I spent the first 16 years of my life living in a tiny village near Bath. In the hazy summer months I’d be outdoors, climbing trees, building dens, and riding bikes. I loved anything with two wheels – mountain bikes, BMX, and the local farmer kids’ ‘scramblers’.
One of my strongest enduring memory strands is of rides through the country lanes on my BMX. Near where I used to live, it was possible to ride for miles and miles without seeing another human.
At the time it didn’t even occur to me to wonder why I felt so strongly about it, but now it’s obvious – that was my first proper taste of freedom.
‘a punker on a Clunker’
Being able to run around fields was great, but to feel the world cruising by on two wheels changed my entire life.
I chased that feeling of freedom for a long time. I ended up on mountain bikes, which lead me to doing work experience at Mountain Biking UK magazine, which in turn gave me my first job and the start of my career. That took me around the world, riding in amazing places – the most notable being two thrilling weeks riding in the primo destinations of California with the inventors of mountain biking: Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly (pictured) and so on. I can still remember a caption of me riding one of the first ever mountain bikes: ‘a punker on a Clunker’.
Then I got into heavy metal, drinking, going to gigs, and basically destroying myself doing all of the wrong things in the pursuit of rock ‘n’ roll hedonism, while at the helm of Metal Hammer magazine. I completely forgot about bikes (and most everything else, truth be told).
I spent over ten years away from two wheels, and I now really regret the time away.
But you live and learn.
In 2011 I moved to Wales for love – married, three kids, living near the beach. All things I’ve spent my life looking for.
And finally a return to bikes – only this time, with engines.
Getting onto a motorbike was something I’d banged on about forever but had never really attempted to make real. Then my wife – fed up with all talk and no action – bought me a CBT day for my birthday, and as soon as I’d passed that I knew I had to get my full licence – a 125 (cc) was never going to be enough.
The same things that had thrilled me in my youth were once again reignited – there’s no freedom I’ve found so far that’s quite like it.
Life is very cyclical by nature for me, but it’s taken me until my fifth year on motorbikes to really fall in love with riding the lanes again. I’m obsessed with it right now.
I live an average ride away from work of about 45-minutes. There’s a quicker route – not including the motorway – that I can do in under half an hour with a fair wind, but recently I’ve started looking for the long cut lane route. I’ve not been looking it up on a map, but just following my nose. I’ve found some amazing, practically deserted roads that are so good for my mental health of a morning/evening that I’m addicted to revisiting them over and over.
Rather than fighting traffic in the hustle and bustle of tin can drivers, I’m on my own riding between fields of corn and cattle (and sheep obviously – I live in Wales).
My biggest concern for that section of the commute is whether or not there’s a tractor parked around the corner, so I just chill and suck in the scenery. It’s amazing. My days of working in London are such a a hazy memory, overwritten by a tranquil transition.
There’s a general movement and acceptance of mental health being something we can finally talk about, and although I don’t think I’ve got anything to write home about personally on that level, riding motorcycles certainly helps with my wellbeing. It’s a good way to block out the shit and get centred.
Johnny Utah: “You’re not going to start chanting or anything, are ya?”
Bodhi: “I might!”