Coming off the roundabout in a gorgeous sweep to the right the bike lifted her head in anticipation of the road ahead, so much so that there would have been little response to any attempt at steering yet I knew her trajectory was right and with the throttle eased she settled back to her normal stance, centred in the lane and pulling away nicely from the flashing blue lights of the two fire service trucks passed out on the exit from the island. Now what, you may ask, was any biker or motorist doing overtaking emergency vehicles responding to a call, especially at a junction? But when I tell you that the second vehicle of the pair, a Series III Land Rover with a trailer, seemed impatient with the first, those who know of the woeful lack of speed in these otherwise fine off roaders will understand that their rate of progress hardly matched the urgency of their mission. And I was not alone, a fellow on Gixxer 1000 had been trailing me through town and now the way was clear he came past with a wave of the leg and a rush of acceleration that I had no hope of matching encumbered as I was with the luggage of a fortnights touring.
It is for these moments of joy that we bikers live. My greatest wish would be that I could place them in a bottle and share with all those who question the wisdom of riding and after those days in France that bottle contained not just the one surge of life affirming exultation but many many more examples of what the passion is all about. Every hour on the bike would grant seconds or even minutes of complete serenity, of a connection with a meaning that transcends the monotonous and ridicules the regular, it brings a purity of thought that I seldom experience elsewhere although I am sure there are other activities in which the participants would claim the same awareness brought about by this sense of power and total responsibility for your own destiny. It is a bliss, a zen like state that one can savour but must not wallow in, for that is the path to misfortune.
Yet biking is not all about the thrill of control, there is so much more it offers. On the same day that I met the local fire service earnestly urging modern tractor speeds from their appliances I had sauntered along unknown roads that no tourist would consider the need of visiting, passed through quiet villages with churches that were at once far too magnificent for the humble collection of houses gathered around, tripped over hidden chateaus that boasted vineyards of note to only those who truly know about wine and gardens that had been freshly brought down from paradise that very morning. Shunning such wretchedness as a GPS, relying only upon a map to provide the names of two towns between which I would travel and keeping the sun to my left or to my right as a guide to the general direction I should be heading I would set off in the confidence that I would arrive and that France would share her soft bosom of visual ambrosia on the way. I am very rarely disappointed.
And that is just France. Ireland will also offer up her secrets to those who shed the concerns and strictures of the guide book, who understand the word travel as a synonym for exploration and discovery in an unhurried manner. She too has roads that will truly engage the biker although their character is less open and foreseeable, instead, she has hidden corners and challenges that will call for an alertness and an ad hoc planning regime in the business of maintaining motion that the manuals will rarely mention in fear that it counter their beautiful arguments of roadcraft. But let that not discourage those who are willing to show an independence from the rule book that the Emerald Isle requires if she is to be enjoyed as she should be, at a pace of your choice and in a mood of contemplation rather than wild exuberance.
If you have kindly read these words so far I do hope that you are perhaps a little wiser as to the pleasure and satisfaction that informs the choice of many of those who ride, who eschew the comfort of a car when wishing to travel and learn a little of other places. It is perhaps the most rewarding way to transit or tour, the thinking man’s driving no less.