Via Sonja, I learn that Gary France has a post up describing how he got into motorcycling, and throws out the challenge for other people to do the same. So here's my tuppence-worth.
I think I've always treasured mobility. I had a tricycle very young, and then got onto two wheels as soon as I was able. I can still remember the moment I took to my wings on a bicycle. My Dad had his hand under the saddle as we wobbled along the road, then the coins in his pocket started jungling as he ran faster, and then the noise stopped. He had stopped running and I was still going - therefore, I was riding under my own steam. The feeling of euphoria and sheer bloody joy when I realised I could do it by myself was overwhelming, and I have never looked back. I cycled everywhere as a child (even running away from home on it once, and getting down the A1 and into the next county before I realised that I was hungry - I think I was 9) and getting a powered two-wheeler was an ambition from the age of about 12.
Parents forbade it, of course (and, looking back, rightly so), but I had plenty of friends with scooters and Cubs and C15s and Honda CB72s, so I got plenty of 'goes'. It was only a matter of time, and money, before I had my own.
The first bike was a Honda C70 in banana yellow, bought new from Watson Cairns in Leeds with a loan from my Dad. I was at University at the time, and the excuse was that it would save him all those tedious car journeys to take me there and back, but really it was just a chance to fulfil an ambition. I loved that bike, and it took me all over the place, but I hankered after something bigger. I passed my test on the C70 and soon afterwards traded it in for the only 'big' bike that I could afford, a Jawa 350 two-stroke twin. That bike deserves a whole post to itself, but suffice it to say that it got me a lot of places for three years and broke my spirit with its unreliability and general shittiness. One good thing was that it left me with a complete lack of fear about taking things apart to mend them, and the ability to strip a two-stroke and fit new crank seals, pistons and rings in a dark room with my eyes shut.
I haven't always had a bike since then. Like many others, marriage meant a proper car and I did without a bike for a year or two. And a period of serious illness later on meant that making monthly repayments on a bike I was not using was unsustainable, and at that point I truly believed my biking days were over. My balance had gone, and I didn't know if it would ever come back.
But I did get better, slowly, and soon I was back at work, this time in a training role for an advertising paper. The company acquired a biking website and installed a die-hard rider as its head honcho. Via company email, he asked for anyone with the vaguest interest to post bike reviews on the website, just to generate some much-needed content. I posted one, then two, then many more, and as I did so, I realised that I was missing motorcycling more than I could have imagined. A vague, hands-in-pockets, whistling-at-the-sky visit to my local dealership ensued, and a week after that a 3-year-old Yamaha XT660 was on my driveway. It had been ten years since I had last ridden, and that first ride was a strange affair. After ten years in a car I felt very vulnerable and small, but I soon got over that and was riding every day. Even so, I reckon it took me about a year to get my 'bike head' back on.
So here I am today, with an old scrapper of a trailbike for the commuting duties and a nice shiny sports-tourer for the faster days and longer rides. And I won't be giving it up again so easily.
Cold, dead hands, and all that.