Wednesday, June 17, 2009


click photo to enlarge
I do so want to see motorcycles as the eminently sensible form of transport that they can be, but it's hard. Why? Well, I get the impression that many motorcyclists see their mounts principally as something other than a useful form of transport. And therein lies the problem. Once you choose a motorcycle for its speed, its noise, its machismo, or the exhilaration that it offers, then certain other consequences follow, some positive, but mainly negative.

Firstly you're going to be tempted to ride it very quickly - either within the speed limits in terms of acceleration, or fast in absolute terms, beyond the legal limit. That will, sadly, result in a disproportionate number of deaths amongst motorcyclists, either by their own hand or by the hand of other road users. Secondly, you're often going to make the machine noisier than it needs to be, so it'll either sound like a demented mosquito, a grass strimmer on steroids or an amplified steam tug-boat, chugging, thumping, and crackling along. And in so doing you're going to disturb enormous numbers of your fellow citizens for wholly selfish reasons, and ratchet up the stress of modern life one more notch. Thirdly, you'll be likely to buy the best machine you can afford and cosset it. There's nothing wrong with that - it seems to be a human trait. But it leads to the purchase of machines that aren't especially good for the purpose of transport, and to the employment of them as hobby vehicles. So, your riding will be concentrated into weekends and holidays, and you'll congregate with like-minded people to discuss and admire your respective steeds. And there's nothing at all wrong with that either. However, it's also possible you'll see yourselves as distinctive, on the edge of society, and some will feel part of a persecuted minority.

So where does that leave the apparently small number who use motorcycles as a form of transport that is quick, economic, efficient, environmentally better, less hindered by traffic congestion. As a genuine minority, genuinely distinctive, definitely on the edge of society, that's where! When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s utilitarian motorcycling was commonplace. On one occasion when I went on holiday with a friend to his uncle's and aunt's house he came to collect us on his Vincent Black Shadow with sidecar. We thought nothing of it, and, though he was proud of his motorcycle he saw it primarily as a transport choice that he adjusted to purr along because that was best for him and for everyone else. Perhaps a few more motorcyclists of that sort on the roads would help me to see motorbikin' in a more positive light.

Today's photograph was taken a couple of days ago in Ludlow, Shropshire, at what must have been a meet-up of Harley-Davidson owners. They were mainly genial older riders who looked to be having a fine time, basking in the summer sun, viewing each other's hardware, and enjoying an ice-cream. When I saw the odd machine gliding around the ancient town there seemed to be those who wanted to make the bike as noisy as possible, and others who aimed for that subdued purr. I know which my old ears preferred.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm (90mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On