Ever since my first two-wheeled assault on the continent I’ve been trying to recapture the kind of wide open magic that only bikers and dogs truly get. Spin back 13 years, zoom in on Provence, and you’ll see a big smile riding a motorcycle. Halcyon days filled with brighter sounds and louder smells than this beginner deserves melt into more years on bigger bikes, always chasing that elusive first-time high. Grinding footpegs on sinuous tarmac or off-roading to remote glens, pitching a tent, and listening to nothing but the evening heat working it’s magic on a fragrant pine forest: bikes never disappoint. France is violated repeatedly between brief affairs with Spain and Italy, but that indelible smile remains, ready to break out whenever it’s most needed, a reliable antidote to all-hands meetings and dreary Tuesdays.
And it’s needed now. Only ridden a dozen times in the past 12 months. Only changed the hoops last week, the same rubber that took me across the LGKS 2 years ago because I couldn’t stand their tired tyre treads mocking me from the garage. Only must have been speaking aloud somewhere along the line, because the one person who’s not wandered off in boredom has actually bought into the dream enough to sign up and come with me. Only she’s my project manager. Ah.
Despite being a long-time bike owner, Boss-girl* is a bit of a novice, all tippy-toes, big eyes and chicken strips. But those peepers glint mental when you tell her she can’t do something, like ride her Fireblade. That particular gauntlet was thrown months ago after the Reading Toy Run, and she’s since picked up a down-to-earth NC750S, lowered the seat, and joined the IAM. Progress has been steady and positive, thanks to patient individuals and a bike that flatters rather than bites, and now she’s ready for the next step.
Me? It’s not what you think. Much as a scandalous foreign fling appeals to my alter-ego, the real me is plum-deep in a relationship with a gal so wonderful she doesn’t mind me sloping off for three weeks with a colleague. For me this is about closing the loop; an experiment to see what first-time magic feels like when someone else is living it, and how much two independent travellers get on each other’s tits in a foreign country. This won’t be Shakespeare.
* Yep, that’s all you’re getting