My interest in motorcycles could probably be traced back to when I was 12. At the time, Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, Maverick, was pretty much a God. He flew an F14 Tomcat and rode an iconic Kawasaki GPZR so when I grew up, like most of my boyhood friends, I wanted to be him.
In recent years the classic 80’s films have somewhat lost their appeal (as has Tom Cruise, funnily enough) and the sex-symbol ideal has been impeded by reality. However, unlike wanting to be a fighter pilot, motorbikes have always remained eternally alluring.
The spectacle of MotoGP is a perfect example; with the likes of Aussie superstar Casey Stoner, young hotshot Jorge Lorenzo and, of course, he-who-needs-no-introduction; the great Valentino ‘The Doctor’ Rossi - all battling wheel to wheel, knees touching tarmac at piddle-in-your-pants speeds.
Add the dollybird pit girls, a host of exotic locations, plus the fact that the this is the pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport and it becomes bluntly obvious as to why I, as a twenty-something year old male with a pulse, find bikes about as exciting now as I did Top Gun 20 years ago.
However, other than a number of brief flirtations with tiny mopeds on Grecian holidays and an illustrious affair with a marginally larger 175cc Russian machine for a stretch down the eastern coast of Vietnam I had never called upon two wheels as a mode of transport in the UK. In fact, I had never even considered it until I left university and started working in London, or should I say, until I left university and started spending mundane hour upon hour commuting on overcrowded underground trains.
Even then, and for unexplainable reasons, I didn’t pursue the thought despite my job involving work in the British Superbike paddock. That was until I came across the Get On Campaign; offering the chance to jump on a motorbike within a few miles of home meant there could be no excuses.
Helmet on, 125cc engine humming and I was away. Pulling through the gears and learning basic control. In spite of the heavens opening just as I jumped aboard (and pouring aplenty for the whole hour session) the feeling was electric.
Whilst not quite as warm as my biking experiences on holiday, the same emotions were alive – with the wind (and rain) against my face I was cruising through the elements with a grin not to dissimilar as the one I imagine Tom Cruise probably had during the making of most of Top Gun – after all, the film’s leading lady was Kelly McGillis…
The excessive rain that seemed to start and stop in line with the beginning and end of the hour meant I couldn’t have been wetter if I’d have jumped in the Thames but I had been reminded again of the thrill of biking and had loved every second. I was Maverick himself (in my head at least) - albeit in the compounds of what was essentially a car park, in Wembley, on a cold wet grey day. In truth, it made no difference; my only criticism was that it had not lasted long enough.
Within a week I was in possession of my CBT, meaning I had sat through a quick classroom lesson and completed yet another stint in the training school’s ‘car park’ before finally being let loose on the road. Two hours after that, certificate in hand, I had I familiar feeling… I need a bike. Next Stop: a motorcycle showroom, ASAP.