers took pity on me and kept me in town or they gave me a series of pickups and drops spanning the whole of central London.

Riding through Spitalfields Meat Market and getting cursed at by the butchers and their boys as I weaved past blood stained white coats carrying slabs of near quivering meat.

Getting annoyed with myself when I had to use an A-Z Streetfinder to look an address up.

Getting really annoyed at wannabe Black Cab drivers wobbling around the streets on their mopeds learning “The Knowledge”. The plonkers would simply stop in the middle of the road looking for street addresses. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_the_United_Kingdom

Some messenger friends left Delta to start their own company. Holborn Globetrotters (amazing the names you can think of after a spliff or two). The company is still going strong 25 years later Holborn Globetrotters, London (Mount Pleasant) although Ken left to live the hippy, organic life in Wales or SW England somewhere. As far as I know Keith (he of the Special Branch stop mentioned earlier) is still running the company.

Located a few blocks east of the British Museum this more central location was great for jobs so I bailed from Delta and worked for them. No radios which was a bummer, but no weekly fees which was good. By now all the receptionists in London knew messengers wanted to use a phone so no radio wasn’t too much of a pain for the riders. It did mean the little Hitlers aka dispatchers really had to ramp up their game to make sure all jobs were picked up quickly. A BIG plus was that a higher percentage of the jobs were cash – luverly jubbly – shaking out yer pockets at the end of the day and adding to the jar on the chest of drawers. Very fiscally responsible and all declared to Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Ha ha.

What a bunch or rascals and vagabonds we were. A very tightly knit group who really looked after each other. Bikes were fixed, lent, stolen from each other, sold, resold so that everyone could keep ripping up the streets of London. Fuck Baker Street and Gerry Rafferty – nothing to do with the thread just hated that song. Baker Street was a real pain to use.

The police used BMW’s and they could really cut through traffic. Seemed to be used for escorting The Royal Family and visiting heads of state. The lead rider would have a whistle to get road users attention and if you heard the whistle you’d better move cause they would steam roller you out of the way. One day one of the local street characters, a little old guy nicknamed Titch, was doing his usual traffic-directing act from a traffic island in the middle of Clerkenwell Rd when a bike cop pulled up next to him. This cop was a large beefy, red faced, red haired S.O.B who I’d seen around town quite a bit looking officious. Well he pulls up next to Twitch and his best cop voice ask “What the hell are you doing” because of course only cops can direct traffic. Titch in his best Titch voice calmly replied, “Why don’t you fuck off” and gave him the English bird. Well the cop went bright red as all the onlookers laughed. Sensibly he decided to go fight another battle and gathering all his dignity rode away with that straight backed posture that only Beemer riders seem to have.

Didn’t think anything of finishing work on a Friday night and riding a couple of hundred miles to visit friends outside of London. The riding became such a part of a messengers life it just seemed natural.

One day I’m in bum fuck can’t remember where in the countryside on a roller coaster 2 lane road. It’s 4.30 in the morning and I’m heading away from London on THE cash job of the day. Summer time, not raining, and the sun is peeking. I see a single headlight in my mirror and figure it’s a guy on the way to work so I keep ripping up the road. The bike behind zips by me and the rider gives me a thumbs up. It’s a cop on a cop bike and if I’m doing 20 over he’s got to be doing 50 over. So I tuck in behind him and get escorted for about the next 25 miles. We zip by other vehicles like jet fighters.

Slowly an undeclared war developed between messengers and other road users as traffic became more congested. Leann had a swift answer to road rage. She had a 1lb lump hammer secured in a clip on her gas tank. If someone pissed her off she’d pull up next to them at a stoplight. As the light went green she’d smash their wing mirror and zoom away.

I never resorted to those tactics I’d just move the mirror so they couldn’t see out of it.

Lots of messenger companies sprang up with riders thinking they were going to get off the road and earn big money. They’d hire anyone on 2 wheels and most couldn’t ride a bike let alone cope with the demands of city traffic. I soon got to recognize the sound of a bike wrecking. There’s something unmistakable about metal and plastic hitting blacktop. I’d say that 95% of the time it was rider error. They’d see a gap and try to squeeze through or they’d hit blind pedestrians. Too much pressure from the dispatchers and not enough common sense.

Note my riding had got more sensible or I’d just got much better. I swear there were days when I could feel the vehicles around me and see pathways through the traffic before the gaps opened. It was a very meditative state of mind. Hard to explain without sounding like a complete nut job. I don’t remember being on the brakes , on the gas, on the brakes, on the gas. Speed wasn’t always your best friend it was being able to read the traffic flow and use the road accordingly. BUT you know there were days when I’d be completely fucked without a drop of adrenaline left in me and those days were good. It just felt much safer to be weaving through the traffic rather than being stuck in a hole with no way out.

Most of the time as a messenger was pretty boring but looking back it was some of the best working years of my life to date.

The people I rode with were in the main outstanding riders, not at the same level as track riders but as street riders. A completely different breed.

I worked from 1983 to 1988 and quit at the age of 35 when I had to be dragged off a Black Cab driver in the Wandsworth one-way system. The bastard had tried to push me into the fence at the edge of the sidewalk and I snapped. Too many close calls with people trying to kill me. Yep I honestly believe most of the Black Cab drivers would try to clip you cause we had taken a lot of work from them. So I got a real job and moved to the countryside. Gave the bike I’d been using, a CB200, to a friend who wanted a small bike to restore.

Didn’t ride again until 2002 when I bought a Valkyrie. Sold that and got a ST1300 in 2006 with 10,000 miles. Have ridden over 250,000 miles in the past 20 years.

2005 KLR purchased in September of 2010 (12,541 miles). Rode for 13,000 miles. Sold February 2012.

1998 Valkyrie bought September 2016 with 38,000 miles on the clock.

Sold the Valkyrie in March of 2021 with 85,000 miles ridden.

ST1300 burnt my house down at 135,000 miles. Grrrr

December 2020 I bought a 2014 1800cc Valkyrie with 12,500 miles. Now with nearly 32,000 miles in October, 2021
 
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