Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mission accomplished!

It took quite a bit of doing, but as of about 20:45 last night, my lovely, shiny new motorcycle is safely parked outside the flat.

I say it took quite a bit of doing - I meant it!

The weather yesterday was dreadful. After waiting a few hours for it to clear, filling the idle hours by getting boring but necessary administrative tasks out of the way, I decided I had to go for it or risk having the bike sit on a street in south London for another night and day.

I got to where it was parked around 14:30, stood at the side of the road and kitted myself up - the jacket, the balaclava, the helmet, the waterproof trousers, the boots, the gloves. Obviously, if I were a superhero and there had been a phone box nearby, this phase of the operation would have been over very quickly. As it was, it took me ... some time.

I wonder if the rise in mobile phone usage, and consequent decline in numbers of phone booths, has made life harder for superheroes. If any such people read this blog, do let me know.

So, a mere half hour after getting there, I jumped on and tried to start her up. Nothing. The engine was turning, but wouldn't start properly. Eventually (after another half-hour), I walked her into a side street, and tried pushing her and starting her at the same time. Still nothing. I tried using the choke. Still nothing.

I had resigned myself to walking the bike all the way home - a distance of at least 15 km, probably more. However, after the first km or so, I happened across a bike shop. My lucky day, I thought! I went in and asked if they could have a look at it. The owner came out and spent a long time telling me how he couldn't really do anything, and was really busy, I would be better checking it in for a service, blah blah. Eventually, he took pity on my and agreed to try jump-starting it. It started up very easily. He asked me for a fiver. I have him a tenner, and my gratitude.

However, although he had returned the bike to a working condition, he hadn't been able to magic up some confidence for me. That was a pity, because I needed some, having lost quite a lot over the preceding 24 hours. I walked the bike some more, with the engine idling.
All through Westminster. Past the houses of Parliament. Past Downing Street. Somewhere along Victoria Embankment, I tried to get on and ride it, but wasn't feeling very confident. I continued to walk it. Past St Paul's, through the city (by now it was rush hour).

Before I'd ridden a bike, I had no idea how heavy they are. I suspect most people don't realise this. Walking through the city, stopping and starting to allow for the behaviour of other pedestrians, was really exhausting! When the bike is moving, to have to stop quickly is a strain. To get it going again is an effort. Yet both were necessary to avoid bumping into people.

At Aldgate East, I stopped outside a corner shop that I used to frequent when I lived in Number One Prescott Street. By this time, I had walked at least 5 km, gone up and down a few little hills - which seem a lot bigger when you're pushing a motorbike, hadn't taken any food or drink for a few hours, and had sweated at least a litre into my clothing. I popped into the shop to get some Irn Bru to keep me going, and then decided that it might be wise to remove the waterproof trousers, since it wasn't actually raining any more. When I took them off, it became apparent that I'd been sweating so much that they were completely drenched - it was as if I've been swimming whilst wearing them.

And back on the road again. I was now walking through some very quiet streets, so I decided to try getting on the bike again. I struggled a bit. I'd been walking for so long that my legs were cramping when I tried to ride. But I got going, after a few false starts. And then I rode for about three streets. Then I got towards busy streets again, so I got off and started pushing. Again.

Twenty minutes or so later found me in a street near Stepney Green, within 50 metres of Charlie's Bar, the pub where I used to perform every week. And in which I have shared a drink with Tickersoid and Jungle Jane, no less. I got on the bike again. And got going. And my confidence returned. And I found I was riding with reasonable comfort, despite the missing foot peg.

Along Roman Road. Past Victoria Park. Up into Hackney (awful traffic). Through to Dalston. Right onto Lea Bridge Road. Whizzing along past the turn-offs for Walthamstow and Leytonstone. Past the Whipps Cross roundabout. And then I was home. Exhausted, but exhilarated, very much in one piece, and delighted that once I got going, it got a whole lot easier. And in that whole time, I only stalled twice, and that was in the awful traffic mess in Hackney.

Now I can pop out and have a go on the bike any time, can ride it near home without fear of facing a great big journey that I don't feel ready for, and can begin to experiment with useful things like getting to the gym by bike, or popping onto an A-road or two. It's the beginning of an exciting new chapter.


Nick said...

So how come the guy who sold it to you was able to start it without problems? Did he tell you it might be dodgy to start?

Qenny said...

He explained a slight trick to it (giving it a little bit of throttle), but the problem was that I'd flooded it. It's running fine now, though. Did my first little shopping run on it yesterday, and enjoyed it enormously.

Qenny said...

A quick note to Atomised, if you happen to drop by. Thanks for the message on the main site - nice to hear from you again. I had two people in mind who might have fitted the bill, and my guess was wrong. You threw me with the Moz references, and made me guess FR.

Nick said...

So should I expect you gunning it over to Stratford for coffee in the near future? I'm free again next week :-)

Qenny said...

It might be a while before I'm back on my little red bike :(