Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Motorcycling and CFS

The following was sent to me by one of the forum members ian2008 and it shows that we dont always have to give up what we love, we just have to find a way to manage it.

One of my great pleasures and passions in my life is motorcycling. Prior to getting CFS I would ride my motorcycle (bike) as far and as often as I could. My wife and I would go to many race meetings, go on holiday and ride out to quiet country spots and have a picnic. Many pleasurable hours were spent cleaning and repairing the bike. However, since CFS, my riding and enjoyment has been somewhat curtailed. 

No longer do I have the energy/stamina to ride when or where I want to. Riding for too long makes me ache; working on the bike has become a challenge and there is always the very real risk of fatigue setting in with a vengeance at a time when I least want it. I suppose it is possible that CFS could signal the end motorcycling, but should I let it?

I am going to share with you my passion. Why? It’s me fighting back and setting a positive mindset.

It is only a few generations ago that motorcycling was the norm: A cheap form of transport accessible to all. Sadly those days are gone with most road users preferring four wheels instead of two.

While the halcyon days of motorcycling have faded into the past, many four wheeled users still cast an interested, even envious, eye at a motorcycle as it weaves its way through Britain’s congested road system. I have lost count at the number of times I have struck up a conversation with car drivers while sitting on my motorcycle at a natural beauty spot or on a busy sea front. I can see in their eyes that there is little voice in their head asking, “Could I ride one?”: I’m sure there are some who find a deeper answer to that question and then go on to enjoy the pleasures that motorcycling has to offer. Sadly, too many will not be able to move beyond the ‘establishment braining washing’ that says motorcycling is dangerous. Of course there are dangers, but these can be minimised with training and correct riding equipment, and the correct attitude. Living is dangerous.

Looking at a motorcycle is a pleasurable activity; cleaning a motorcycle is a pleasure; working on a motorcycle is also pleasure as you make sure that everything is tight and safe and perhaps get that little extra bit of ‘performance’ that the manufacture forgot to add. There are so many types: Some prefer an abundance of chrome and that ‘living the American dream’ with Harley Davidsons; some prefer to go off road and cover themselves and the bike in copious amounts of dirt or mud or water or all three. For me, and many other motorcyclists, I prefer my bikes to be sports orientated: Lots of plastics(known as a fairing) that help protect you from the wind and the worst of what British weather can throw at you. I have spent many a pleasurable hour cleaning the fairing so that I can almost see my face in it. Brilliant!

Motorcycles are odd things really. They are inherently unstable: Kick the side stand a way without holding on to it and it will fall on its side causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage. Seeing a motorcycle lying on the floor is a very sad sight; like a wounded and lifeless animal. However, if you sit on motorcycle, pull the bike up to the vertical and then kick the side stand away, then the magic begins to work. That moment when some of the full weight of the motorcycle can be felt as you lift it upright and then the weight disappears as if by magic. At this point you are straddled across man’s finest efforts to defy gravity and propel human beings forwards at breathtaking speeds, but only if you want to.

The days of starting a motorcycle with a kick start have long gone: Starting a modern motorcycle requires nothing more than pressing a button. Turning the ignition switch to the start position illuminates the instrument cluster with LEDS and LCDs settling to a point of rest after running through some pre-programmed ‘dance’. Now you can press the start button: It is at this point that the DNA of the motorcycle begins to reveal itself. Motorcycle engines vary considerably and it would take at least another 1000 words(or more) to describe the differences and it might only be of interest to those with the technical insight. So let’s move on and ride the thing!

Pulling the clutch lever in and dropping it into first gear is the beginning of the ride and it switches on a green light in the motorcyclists head and the adrenaline begins to flow. Bikes are heavy, but as soon as you begin to move the weight fades away. A twist of the throttle can accelerate you forwards with an immediacy that most cars cannot compete with and it is this acceleration that many motorcyclists enjoy, and dare I say-crave! My bike is quick and it will accelerate to 60 mph in a few seconds, but I have ridden more powerful bikes. Some are so powerful that if you try to use the full power of the engine your brain is unable to process the information that is entering your brain; at this point I slow down quickly. Some riders like top speed, but for me, it is acceleration and cornering.

Cornering: The black art of riding a bike well, and perhaps, the most dangerous part of riding a bike. Getting a corner right is such a pleasure and essential for your long term health. Number one rule slow down! In like a kitten and out like a lion. If you set up the corner properly the bike will flow round the corner. There is a sense of oneness with the bike as it leans over and the laws of gravity work for and against you. Sometimes you can feel the tyres searching for grip which is a little unnerving at first, but you soon get used to it. As the road opens up in front of you, you start to open up the throttle; the bike begins to stand up and you begin to feel that acceleration. Oh the joy!

Rolling country side is the best place to be. Stick to the speed limits and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Because a motorcyclist sits higher than the average car driver and passenger it means we can see across hedgerows and soak up the vista. Smells of the countryside enter your crash helmet and linger and not all of them are a pleasure. Flies splatter across your visor with the occasional thump as something more substantial impacts on your visor. Mile after mile the black ribbon disappears beneath your wheels. It is hard work at times and a rest is essential. Country pubs are brilliant, and sitting in the garden for a couple of hours is guaranteed to charge up the batteries. I am always surprised how many motorcycle dealerships there are in the countryside and have a burger van in the car park. Brilliant! Stop at one these and you can enjoy a burger, look at some bikes and have a chat with other bikers. Heaven.

Finally there is the Track Day: A chance to ride your bike, or someone else’s, on a race track. For those off us who are not riding Gods the bike is always better than the rider. Track days are not a free for all and safety is paramount. You learn so much from riding on a race track. You realise very quickly just how far a motorcycle can be leant over without crashing it: You learn a little bit more about the black art of cornering. Do not try this on the road, but knowing just how far a bike will lean could save your life in a tricky situation. You learn just how good the brakes are on a modern motorcycle. There’re good!

Heading down the straights, crouched behind the wind screen with your body stretched across the petrol tank, your eyes are focused as far into the distance as they will go. The throttle is twisted until it will go no further. Tucked behind the screen there is very little wind noise, but you can hear all too clearly an engine being revved mercilessly; almost to the point of destruction. You are waiting, waiting for that moment when it is time to turn into a bend that is approaching so quickly. Then it is time to slow down. You sit up and your body is slammed by a blast air. Breaking as hard as you dare while changing down and trying to scrub off speed makes the adrenaline flow; your heat is thumping. Your body position has moved to the corner side of the bike and you are now hanging off the bike and you knee pointing outwards at right angle to the bike. Slowly, tentatively, you start to turn the bike into the corner. Your eyes are strained far ahead waiting for the corner to open up. You can feel the bike moving as the tyres strain to find grip. You know that it could all go wrong at any time, but the risk seems detached and I’m usually more concerned about the welfare of the bike. Finally the corner opens up; you start to accelerate out of the corner; the bike starts to right itself and you start to prepare for the next straight, whatever its length, and the next corner. Mad? Perhaps.

After a three or four sessions on a track you are buzzing and worn out. The adrenaline is pumping through your veins and there are usually loads of free cans of Red Bull or Monster being given away and a few of these added to the adrenaline makes you feel Brilliant!

Well, after any of the above riding experiences I am coming down to Earth with a bump. Providing I rest for a few days I can get away with it. How do I have the energy to do any of it? Well, a long run up is the best way. In the old days I would just do it and think nothing of it, but these days it has to be planned with several days of rest.

Should I let CFS take away my pleasure/passion? I say no, but please feel free to think different.

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