So how does everyone feel this lockdown thing is going? The riders I’ve spoken to fall into three groups. First are the ones who are going to spend time with their bike regardless. The last four weeks have seen cleaning, more cleaning, polishing, strip-downs and then more cleaning. More than one mate has had the swing-arm out to clean the suspension linkages, gearbox sprocket and other bits never normally touched. Another is changing the spark plugs on his R6 – I can’t remember the last time I changed the plug on a four-stroke – and more than one of the others is still looking for the battery on their recently acquired machine to hook-up the trickle charger.
The second group already have the bike cleaned, up on stands and humming away on the trickle charger. These riders are planning for when the shutters go up. Busily scanning YouTube, re-reading old magazine articles and devouring all the great online content they can find. Bikesocial has been busy finding content that can still entertain and inform you. John’s been busting locks and stripping down his bikes, while Michael has been hosting our new Torqueing Heads chat show.
We’ve also had a chance for Bennetts customers to put questions to John McGuinness and one of the best bike photographers in the business made a video for us on how to produce your own bike reviews. Thank you for all your engagement on social media – we really appreciate it.
The third group are the ones still riding. I was going to say the lucky ones, and in some cases that is true. But if you’re still having to ride then you aren’t able to work at home and presumably, that means you are one of the key (but also in many cases, exposed) workers we are relying on to make us well again, empty our bins, keep the lights on, put food on our supermarket shelves and many other vital jobs for which we are all very thankful.
The key thing with all of this is that, despite the outdated reputation of motorcyclists being bad-boys, most riders have a built-in sense of doing the right thing. In normal times that might be Xmas toy runs, Easter egg runs or a hundred other worthy events happening under the radar every weekend. Right now, it’s simply doing the right thing by not riding. And that matters.
Of course, the really interesting question is what happens when the lockdown is lifted? The UK has around 800,000 active motorcyclists, many of whom haven’t ridden regularly since October 5th 2019 when it started raining and didn’t stop till we had storm-force winds in Feb/March 2020. Assuming they can find their battery and charge up the bike, there’s going to be a lot of bikosterone stored up in some wrinkly middle-aged glands. And if it all spurts out at the first country corner, things could get messy.
Maybe what we need is a first day of riding led out by a safety car, like when they start an endurance race in torrential rain (most of them recently) with all UK riders doing a few laps of the local ring road to get their eye in before the fun begins.
The spectacle of all those immaculate, polished motorcycles will be incredible. Shame then, that most of us forgot to clean our crash helmets and visors since last November and that we’ve all put on so much weight in lockdown that none of our kit will fit. If that’s you and you are a Bennetts customer, then can I shamelessly point you to the Bennetts Rewards website where you will find all kinds of offers on all kinds of biking products and services, including rider training.
Right now, not riding feels terrible. I’m lucky enough to ride for a living and spent the whole of winter on two wheels. For me, it’s not that bad...yet. And the optimistic outlook would have been that March, April and even May can be pretty wet and miserable in the UK, so maybe - assuming lockdown is lifted in June or July - we won’t have missed all that much (except I’m writing this in mid-April and the sun is blazing). Remember the summer of 2012 when it rained from March 2012 till April 2013 (and then it snowed)? This feels worse because riding in the wet is better than not riding, but at least we can still hope for now.
If lockdown ends in June and the weather stays good till October, we can still have five months of great riding. Most of us will have all our holidays still to use up and there should be some incredible deals available on new bikes as manufacturers become ever-more-keen to empty their fully-stocked warehouses. 2020 was already shaping up to be a good year for new bikes with a whole load of new models in every category. Many of those arrived in showrooms just as the country closed and this summer might just be the best time to buy a new bike for the last ten years.
And even if the worst happens and lockdown lasts all summer, you can finally enjoy a year without family, friends and neighbours banging on endlessly about how dangerous motorcycles are and how their friend Brenda, had a son whose friend lost his head…twice when he had a moped. Instead, you can remind them of what a drain on the NHS all the idiots have been presenting at A&E with stupid injuries caused by doing DIY under lockdown when they should have been doing something safe like polishing their Africa Twin.
Clearly the caveat to all this glib, flippant optimism is that there are many riders and motorcycle businesses out there right now who are in danger of losing their jobs, their bikes and their livelihoods. To those people we can only apologise for all the upbeat tosh above and say how much we feel for you. Hopefully, things will recover quickly and, at times like this we should all be worrying about more than when we will next see a Loomies or Squires caff breakfast. Right now, we are thinking of you.
Fingers crossed we’ll see you on the other side.