Wheel alignment

Sunday 9 April 2023

12 months since retiring from riding - how has it gone?

In my early 60's on the Blackbird - a tad light on good skills

Regular readers will remember that I made a series of posts in 2010 and 2011 about motorcycling, the ageing rider and what steps might be useful to prolong one's riding in a competent manner. I was in my early 60's at the time. The posts attracted the attention of well-known U.S - based motorcycle author David Hough and some lively correspondence followed.  In a direct but constructive manner, David called me out to actually do something concrete about future-proofing my own riding.  The first step was to sell the heavy, tall Blackbird and get a lower, lighter bike in the shape of a Triumph Street Triple.  No loss in performance for the type of riding I did and many benefits.

Leaving for the 1600 km in under 24 hours Grand Challenge event - 2010 

From occasional incidents over the years, there was clear room for skills improvement.  I'd never had an independent assessment of my riding and to cut a long story short, I decided to enroll with the NZ branch of IAM RoadSmart UK, which uses Police Roadcraft as the basis of its advanced training.  The initial assessment in early 2011 was quite a shock to the ego but I stuck with it and passed my Advanced Test in late 2011.  The total benefits from taking this option can't be understated and they were detailed HERE .  The journey of upskilling continued, eventually becoming a mentor and Examiner.  As well as a massive increase in my skillset to keep me safe, other benefits such as the value of humility and helping to upskill others had a much wider personal impact and will continue to do so.  Making lifelong friends with people on the same journey was a genuine privilege too. Without doubt, continuous upskilling enabled me to keep riding longer than it would have otherwise done.  I still find myself informally assessing other road users which is a good means of  remaining sharp and staying out of trouble.  You will understand that my wife is excluded from assessment as I don't want to be sucking hospital food through a straw.

IAM trackday 2016 on the GSX-S 1000 (courtesy Barry Holland)

The other critical part of discussions with David Hough and others was about the difficult decision of when it's time to consider retiring from riding. In hindsight, this discussion was to be incredibly useful because there was plenty of time to plan for an angst-free retirement from riding at a future point in time.  Reaching that point very much depends on the individual rider and their circumstances but sooner or later, it's something that all of us are going to face.  Surely it's better to plan for that eventuality than suddenly being faced with the end of a lifetime's passion?

In a nutshell, having a fallback interest or two seems to be the most appropriate means of softening the inevitable change.  In my case, owning a runabout for sea fishing was to become one of the options as it was a pastime which Jennie enjoys too.  Ok, let's be honest ....  she's actually better at it than I am!  Travel is another interest which we both share although that has been partially screwed up by the global impact of Covid.  

Ready for another day of being out-fished by Jennie

However, Covid lockdowns were also largely responsible for some serious thought about retiring from riding sooner rather than later.  There wasn't a "lightbulb" moment but a dawning realisation that I'd achieved all I wanted from a 58 year riding career.  Enjoying a series of challenges during that time through competitive drag racing, long distance endurance events, track days, occasional trail riding and formal upskilling had largely satisfied the urge.  My role as an IAM Examiner often required 500 km days in all weathers and they were becoming less attractive - the one downside of living in a remote rural area.  Also at the back of my mind was the fact that if I did have an accident, a body in its 70's wasn't going to recover quickly.  A serious consideration not only for me but the potential impact on the wider family. 

Out with fellow IAM member Tony and his wicked MT10 SP

Having some fallback interests meant that I could now seriously entertain the thought of stopping riding with no regrets and perhaps surprisingly, the prospect didn't feel like a big deal at long last.  I'd like to think that was largely due to the planning mentioned above.  It was made even easier by an almost throwaway comment by Jennie that we should look at buying a classic car so that we could have even more fun together.  My best friend in the UK is a classic car owner as well as a motorcyclist and after some conversations with him, it seemed like a great way to keep occupied, given my interests and background.  Bloody hell, actually choosing something which appealed to both the CEO and me was a major mission, resulting in sulks and pouty lips for a few months but we finally settled on an MGB GT, a choice never regretted.  The difficult background to that acquisition has been detailed in previous posts but it was serendipitous in one respect.  1972 was the year of manufacture and also the year we got married!

A fine day on the Coromandel Peninsula with the MGB GT

With the decision having been made, the KTM was advertised for sale and the delivery ride to the new owner was surprisingly unsentimental.  I guess this was due to all the prior preparation for retirement, even if the actual endpoint wasn't known.  After retirement, another potential interest also popped up, partially as a means of staying fit as I got older.  I had owned an old road bicycle for at least 30 years but the steep hills in our area combined with age was an issue.  What about an e-mountain bike which would enable me to use it on the many bike trails in our area whilst being kind to my damaged knees?  I took delivery of the Giant E+1 in June 2022 and it's been huge fun, having covered just under 2000 km since then.  Ummm.... we'll skip over falling off and breaking a rib just after taking ownership due to getting a shoelace caught on a pedal.  That won't happen again due to a change of shoes and pedals!  Riding motorcycles has been a real bonus for riding an MTB though, despite the mishap.  Situational awareness, balance and braking to name but 3 benefits.

The Medlock MTB trail, Coromandel

So in summary, giving up a passion (an obsession according to Jennie) hasn't been as difficult as it might otherwise have been, thanks to a bit of planning which effectively started a decade ago. The year since selling the bike has passed quickly with plenty of interests to keep occupied.  I'm still interested in motorcycles but quite happy not to own one.  Not the slightest regret and I guess that it's as close to a perfect outcome as one could hope for!  Still have most of my riding gear, but I'll get round to selling that in due course.

I hope that this post has been of interest to anyone else who has similar decisions to make in due course.

How new challenges normally start!