Born-again bikers

Born Again Bikers

About 15 years ago the police identified an increasing risk on the roads from affluent middle-aged men attempting to recapture their lost youth by riding powerful motorbikes. I was one of these 40 year old bikers, although I’d strongly dispute being affluent!

The traffic police nicknamed us returning bikers as “Bambis” – born-again middle-aged bikers and this inspired ACPO to launch a campaign to encourage bike dealers to ensure that their middle-aged customers got the training they needed to meet the challenge that newer bikes posed.

The police said at the time (correctly in my opinion), “Many of them used to ride bikes years ago but they don’t seem to realise that bikes have advanced so much over the past 20/30 years, that today’s machines bear little resemblance to what they were used to back in the 70/80s. They return to biking with a little more money in their pockets and buy bikes that are actually akin to those ridden in Moto GP. They then simply go too fast, lose control and hit something.”

I remember all too well about 12 years ago, deciding one sunny weekend to test ride a Suzuki 600. I drove to the bike dealer in Bristol armed only with an old helmet and gloves and without any other form of protection (no leathers, boots, armour etc), took the beast out onto the open road. All the dealer wanted to see was a current driving licence – no mention of any refresher training before allowing me out on this small missile!

Twisting open the throttle on the M32, revealed that this little sports bike had more grunt than my 1000 cc superbike back in the early 80s! It was unbelievable, here was a machine the size of an old 250, but with the performance exceeding anything Barry Sheene had ridden on the race track!

The police were right, many of us gave up biking when we could afford a car and having driven comfortably for years in this mode of transport, were unprepared for riding a powerful motorbike in today’s busy road conditions. Anyone else noticed that we’re telling our kids that roads were not as busy as they are back in the 80s?! My dad used to say the same about the 60s…..

Insurers also identified the group and believe that many older bikers are returning after raising families. The trend only becoming apparent over the last few years with the statistics having influenced increases in premiums. After all you don’t get up and walk away from a 70mph accident on two wheels too often.

The trend towards us Bambis riding bikes in rural areas was first spotted by a Chief Inspector in North Yorkshire. There, 90 per cent of fatal motorcycle accidents involved bikers aged over 30 riding high-performance bikes, and he noticed that deaths of older riders were increasing at a rapid rate.

The trend has unfortunately continued to this day and while training may well improve statistics, which as far as I’m aware dealerships are still not offering any refresher training, the bottom line is that the bikes are simply far too quick for the average rider (me included). Many cannot possibly hope to be able to handle them on British roads without occasionally having a near miss.

This brings me on nicely to the idea behind starting this blog. Track days! Here you can ride your machine in relative safety and god forbid you fall off, there are no brick walls to crash into. Furthermore there is no oncoming traffic and you can use all the tarmac to approach every sweeping bend to your heart’s content!

In the UK we are very lucky to have some great bike circuits to experience and there are more abroad to tempt you too. The atmosphere at track days is great, lots of like minded people from all walks of life to meet – all there to enjoy themselves and look after each other in true biking tradition.

While out on circuit enjoying yourself you will find that a “big grin factor” is one of the many benefits from track day riding. You will get to know your bike better (in a safe environment), its handling characteristics, the levels of performance it can give you from the brakes suspension as well as the engine – which is getting more and more difficult to do safely on the road.

Your own riding skills will vastly improve in many areas – all of which translate to your road riding, making you safer when things get tricky as well as making you smoother on your blast round the countryside.

There is one fly in the ointment however. Thanks to bureaucratic nonsense with local authorities, many of today’s machines can’t pass the noise level test for riding at a race track! Yep, too noisy for a race track but perfectly OK to scream around the British countryside! Your really couldn’t make it up…………Here’s a list of some bikes that can’t attend at my local Castle Combe circuit: Ducati 748/749/916/996/998/999 fitted with Termignoni open pipes, Ducati 1098R Ducati 1198 Ducati Multistrada (2011) Ducati Panigale Honda CBR1000RR – 2008 model and 2010 models Kawasaki ZX10 – 2009 and 2010 model KTM RC8 Suzuki GSXR600 K6 Suzuki GSXR600 K7 Suzuki GSXR 750 K6 Suzuki GSXR 750 K7 Suzuki GSXR1000 K6 – 2006 model with standard exhaust Suzuki GSXR1000 K7 Suzuki GSXR1000 K8 Triumph 675 – 2009 model (short type side can) Yamaha R6 – 2006 model Yamaha R6 – 2008 model (short type side can) Yamaha R6 – 2009 model (short type side can) Yamaha R1 – 2008 and 2009 model

If money was no object, I would love to be able to have a track day bike and only ride every other weekend during the summer months. Yes still have a bike for the odd day trip out, but have a machine that doesn’t hit 100 mph in first gear and then require a neck brace after having a Sunday blast! I know I know there are those who are going to say you don’t have to ride that fast and that you should be able to control the throttle. Thing is how many of you could drive a Ferrari or Lambo at the weekend and not floor it occasionally?!!

What I’m trying to say is that for those of us that love going fast on bikes, track days really are in my opinion the safest way forward for enjoying that wonderful piece of engineering, assuming of course your bike will pass the noise level limit!

I will endeavour to keep this blog up to date and hit as many related bike subjects as possible, including bike trips abroad, restoring classics and so on.

Ride safe!

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