A year ago I had a moment of biking epiphany. All my life I’d loved Harleys, Brits, Cafe Racers, etc. Basically pretty engines in stylish bikes. That also sound awesome. While at the same time I poured scorn and contempt on plastic-fantastic, pocket-rocket, ugly, race bikes. Then, in my moment of clarity, I realised that was a superficial and nostalgic view of biking. Air-cooled, naked (no fairings) bikes look gorgeous, sound nice, but just don’t bikey things. The true essence of bikes, the aspiration of the 50’s/ 60’s Cafe Racer is speed and handling. It’s realised in race bikes. I’ve become my own antithesis.
I’ve just bought the most bikey of bikes. The legendary Honda FireBlade. (“The Bike That Changed How Bikes Were Built”.)
The best (older) model. Obviously the tech gets better, the performance gets more extreme, but this is the desirable model of the not-the-latest (£19,000) bike.
I bought the scruffy Honda VFR750 (“The Best Bike Ever Built.” Thinking about it, only Honda get these tags, the other one that springs to mind is the 1970’s CB750 “The Worlds First Superbike”. Kawasaki don’t get “Ugliest Green Bike Ever”, though I’m willing to start using it.) as it was the benchmark for reliability, but still nippy and handled well. I was so impressed I rushed out and got a pristine VFR800fi. I just never took to it. Loads of power, comfortable, the pinnacle of Honda reliability, but chunky. I never felt comfortable throwing it in to a corner.
Suddenly, last week, I had a whim to trade it for a FireBlade. Then I did the obsessive internet research thing and found the model I wanted, only made for 2 years and prized, so dealers were charging the Earth. Instead I sold my VFR800fi and bought one private.
By some miracle the sale went smoothly and I got the bike I was after. A more of less bog standard, 2003 954cc FireBlade, only 13,000 miles.
Look at the condition of it!
The ‘more or less’ is that white panel on the nose. Don’t like it, but it’s not a deal breaker.
I was scared picking it up, after the last sportsbike I had (the Suzuki TL1000S) that was instant, all-or-nothing, unmanageable power. Plus this one had a brand new, back tyre (they say to be very careful of new tyres for the first 100 miles or they can slide out). And picking it up from South Wales (no bikes are ever local, it’s the law) it obviously rained.
But it’s a Honda. Smooth, easy to ride,docile. And then you turn the throttle. Wow. I’ve never ridden anything like it. 60+ mph first gear, then there are 5 more. What the hell, Mr Honda?
The “Changed The Way Bikes Were Built” thing is the lightness. Until then it was just bigger, more brutish bikes. The FireBlade wasn’t as outright powerful as some but it was so light the power to weight ratio and it’s pure handling blew everything else out of the water. Maintaining the lightness ethos, Honda expanded the ‘Blade range to smaller models. When the 2002/3 954cc came it is was lighter than Honda’s ‘Blade 600cc!
It is stunning to ride.
I picked it up on Friday, then it was last minute preparation for my Outlaw triathlon.
On Saturday I had to pack Wendy’s car full of my bike and kit, drive over to Nottingham, register, drop everything off, attend the pre-race briefing, then drive back. That took my until about 20.00hrs, then I had to be up for 02.10hrs to drive back.
Obviously the weather gods were just waiting to mock me. We’ve had an unbearable, unrelenting heatwave for months, the verges are brown and half dead. I went to pick up my bike and it rained. Of course it did. Then for the Outlaw they were predicting lashing down rain and wind, gusting to 60mph. Naturally.
I don’t know if it was 60mph, but it was hellish strong for a 112 mile bike ride.
This is the afternoon before, note the windsock.
I set of a 03.00hrs, got out on to the M62 and they had closed the M6. Joy. I had to take the long way around, East on the M62, then South on the M1.
I’m ashamed to say I was half hoping I was going to be too late. Then I could have honourably not done it. The conditions were so bad. Nope.
The swim was OK, the ride was hellish. The wind made it a nightmare. (The word I overheard a few times was “brutal”,) The rain wasn’t great but it didn’t slow me down. The wind just wore me out. And the strain of pushing so hard against it knackered my knees. I was in so much pain by the end of the ride I was glad to get out running. It hurt, but so much less. I managed a really good (considering) 4.18 marathon and ran the whole way. Lots of them were doing swim/bike/walk.
Surprisingly I got a Personal Best! My first (2011)Outlaw I got 13.32:03, the second (2013) was a slack one, (and 30C) so 14.09:52, yesterday I got 13.17:39! Go me!
The breakdown says I was 6 minutes longer on the bike than 2013, the same on the swim, 10 minutes quicker on the run. At first I was disappointed to see I’d made the most time up in transitions (19 minutes total) but on reflection that was because I was fit enough this time to jump straight to the next discipline. I wasn’t shell shocked and stumbling around. The coolness helped, but the wind massively hindered.
This is the happiest I could look afterwards.
I forgot to say, finally given up on the denial and had my hair buzzed back to army chic. *sigh*
I lost 2½ lbs yesterday. And one day I’m expecting to be able to walk again. So it’s all win.
Also our very late tomatoes have finally ripened. Hell of a week!