October 22, 2022

Caution: Motorcycling is addictive.

Caution: Motorcycling is addictive.

I'm not addicted, I can quit at any time.

When I was a kid, no one in my family rode motorcycles. Actually, no one in my family had any interest in anything automotive. I was occasionally taken to the local Speedway, but that's about it.
The fact that in my 30s I have become so heavily addicted to motorcycling is, somewhat of an anomaly. I think I have always had a fascination with motorcycles. I remember sitting in Picton, waiting on the ferry, and seeing these guys on bikes pull up. They were on a road trip, and the thought of being able to travel the country, just you and a bike, with all the luggage you can carry on the pillion seat. Feeling the wind, smelling the cows in the paddock you're passing, and taking the road less travelled. All these things came together in one irresistible feeling of freedom. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

My first introduction to anything motorised on 2 wheels was an unregistered, unwarranted 49cc scooter. I was flatting in Christchurch, and a friend of mine had this scooter. Something about it interested me. Maybe it was the low fuel cost. I'm not sure. But I offered this guy a laptop and a PSP as a trade and he said yes. So, here I was with a scooter. The day I picked it up, I whiskey-throttled it up a lamppost. bending the forks and warping the front wheel. That didn't really worry me, I bombed around Christchurch on this wee thing, taking it places it really shouldn't have gone. A few months later, I had a job offer in Invercargill, so I sold the scooter and headed off to the deep south for a real job.

A couple of months into this job, I found myself thinking, I'm young, wild and free, and I can do literally anything... I'm going to go get my motorcycle license. So having never ridden a motorcycle with actual gears booked my basic skills test for the next day. I had about 5 minutes to get acquainted with this little GN125. then the test. I remember there was a braking test, riding a distance between 2 lines, tight turning circles, and a position of road code theory. I passed, then headed off to the AA to complete my learner scratch and sniff test.

Next was to find a motorcycle. Back then, we were restricted to 250CC, so I called a mate at MCR in Dunedin, and he had just traded a 1986 Honda VT250F. a few days later, I drove 2 hours north to Dunedin to pick up said Honda.

I'm thankful to Rick at MCR for ensuring I was kitted out with Macna jacket and pants, gloves, boots and a suitable HJC helmet. I remember the feeling of swinging a leg over that bike in the dealership for the first time, hoping I could pull away and get out onto the road without stalling. Hoping the people at the dealership wouldn't recognise how inexperienced I was. It felt wrong being able to go from having no license to riding something like this on the road that quickly. But once out of the dealership, and heading up the road, I remember feeling this massive smile creep across my face, I may have even had a little giggle to myself because riding a motorcycle is the best thing in the world. That was the moment I was hooked.

Over that weekend, I tripped around Dunedin trying to get a bit of seat time and on the Monday I got up early and rode the mighty 250 back to Invercargill. Thinking back, that's a little crazy. Within a week of deciding to get my motorcycle license, I had my 6L endorsement and a bike with more than enough power to get someone as inexperienced as I was in loads of trouble. And I was out riding on SH1.

That first open road ride from Dunedin to Invercargill, down SH1 at between 7 and 9 am, was absolutely the scariest ride of my life. Not for the reasons I would now freely point out to a new rider though. The possibility of gravel on a corner or ice didn't even factor into my poor ignorant mind. The biggest thing was the trucks heading in the opposite direction. Whenever I went past one, the wind gust would hit me like a brick wall. I had to clench and hold on, hoping I wouldn't get blown off the road. Funny, because I don't even notice this sort of thing anymore.

Invercargill is quite possibly the single best place for a young, impressionable male with an interest in motorcycles to live. I'm sure you have watched the Worlds Fastest Indian movie right? But there is so much more happening down there. Teretonga racetrack is a brilliant facility right on your doorstep, and the local MC clubs were very welcoming. but god, was I ignorant. That poor 250cc Honda lived outside, and never got washed. Chain maintenance? what's that? I couldn't tell you what tyres were on it. I never bothered adjusting the bars for ergonomics. The fork oil was probably black as the ace of spades, same with the engine oil. To say it was neglected would be an understatement. But it did well, carrying me from Invercargill to Dunedin and on to Christchurch on numerous road trips.
When I eventually shifted to the north island, I had the bike transported up and continued to ride it from Taupo where I now lived, to Auckland. That trip was around 280km, and the wee Honda could only manage around 250km on a tank, including reserve. I remember this one trip, where I couldn't be bothered stopping for fuel, so I simple rode as fast as I could and then ran out of fuel. I was on the Auckland southern motorway when I felt the engine cough. then with little notice, it completely died. I was not far off the Takanini off-ramp and coasted the bike as far as I could. Then I had to push about a kilometre to the fuel station.

That first bike did me well, considering I never put any effort into maintenance. But I cringe at how inexperienced I was, and how the things that go through my mind now in preparing for a road trip, never crossed my mind back then. I'm lucky I never came off, and thankful to all the people who offered support and advice, even though back then I likely never took it on board.

My motorcycle ownership since those days is long and varied. But the addiction is real. I now ride a motorcycle to work 98% of the time, even though I have a car park at work and could take a car any time I like. Back in the day, motorcycling was a cheap form of transport. But these days it's far from that with extreme registration costs and all the extra gear we need.

I'm Raymond Heron, and I have an addiction. The first step to curing an addiction is admitting you have one right? well, with so many roads I haven't explored, and so many motorcycles I haven't ridden, I'm not sure I was to be cured.