Our Tameside reporter, and motorcycling enthusiast Bob, gives us an insight into his experiences of motorcycling for those wanting to get on their bikes again or for those first-timers yearning for the wind in their hair.
“When I decided to come back to motorcycling in 2012 my family wasn’t quite on stream with my thinking when they found out, after a gap of 38 years, especially my daughters, who had never seen me ride a motorcycle before (I had borrowed a Yamaha XS 400 from a neighbour who wasn’t using it prior to starting a family).
My early bike history
“While I was still at school my first mode of ‘motorised’ transport was a 1958 Triumph Tiger Cub (200cc) that cost the princely sum of £8 at the age of 16, but it needed some work to make it roadworthy. I loved this bike, probably because it was my first, and when I left school it was my daily ride to work and back at Mather & Platt some three miles from home.
“A few months later I had passed my motorcycling test and was looking to buy something bigger, but before I could my trusty ‘Cub’ was stolen while I was attending night school.
“Next, I bought a replacement from one of my old school teachers who I was still in touch with. This was a bit dearer at £10 and was a Greaves 250 with a Villiers 2T engine (250cc). Again it need work before I could ride it on the road. This bike had quite a unique ignition system having a coil for each of its 2 cylinders, which was mounted just under my right leg and when it rained you can probably guess what happened!
“Soon I had saved up enough for something bigger and bought another Triumph, this time a Tiger 100ss (500cc). This was to be my last bike for a while when I moved on to four wheels and bought my first car for just £10, what a bargain until I discovered it needed much more spending on it to make it road-legal.
“I did a lot of research before deciding which bike best suited my needs of commuting and the occasional ride out. My wife had no inclination in joining me, so I had plenty of choices, and settled on a Kawasaki ER-650f (650cc) in ‘burnt orange’, a striking colour that received praise wherever I was.
“This was a great all-round bike with just one flaw, for me, I was constantly changing gear and having ridden a few higher-powered bikes that overcome this I did consider changing it for something more powerful.
“However, before this happened a friend asked me whether I would take on his bike, a Honda VT600 custom, as he was now too poorly to ride it – how could I refuse – and it meant that he could still come and see it when he visited.
“I now had two bikes that I was riding alternately on a weekly basis, as well as running two cars. After a while, I decided to offload one of the bikes, but my heart told me it couldn’t be my friend’s because I still saw it as his and his face lit up each time he saw it again – the Kawasaki was for the chop!
“Now I ride the Honda when the opportunity arises, which is generally when the weather is fine – I don’t bounce as much these days when I come off.
“So, where am I going with this? Well, have you noticed the increase in mature motorcyclists on our roads over the past twenty years? I have, and whether this is because of necessity, choice, or just a mid-life crisis I’m not sure, but it’s great to see in my opinion.
“Statistics tell us that motorcycling is not the safest form of transport (that accolade is still given to flying), but it offers something that is unique and immensely pleasurable if it suits your needs, and its popularity doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.
“The most recent Department for Transport National Travel Survey on Motorcycle Use was published in 2016 and it makes interesting reading, not just for those who are current bikers, but those who are thinking about taking it up, or coming back to it.
“Motorcycle ownership has been increasing year-on-year having risen from just over 600,000 in 1994 to 1.11 million in 2016 – to a peak of 1.12 million in 2008. Interestingly, the more cars there are in a household the likelihood of a bike in the same household increases from 1.1% to 3%.
“The average amount of motorcycle trips over a 14-year period from 2002 to 2016 has remained constant at an average of around 400 each year; meaning the popularity of motorcycling hasn’t changed and isn’t likely to, with an average of around 4,250 miles per year covered.
“The general assumption from when I started riding is that motorcycling is male-dominated, but this is changing as more women are using this mode of transport.
“According to a 2019 article by Visor Down insurance companies processed more than 23,000 insurance quotes from female bikers between May 1, 2017, and October 31, 2018, and the most popular bike among those aged 55 to 64 was Honda’s CB500X, while Honda’s C90 Super Cub won the hearts of female riders over 65.
“The rise in women on two wheels has been put down to manufacturers making bikes more accessible and the motorcycle industry working hard to meet the demands of women riders. Whatever the reason I welcome it.
“Finally, I don’t bike as much as I used to and whether that’s circumstance or age I don’t know, but what I do know is that when I’m out there on the country lanes of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire, I enjoy every minute of it, and if this has whetted your appetite to consider motorcycling, or just encourages you to get out there on the bike you already own, we may meet up one day.”