I run my hand over the sleek black faring, my eyes raking the smooth curve of the wind shield, back over the streamlined tank and narrow seat that I know fits my body perfectly, to the tidy, tight rear end. This is one sexy bike. I remember the first time I saw her, 8 years ago now, the day I bought her brand new off the showroom floor.
Living in North Queensland, I was in a temporary hiatus from the wife and mother role I’d been in from the age of 22, thanks to a painful and drawn out custody battle. I had found myself, at 29 years of age, possibly for the first time in my life, being able to ask myself, without deferring to anyone else’s needs – what would you like to do? For the longest time I had dreamt of getting a bike, as a teenager I had plans to travel around Australia on a motorbike, just me, my swag and the open road. A bike spelt freedom, and fun, and in the depths of my despair over a broken marriage and separation from my three babies, buying my black beauty was the perfect escape.
I researched and test rode, and finally negotiated the best package from a dealership in Brisbane. My plan, to fly to Brisbane, pick up the bike and do my first road trip on it back to the north of the state. It was perfect, three days on the road getting to know the feel of her, the buzz of freedom, and of rebellion even. “Yes, that’s right, I bought myself a motorbike, a 600cc beauty.” to my critics I just wanted to laugh in their face. “Why? Because I can, and I want to! What more reason do I need!” Fast, responsive, the power on twisting the throttle was heady.
She served me well, my black beauty, I went everywhere with her. Years past and I regained custody of my babies, life moved on, but I still rode her. Each time, that familiar feeling of excitement, gunning the engine as I streamed down the road kicking from first to second always made me feel so alive and free, it was therapy. No matter what sort of day I was having, it never failed to bring a smile to my face.
I moved south to the surf and beaches north of Brisbane and began working in the city, commuting every day, an hour each way, on my girl. I did that for years. But there came a time when I couldn’t ride her for a while, I’d broken my collarbone, and would be off the bike for months. Then more heartbreak as my second relationship disintegrated in the wake of my injury. And my black beauty paid the price, she sat in the garage, patiently waiting for me, but I was too broken, and then too sad, too heartbroken, to ride her.
I’d bought a new small car during the time I was recovering from my collarbone, and even after my bone had healed, it just seemed easier to take the car. It wasn’t my shoulder, it was the heartache that happened almost in parallel. It’s funny how much you can tell about a person by how they care for someone, or don’t, when they need it most. Losing someone I thought loved me more than life itself, at the time I needed someone the most, broke me in so many ways, and the thought of riding my bike – of feeling that thrill of joy I knew I would get – I rejected. I wasn’t ready to feel happy while I was still grieving for what I had lost, and the bike was tied to that loss. There was no way around it, in my mind at least. I did take her out once, months after the heartbreak, when I was trying so hard to regain some sense of myself, but it was shortlived, unsustainable for me at that time.
So today, as I stand beside her contemplating a ride, so many thoughts and memories swirl in my mind. After years of neglect in the garage, someone who does really love me – who maybe recognised, either consciously or unconsciously, what she meant to me, and what she stood for – has taken the time and money to get her back on the road, as a gift to me.
I’ve put it off, this first ride, I’ve found a myraid of excuses. When she was at the shop, I dragged my heels over getting her home. Then once she was home, registered, serviced, ready to ride – still I hesitated. It was too wet, I was too tired, I’d had a few drinks – the excuses were thick and fast. But suddenly today I feel ready.
I slide the key into the ignition and throw my leg over her, my body finding the curve of the seat. With the stand still down and one foot on the peg, I hit the ignition. She roars to life, the throb of the engine a beautiful sound. I sit for a moment like that, one foot still on the ground, examining, remembering her dials and display. I hop off again, walk over and pick up my old riding jacket, and my beautiful, brand new helmet, while she throbs, waiting for me.
Standing by her side I slip my helmet on, it’s a dream of a helmet, so much better than the bottom of the range one I had previously. It is also a present, along with getting the bike back on the road. It fits so snugly to my face, I slide the internal tinted visor into place and I think it is the most perfect helmet I could ever ask for. Shrugging into my jacket, hoping there is no nasty spider surprises in it after years of shed storage, I’m ready to go.
I slide into the seat and flip the clear visor down till it clicks. My hands are tight on the grips, I breath out, relax my hold. Kicking the gears into first, I ease down the drive way, letting my instinct take control. My eyes are up searching out the direction I want to go in and I’m moving. My street is a short cul-de-sac, and I’m at the first intersection before I’m even settled. My left hand is rusty as it searches for the blinker switch, and I need to look down to find it.
I make the right hand turn that will take me out towards the main road and for the first time in years, I twist the throttle. The old familiar joy is instant in that moment, my body tenses as I kick it up to second and then third, riding far too fast for this surburban street, but unable to contain the pure joy the wells up inside of me as I feel her spring forward.
I have no real plan, no idea where I’m going, but I turn out onto the motorway, where I can bring her up to speed. I feel the wind buffeting me, touching my skin even through my jeans. The feeling is indescribable, cool, but warm at the same time. I head out towards the M1 and turn north, relearning the feel of being one with the bike. I cruise on the highway for a while, the feeling of freedom and the open road, reminding me of the girl, a long time ago who dared to dream. So much has changed since I first dreamed of taking on the open road, and yet this part of me is still bright, luminescent, even in this moment, a free spirit still burning inside the grown up version of me.
I miss the exit I was thinking of, but I don’t really care, I keep riding and head off on the next, realising as I do that actually fate has given me the perfect road to reconnect. It’s funny how, once you are on the right path, life suddenly stops being a struggle and just what you need appears in your path. I feel this today as I ride, fate pushing me up one exit to the perfect backroad. Twisting and turning, the road surface has just been redone for most of the road and it is smooth and flawless, the corners beautiful opportunities to lean the bike into them, trusting the tires, the road and myself to slide smoothly around each bend.
I feel my confidence flowing back as I ride, I hadn’t even recognised how much confidence I had lost. I head back down south, a loop that takes me past the beaches and a host of memories. It’s funny how I can drive past these places every day in my car without opening the pandora box, but the act of being on my bike seems to short circuit the locking mechanism in my mind, and old memories come tumbling out. But for the first time, I’m able to look at them and be okay. It’s like I’ve crossed an invisible line today.
I cruise home and I know that this is just the start of regaining the freedom of the ride. I’ve broken the heartbreak spell, and the joy of the ride is no longer something I want to hide from. I’m ready to feel the power and joy riding brings me. I’ve taken it back, as mine.