Autumn Ride

Sunday morning, early November, have a leisurely breakfast in the quiet house while the family sleep on. My thoughts turn to the day ahead, the things that need doing around house and garden. I look out at the garden and see late autumnal wetness after a week of mainly wind and rain. Not going on the ground out there, do more harm than good! The sun pokes its face out from between the scudding clouds. I contemplate a list of things in my mind that might be useful to get done. I am slightly unsettled, somewhat indecisive. I want to ride my motorbike. It is cool, 8C according to the outside thermometer. What the hell I have the clothing, stuff being sensible, I'm heading out on bike!


The ritual of motorcycling begins with the dressing for it. I dig out the winter linings for jacket and trousers and carefully fit with zips and press studs. The anticipation of the coming ride begins whilst I get into the clothing and boots and I think about which route to ride. Its going to be wet and slippery out there, but on the up side this early on a Sunday the roads are likely to be quiet.


Bike extracted from garage I complete the preparation ritual, with neck tube over head, complete the zipping and press studding of the jacket. Helmet donned, adjusted and fastened, gloves pulled on and sleeves tucked in. I wheel the bike backwards onto the road, side stand down, mount my trusty steed, kick the stand back, clutch in, hit the starter button. My anticipation has built to a mild excitement, that I don't get from any other form of travel. I am ready for total concentration on the job in hand. Click it into 1st gear, mirrors, twist the neck round as far as it will go to check, then a few revs and away.


The route I have chosen today is an old favourite I have ridden often, about a 50 miles round trip, up the Teign valley then across the centre of Dartmoor, and then down the Dart valley and back home. The roads are wet from the heavy overnight rain and shining bright in the low angled sun. The first section up the Teign valley is a winding, undulating B-road closely following the river's course through woodland interspersed with small riverside meadows. The overhanging trees have been busy dropping their leaves on the road surface and the cars have mashed them to a slimy pulp and arranged them into two slight mounds in the centre of each side of the road. The clearer tracks where the car wheels have passed offer pretty good tyre grip even in the wet, the mound in the middle offers about as much grip as greased glass. Riding safely in such conditions is about precision road placing, delicate throttle and brake control and total and absolute concentration. I am like Mad Eye Moody with one eye scanning the road far ahead whilst the other is scanning the road surface just ahead. Corner lines are now wherever the tarmac has been swept clean by the car tracks, hopping from track to track only when the bike is perfectly upright. After about 15 miles of this I pass through sleepy Moretonhampstead and head out across Dartmoor.


Here the roads are still wet but thankfully free from wet leaf mush. Apart the odd deposit left by some of the free roaming herbivores the road surface is much more reliably grippy. My riding is now no less careful than before but my progress is somewhat more sprightly. As I ride over the peak of a hill I see 50 metres in front of me a herd of highland cattle. Great brown shaggy beasties with horns as wide as your outstretched arms, some of which are calmly standing in the road. I anchor on (smoothly and progressively) and stop 10 metres from the nearest specimen of bovine magnificence. There is queue of cars waiting to come through the group from the opposite direction to me, understandably reluctant to push their way through against such formidable animals. The nearest beastie turns its head towards me and might be looking at me but its eyes are all but covered by its shaggy mane. He looks entirely unperturbed to me, I decide he's a cool dude and to press on. I pass slowly and closely by and indeed not one of them so much as twitched. Really highland cattle don't give a damn!


The ride continues after the wonderful sweeping undulating clear roads of the high moor where I swoop and whoop into my helmet then down into the Dart valley and leaf mush territory again. The Dart valley road is full of cars either parked or looking to park with kayaks on their roof racks. The river is in full spate and draws them like moths to the flame. The road emerges at Ashburton and leads to a short burst of dual carriageway speed and back through town to home. I have been out riding for less than two hours in which time my senses and fine motor control have been honed to razor sharpness. I walk in the door and my nearest and dearest greets me with “nice ride?” My face is a grin from ear to ear, my reply in fine English understatement, “yes, its been a beautiful morning!”


The essence of this tale of an ordinary bloke's Sunday morning is the power of concentration, or meditation if you will, to alter the mind state of said ordinary bloke. I'm sure this could be achieved without a motorcycle, there must be other ways this change of state can be achieved but I doubt few of them would be to me half as much fun.