Confidence. It’s a strange thing.
I’m conscious that I didn’t finish blogging after my last holiday. The reason for that was a serious lack of confidence in my abilities to ride my bike.It was an odd feeling. It seems that it affected my ability to write a blog too! Maybe it was just a humour failure!
The first reason was having a bad, unexpected, ‘off road’ experience which resulted in my pride and joy, Smoggy, falling over, just missing a thorny bush and snapping a hand grip. Ouch. Poor soul. Hand grip, is currently held together with rather flattering duct tape until we (*read, Andy and I) decide on what will look cool enough. Touratech, having gone bust, aren’t able to replace the red ones. Oh well. Might just have to suck it up and have black ones. I’m not normally bothered about a ‘look’, however, he (Smoggy) suits his red hand guards. Bless. (Do note though: Ed’s already said he’s paying for the hand guards, seeing as it was his shit navigating skills, which, in fairness he doesn’t often get wrong!)
I have to say, at the time, I was more concerned about my shiny, fantastic, new, 50th birthday present, custom made, Hideout Leather textile gear being ripped and stabbed by said thorny bush. Smoggy, after all, was protected by his panniers, which stopped the damage being more. It was not a good start to our holiday. It’s one I’ll never forget.
Now, you’d think with all the miles with my ass sat on a seat with a throbbing engine beating away, that my brain would still work. Apparently not. I could see all the clues as Ed headed off into the wilderness. Like a lemming, I followed. I didn’t use my common sense. I would say, with confidence, that I am overflowing with common sense. Generally. On this occasion, I had left my common sense on the ferry somewhere. As it happens, it didn’t make a re-appearance whilst on holiday.
By the time I had totally ignored my instincts, it was too late. So ‘too late’ in fact there was no where to turn Smoggy who’s tyre tread was caked in wet clay and about as useful as a set of slicks.
I have no idea, reflecting on the situation, how I didn’t just throw down my helmet and go into a massive Fi huff. I don’t do huffs and temper tantrums very well, so we reached a compromise, as explained in my previous blog. The non-smoking lasted less than 12 hours.
Following that, I had another ‘moment’. Totally misjudging a kerb, Smoggy tipped over. God I felt bloody dim. Again. Much inward cursing and rolling of eyes by me. And, quite frankly, Ed too. Thankfully, Mr Muscle Man, Edward was there to pick the poor soul up. Cheers, Ed.
Then there’s the fucking blocking in Portugal to deal with. They have this brilliant idea to make pavements and courtyards out of 4″ square marble cubes. Looks pretty, however, they have a tendency to subside. Deep, unbridled joy. By the time we rode through Spain to the Algarve, my confidence was shattered. I’d need my fingers AND toes to count the times I asked Ed to move Smoggy. Thanks again, Ed.
There you have it. Having ridden over 100k of miles of smiles, I had a confidence crisis. Ed did make a point of asking, “How? You have ridden all these miles and all of a sudden you LACK CONFIDENCE?” (yes, said in a slightly mocking, ‘shouty’ voice). I then asked him how often he’s lacked confidence in ANYTHING. Silence.
That was the end of that conversation .
So, then the Tyndrum weather hit. Pretty much after we got home, the snow fell and there was a run of ‘quite frustrating’ weeks where I wouldn’t have dreamt of going out on Smoggy, no matter how desperate I was. I dreamt about it a lot though.
When, eventually, the time came to get out (*read, the snow disappeared), I did have a moments thought about my previous lack of confidence. There were a couple of very close friends that I spoke to about it. Those were carefully chosen, knowing that I wouldn’t be judged or have the piss taken out of me. Carefully chosen so I was able to curse myself stupid, not have someone else do it for me.
You see, I know what the issue was. Other than the obvious, ‘oops… clatter…. shit…. crap…. sorry, Smoggy’ moments that certainly contributed to the mental block. It was simple. I couldn’t get my feet on the pegs. I know. How simple. Really simple, you’d think. However, when you’re a short arse, dropped your bike twice in three days and then had to cope with subsiding bloody Portuguese blocks in courtyards, I didn’t want to break Smoggy any more than I had already. The damage was done. Mental damage.
So, time to go out after an enforced time off my wee precious bike.
Click. Click. Crap. Charging kit out. Vroooom… Ready to go. (New battery now installed).
What on earth was I worried about? I had a complete ball, we had a scoot around Glencoe, Kinlochleven Loop, Appin, Oban for lunch and then, just as I was getting suitably snuggly in my bike gear, the promised storm hit Oban. It got worse heading towards Tyndrum. Nearly home though, and I had a massive grin on my face. Even on the last mile in the lashing rain, there was a huge gust of wind that pushed us across the road. Luckily, we were anticipating that. There’s that common sense, you see…. where’s the wind coming from? I’ll adjust my position just in case I get blown around. Amazing, huh? You’d think I’d be plenty ballast for Smoggy, however, it shows you the power of nature the fact we (Smoggy and I) can get shoved by the wind.
So, my lack of confidence was a temporary thing it seems, however, it doesn’t stop me wanting to go out and get more training. Last week, I was away staying with some truly magic friends in Whitley Bay. The Thursday and Friday I was thoroughly put through my paces. By Friday afternoon, come slow-mo-practice-time I was knackered and had to throw in the towel half way through doing circles in a car park. I was done in. My very dear friend had worked his socks off taking me on all sorts of roads to put me and Smoggy through our paces. I learned loads, however, I recognised when I’d hit that exhaustion wall.
In particular, my ‘default’ positions were a bit ‘off’. That took a bit of practice, as I ‘thought’ I was in one place and in actual fact it was a load of tosh. I wasn’t in the position I thought I was. It would have been very handy to have my GoPro on, however, some fanny (me) had left the memory card at home. Oh, the irony.
I had a great time being mentored and I took a great deal from it. I was shattered at night and 9:30 was a late night. Sleep was not an issue, I was out like a light.
Saturday, I had booked time with Mick Kinghorn. He’s an ex-policeman and was an employee of IAM RoadSmart before setting up his own driving / riding company. He’s great company and prior to him leaving IAM, he had put me through my paces for my National Observer qualification. So, we met at my pal’s house, linked up comms and headed forth to the North Yorkshire moors. Within a mile of leaving I thought I had better spit out the observations from the previous two days training. Mick was pleased I had done so and immediately he helped me anchor the learning and consider the various positioning ‘options’ open at any particular point.
You see, it all depends. Having a riding plan is all about choosing an option, and deciding on the best course of action that keeps you safe and other road users safe. There are tons of different positions that a bike can be in at a given time. It’s always a good plan though to have your riding looked at. We can all slip into little habits that given time, can become ‘unsafe’ habits. That was one of the main reasons that I decided it was time to have my riding looked at. Not that I felt I was unsafe, but given my confidence crisis, I knew that it could only help.
A huge thank you to the lads for their guidance and for a great learning experience. Smoggy’s fuel consumption has taken a knock, but for all the best reasons! I feel that it’s been good for me to confess to my lack of confidence and certainly I know that many wouldn’t. My dear friend said to me that I had to write this blog as there are too many folk that just wouldn’t confess to having a weakness / lack of confidence / loss of mojo* (*delete where applicable).
I got a report from Mick too, which was really appreciated. Just a wee reminder of what was tweaked and what noticeable improvements there were. It was well worth it and I enjoyed riding roads that were unfamiliar to me. Those roads included the A19, B1257, across the Yorkshire Moors to Whitby via the A169. Loads of fun. Headed back via the A171 and the iconic Tyne Bridge. Mick, after all, was determined to give me a first time experience. Seeing as the Tyne Tunnel had been ticked off my list already, it was a great opportunity to see part of the centre of Newcastle that I hadn’t seen in over 30 years.
Now it’s time to consolidate all the valuable input and put it into practice! Lots of practice!
So, remember, no matter how good you are or how good you think you might be, it’s always a great thing to have someone have a look at your riding.