The first time

OR: how it feels to take a chance

My first time on a bike changed me. It’s clichéd but true. A part of me awoke and for the first time I could clearly see the endless, excitement and adventure that my life would contain if I were to just reach out and seize the opportunity.

I’d started jury service that day. Maybe that contributed to my decision to take that first ride. The day indoors dragged unbearably as I clock-watched with a nagging, almost taunting awareness of the hazy summer day outside. The prospect of two weeks of this left me fidgety and frustrated. It too closely echoed feelings from my old life, now almost a year behind me, and I had little tolerance for it. Checking my email for the twentieth time that hour I found a new one from a friend, inviting me to a bike night that evening on the back of his GTR1400. I so nearly dismissed it. Motorbikes were dangerous after all and the thought of riding pillion didn’t suit my characteristic need for control. That said, taking risks had been working out for me lately…

He picked me up outside my house and I clambered without grace up onto the beast of a bike. Moving off, fear grappled with the desire to enjoy and threatened to extinguish any chance of a thrill. Irritated by the conflict, I worked to stop fighting to control the fear and accept it instead. Almost immediately there was a palpable shift and this wonderful new experience hit me with full force. Every detail of that first ride screamed at me that this was precious; sit up, take note, value it. The sensory onslaught coupled with my newly accepted vulnerability caused a connectedness and aliveness that I’d never before come close to. But ‘screamed’ is too abrasive a word to describe the comfortable ease with which the experience took hold of me and gently roused the adventurer within.

Alongside the intense exhilaration, a feeling like coming home after a long absence descended to my core, an overwhelming feeling of peace, wholeness and belonging. Stresses, strains and inconsequential worries fell away as my inner world calmed and connected fully with the world outside me – a world which was by now flashing by at considerable speed! For the first time in my life I was neither fighting nor giving up, I was alive in the moment and at its mercy and it felt indescribably wonderful. As the experience unfurled I was certain that this was true freedom, real adventure. And it was so attainable! Later, more riding hours brought other aspects I would value: independence, community, the ‘journey not destination’ attitude. But on that first ride my soul simply sang and I was hooked. My adventure lasted less than 30 minutes and had taken me only a handful of miles from home. But I was irrevocably changed and as I stepped down I spoke the words without thinking: ‘How do I get a licence to ride one of these?’

Winner of the Overland Event short story competition in association with Rev’it

Within 4 months of that first pillion ride I’d got my bike licence and a shiny new CBR500. A number of years on I’ve had first-hand experience of the best and worst aspects of motorcycling. It’s brought a lot of pain but it’s also brought freedom, independence and most importantly, a direct illustration of the effects of taking a risk for something you want which I wouldn’t give back for the world.

As I write this from Poland, on a year long adventure around the world that I never would have thought possible I know without doubt that for me, following your dreams, letting go of your control on life and trusting the process is the only way to live happy.


A new life: Article in Motorcycle Explorer Magazine