Maybe I’m getting older, but I’m pretty sure it’s got more to do with my four-year-old daughter: I’m a much more careful rider these days.
Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I don’t still have fun. At Cadwell Park on a Focused Events track day the other week, all I wanted to do was get my knee down, and wheelie over the mountain on my 2000 Honda CBR600 (and much of the time I was tussling with an ex-Para on a Fireblade who wanted to see how far he needed to lean to get his sliders scraping the deck). I’ve just bought a 2005 Yamaha WR250F off-roader too, and spent yesterday afternoon chasing after my mate at the local track (though I’m suffering for that now).
I’m also faster than I used to be. Not straight-line-fast, but stringing-the-bends-together faster. Our company insurance insists on yearly professional assessments, and my examiner (an ex-racer and Police rider ) reassured me that I was riding well (though that I ought to slow down a bit).
I’m just a lot more aware of hazards than I used to be. Scratching around my old favourite roads, I’m spotting hidden junctions and farm tracks that I never noticed before, but more than anything, I want to stand out. Not in a pair of Fieldsheer ‘Acid Worm’ leathers (though I’d probably buy a pair for their retro-cool value), I’m talking about… dare I say it… hi-viz!
How many bike journos do you see in hi-viz kit? Not many really, is it? “It doesn’t look cool in photos, it’s not aspirational”. The thing is, my biggest aspiration, every day, is getting home to a hug from little Georgie. It’s why I wear a white lid, and it’s why, from now on, I’ll be a wearing a hi-viz airbag jacket on my daily commute. Today, at the Prescott Bike Festival, Carli Ann Smith and I had the chance to try a Helite vest (www.helite-motorcycle-airbagjackets.co.uk). I say we tried… she wore it, and I punched her (see the video below). We were convinced, and we’ll be testing them out in long-term reviews in the coming months.
I’ve been acutely aware recently of just how much more visible a biker is if they have a fluoro jacket on, or a bright lid or rucksack. I know some of my mates will take the piss, but if they rode the tractor-laden, hedge-lined muddy roads of my daily commute, they’d probably think differently.
I’m not trying to say that everybody should be made to wear bright clothing… far from it. But it is a choice (and if that choice includes a state-of-the-art airbag system, then all the better!).
There’s one other thing I (quietly) like about hi-viz kit. Potter home after a long day at work, and you’re less likely to have other riders or Saxo drivers sizing you up for a race. But if the fancy takes you, and you leave them behind in a series of bends, it makes the grin all the wider…