Monday, 5 September 2016

Classic Cycle Slut

I’ve got a problem - I need some help. How does a dozy blonde get to be a cycle slut? One who can tell the difference between a plug and a valve and doesn’t make the awful gaffe of referring to a part of an Ariel exhaust as that bit at the back that looks like the Hoover attachment for doing the curtains.

Up till now my only experience of motorbikes (motorcycles, my dear, if you are a British classic enthusiast) was a ride from Southend to Newcastle on the back of a 650 Norton when l was an art student. All I remembered was being terrified (and rigid) all the way up the A127 and finally realising (whilst circumventing the North Circular) that if I didn‘t get the hang of it (and relax) I was going to have a hell of a journey. It wasn’t so bad, the worst that happened was that the rocker box leaked oil over my impressive but highly unsuitable shoes.

Time’s arrow moves on, suddenly I’m immersed in conversations down the pub that I don’t understand. I don’t know why a problem with the mag means more than not being able to get a copy of the UMG, or why a flat tanker is flat, or why a square four isn’t something you do in country dancing. The problem is not motivation, faced with incomprehensibility on the one hand and an extremely desirable (albeit oily) man on the other, one's natural inclination is to find out all one can.

But the immensity of the commitment to the motorcycle is not immediately obvious to a naive woman getting involved for the first time with a man who owns bikes. One of his friends took me to one side and in a confidential sort of a voice said, "What you have to realise is that he loves bikes," and then, as if by this simple sentence he had imparted the Holy Grail, went off to play with his new bike (1925 New Hudson), leaving me bewildered with no understanding at all.


Even the first casual mention of 'the Beam’ does nothing to alert one to the fascination and devotion these machines command. (Beam? Sunbeam, my dear.) And it soon becomes obvious that this total absorption isn’t limited to one bike alone. There is an entire harem of great loves - well four at the moment - each with her own special attractions and seductions (her cc, her good looks, her name and even her propensity for leaking petrol all over him).

Infatuation is a strange thing, it confounds ones rational thoughts, it seems at some point (although I can’t remember when) I said, "Oh great, I wouldn’t mind having a go on one of those." A man, no matter how lovely, finds the opportunity to impress irresistible and such open vulnerability too compelling to ignore.

So you see how it is then? I’ve become, or am in the process of becoming, a classic cycle slut. But how to do it? I’ll ask, I thought, that’s what I’ll do. So, at an apposite moment down the pub I said, "Exactly what does one need to be a cycle slut?" The requirements were as follows: a bum pad (the language of these men is quite refined), a big bottom (general consensus was that mine was eminently suitable), some very tight jeans (to show off the aforementioned), blond hair (no problem), enough nerve (are they brave or stupid?) to lean this way then that for at least 60 miles in all weathers, never to interrupt when the conversation turns to motorcycles (easier for me to take a vow of silence and holy orders) and if possible to get the drinks in; thus prolonging their opportunities to talk about motor bikes, the weather, the carb, the plugs, the Castrol R, the feel, sound, smell, delight of the bike, the bikes, the weather, the carb, the plugs...

To start with, my grasp of all this was tenuous to say the least, but I’m weakening. I can hear the difference between Jap crap and a half way decent Brit (one sounds like an hysterical bee having its larynx forcibly removed without anaesthetic and the other sounds like an excited goat that has eaten a bloody good curry the night before). I’ve started bike spotting - three AJS’s in Milford Haven, a Goldstar in the garage of a friend’s neighbour, a BSA Bantam at the end of my road (rebuilt last year). I’ve even started talking to them. More or less they seem a friendly bunch, but surprised and suspicious that this woman should come up and ask them to tell her about their bike. A bloke on an Ariel said there was no way he was going to let me touch his knob until he knew me better - wooden, for changing gear with, dear. Delicate lot these chaps; they insist on proper courtships. So, I’m learning, but it’s slow.

"Well," he said, after he’d taken the mag off the bike, "what have you learnt today about motorcycles?" "It seems to be a good idea," I said, "to put an old cloth underneath. Like sex, it seems to leak a lot." And there is definitely a relationship here. They talk a lot about bikes and if any other topic should arise it’s usually woman. Sometimes the two seem interchangeable

I suspect that the bikes become their alter egos and perhaps were powerless at home with Annette, Hazel and Lucy. Out on the road they win and she (the bike this time) shakes her head at high speed, but does what she’s told. Like women, love ’em or hate ’em, they can’t leave them alone.

At the Banbury Run, I found this affair running in the heart of a great number of blokes, not just the few I’ve recently encountered. These others display the same half crazed delight at just being near motorcycles. I watched one man catch sight of an old Rudge, walk rapidly towards it, and, with a visible shock of recognition, his whole face creased into a beam of delight and pleasure. For five minutes he walked round it smiling and nodding like a man who had come through a particularly difficult and dangerous bit of jungle to find the natives friendly.

Last week we went down to Somerset to collect a bike his brother had bought. It looks appalling but start it up and you’ve got a very serious bad boys bike. It is just wicked, like a bitch in heat it’s not for mucking about with. While we were there I capitulated and bought my own lid (despite all the warnings in the UMG about going bald) and now we’ve got to talk of the Birmingham Run, talk of me learning to ride the James and me passing tests.

I can see how it will be, up till now my ignorance has been tolerated (at least she gets the beer in), but after the first decent run I will have been initiated and will be expected to participate knowledgeably in the technical chatter down the pub.

You chaps talk in a language I’m only just learning. You understand how the machines work, the difference between side and overhead valves - I don’t even know what a valve does - so, any idea how I might survive? Or shall I just go on singing softly to myself in a corner of the pub, "Sunbeam, a sunbeam, Jesus wants me for a sunbeam...?"

Wendy Oldfield-Austin

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.