Craig Gibbons' Lifeblog lifeblog://tri.eat.net

21Dec/050

Biking through the years

Over the years, I’ve had many bikes. When I was nine years old, my father bought me an 80cc Kawasaki motocross bike, ostensibly so my cousin and I could get into motocross together. In reality, he probably wanted the toys just as much as I did... but who can blame him really, those bikes were awesome, even back then. Despite a very shaky beginning and several subsequent visits to the hospital, most notably for a broken shoulder blade, I was hooked on 2-wheels from the very start.

Growing up, I was forbidden from getting a 50cc upon turning 16, a decision I absolutely loathed at the time and my father for making it, but it didn't take long for my friends with the very same bikes I wanted to find themselves in hospital also, some of them still scarred today by violent impact with cars and the road surface, at least falling off a motocross bike onto dirt meant a solid bruising, but hardly ever much more than that.

Much later on, in year 2000, I was living in London and quickly realised I'd rather be riding a scooter in the freezing cold of winter than riding cattle class on the tube or crammed in with the freaks on a red bus. I took the plunge and bought my first bike since those early days, an Aprilia Habana 125cc scooter, which served me well until I sold it some 10 months later and returned to South Africa.

Having started my biking career off-road, I was always biased towards that kind of bike and it didn't take long before I decided upon a shiny new BMW F650GS Dakar, a bike I was at once afraid and in awe of. I was barely able to reach the ground with flat shoes and managed to drop it on more than one occasion. My mother once had to help me pick it up, a moment of embarrassment I'll not soon forget.

The guy at the BMW dealership promised me at the time I bought that bike I'd be back soon enough. I figured an extra 525cc's over my last bike was a big enough jump and went with the Dakar anyways. Turned out the dealer was right, 6 months later, bored stiff and tired of experiencing short-man syndrome despite being 6 feet in height, I happily sold that bike and upgraded to a BMW R1150GS in the most beautiful of colour schemes, graphite metallic. It was positively exhilarating to ride, performed brilliantly with one or two up and got looks from adoring middle-age onlookers just about everyplace it went.

A sad morning five months later, I awoke to find the lock on my driveway gate gone and my bike along with it, but after some tearful commiseration, I quickly remedied the situation by purchasing the king of all bikes, the BMW R1150GS Adventure. Nothing on the road commands respect like the Adventure. Even cars would scuttle from its path. We were very happy together. Some time later, I decided it was time to return to London. I couldn't however bring myself to part with that great bike and I stored it in a friends garage for several months until I could no longer justify the expense for a bike I would ride a maximum of two weeks out of the year. Fortunately, the Adventure went to a good home when a friend later purchased it from me. He too was gravely sad to part ways with it when moving to London less than a year later.

By the time I had gotten back to Britain, my UK license had expired and I had to do the full license from the very beginning. After two unsuccessful attempts at passing the full license, I eventually capitulated and purchased a black Vespa GT 125cc, a bike which I still rate highly to this day. It was very smooth, very reliable and very cheap to run. Pound for pound, or perhaps more like ounce for ounce, it is singularly the best commuter vehicle for the city, but doesn’t have much range beyond that.

I wanted something I could take to Scotland one weekend and the Savanna the next. I knew pretty much from the start what bike that was, but decided not to be too hasty about the decision, as I had been in the past, and did a lot of looking around before eventually settling on the BMW R1200GS, the natural successor to the 1150GS and an all round superb piece of engineering. This is the bike I currently own and adore.

Biking is for me a way of life, an essential element of joy and a tool of freedom. I have no doubt that there are several chapters yet to be written.

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