When I returned to two wheels a couple of years ago, I was inspired by Dakar racers and various intrepid global trotters. Actually, that’s not quite true. I would have been happy just to watch the odd DVD of these adventurers pouring swamp water out of their exhausts. Climbing off my sofa and back into a saddle might never have happened had not the force of nature known as my wife suddenly realised that she wanted to seek the wide open spaces of Scotland with a wide open throttle.
Truth is, I’ve become just a bit timid – but I was much more scared of looking like a wuss than of conquering the Hindu Kush. To be clear, I haven’t actually ridden farther than Ireland, yet, but I kept seeing maps of Patagonia strewn about the house and that masked man from Amazon brings us tentpoles and tyre levers pretty regularly, so I thought I’d better man up.
After a second or two of gawping at some scenic vista, I get bored, but the upside of all this planned adventuring was that I could have a two-wheeled toy. My first mistake was assuming that anything smaller than 350cc would make me look ridiculously ‘plus-sized’. They seem not to make bikes for enormous people with short legs. Maybe a sidecar would have been more sensible? Maybe a trike. Maybe a Shetland pony.
That alluring woman I met at the Ducati stand made an unarguably rational business case – to a man with a medium-sized mid-life crisis. But I really didn’t want more than one ‘riding mode’, massage seat or electrically-adjusting headlight geometry. Attaching the panniers is a major technical hurdle for me, so diagnosing electronic modules by the light of a yak-butter candle in some distant yurt did not appeal. My thinking was also influenced by having been spat out of the world of work (for not paying attention in class) and thus being skint.
I wanted something a bit Mad Max and cheap, so I naturally went for the biggest used machine on Autotrader, without riding it first. A KTM 950 Adventure S is the Clydesdale of bikes. I needed a small stepladder to get aboard this Teutonic beast, but had to settle for clambering up the crash bars. It turned out that getting off was a lot simpler and, after a couple of low speed dismounts, sold it to a chap with a 50 inch inside leg (actually two of them – at least he had two when we parted).
I’ve since gravitated towards a venerable R1100GS, not quite as old as me and in a shade of paint best described as Boys’ Toilets. This has granted me membership of an exclusive club with certain privileges such as wearing a beard and braces, being overtaken by Nissan Micras and never having to lean. Think Slightly-Disturbed Max™. It can’t be healthy either that I’ve started humming Ride of the Valkyries.