Mark Graham column - Dec 2005

The world is as dangerous as we make it, which is usually very. MG toasts the appeal of slow bikes.

THERE ARE TWO types of motorcyclist, so the saying goes: ones that have had bad accidents, and ones that are going to have bad accidents. You've got to love the un-complicated fatalism of it and the idea that no matter how much training you do you're going to get it one way or the other. It leaves you in no doubt that bikes are dangerous.

Some people labour under the popular misapprehension that motorcycles are not intrinsically injurious and that if you follow some sort of system you'll live to a ripe old death. But these are often the sort of folk who have a set of rules for using a toaster, all laminated to prevent marmalade damage and nailed to the kitchen wall with drawing pins that match the new cooker.

Which brings me conveniently round to toasters. I recently delivered a toaster to a friend in Bristol. While I was putting my mighty (former) East German utilitarian two-stroke through its paces on the A4, I had some spare time to muse on the nature of motorbikes and why it should be that they often bring out the worst in people - and why that might be a good thing.

Put anyone on a bike (especially kids on field bikes) and, before they've properly mastered the art of braking, the throttle is the thing that receives their attention. The notion that this thing can catapult you towards the horizon in a caterwaul of thrashing metal is too much to resist. Before you can say 'pay attention, the following is the set of rules and regulations pertaining to proper and controlled use of the twistgrip facility', they're off, legs flailing, at a million miles an hour to an urgent appointment with the nearest tree.

And although we all learn a bit more about the control and dynamics of a bike at speed as we hurtle towards mid-life crisis, there's no getting away from the fact that bikes bring out terrible urges in people.

What is the point of sitting behind queues of traffic when you have a machine designed to cut swathes through it? What is the point of riding at 60mph on a nice open road, when you can do 85mph (MZ)? And why does the sight of another motorcyclist force you into catching, overtaking and then staying in front of them at all costs?

I can't remember which town it was I caught up with the bloke on the R1200GS in. But I asked him if I was still on the A4 and he kindly pointed to the next turning. He asked where I was headed. "Bristol," I replied and he said, "Me too." Right, I thought, no one's beating me and this toaster to Bristol, and sped off in a cloud of smoke to miss the turning to the A4 and then ride like even more of a moron until I got him back in view.

I drew alongside slowly, the MZ gasping in top, and he kindly pointed straight ahead again and mouthed A4 in between fits of giggles. It took another mile for me to get 20 yards in front, flat-out with my chin on the tank, and I was reduced to stretching the double white line laws as far as they would go and abandoning the cross-hatching rules altogether (not that I'm entirely sure what they are) to keep him behind. It was the closest you get to a laugh on a slow motorcycle and I'd be surprised if the trip would have been enhanced on a machine with 180mph capability.

In fact it may have resulted in injury, death or a prison sentence - and where's the fun in that? While some people turn to the mud or the track these days to get their kicks, I strongly urge them to reassess the benefits of a slow motorcycle instead.

And what about all this danger stuff? Four people died doing the Great North Run last month.

There are two types of fun-runner...