It’s been four days since Fabrice and I bullied the Ten back into working shape. And every day that passes puts more distance between me, the Ramboy bike, and the life-threatening crash. Still, the days don’t pass fast enough: I am quite tense on the seat, eyes raking every square inch of tarmac for traces of kitchen grease, olive oil and candle wax.
Despite by best intentions, however, I just can’t keep off thomascrowning speed bumps and other obstacles, and once or twice I contemplate punching myself for being so pigheadedly silly. But my helmet is quite recent, the other one got stolen in my private underground car park over the summer, and I don’t fancy damaging this one more than it might have been during the 200 mph crash. Okay, 20 mph. Still.
See, ever since I swapped the R for the Ten, I’ve been quite active on the aftermarket accessories front. And I’d rather spend 300 quid on some Laos-oriented improvement than yet another helmet.
With this in mind, on this cold and sunny Friday afternoon, I whistle and jump on the eager Ten. Like Zorro. On we go. Today’s climbing centre is the one where it all started, Mile End Climbing Wall. The Rotherhithe tunnel is doing a good impression of a heart about to have a stroke, so I elect to not play any part in this and decamp to Tower Bridge.
Slightly ashamed by the agricultural cacophony of the Ten, amid all these tourists, I look down as I cross the Thames. Or is it to watch out for grease?
On Whitechapel Road, after filtering at the lights, I happen to notice that the digital screen has dropped the digital part: it is blank as a baby’s bottom. Now, I wonder, is it bad if I look at myself in the mirror and can’t see my face? I gather it is not a good sign. And sure enough, 20 seconds later the thumper starts coughing, hiccuping, even air puking.
It thumps so hard and weakly and inconsistently that, for fear of losing a wheel and god knows what else, I decide to stop here and there. Hic et nunc, as Julius used to say in these situations.
5 days after my first crash, the second one. This one is figurative, but it’s actually worse: it’s a metaphorical accident, a standing crash, the worst kind, the kind that happens for no fucking reason. The heart stopped. Not in the Rotherhithe tunnel, but right under my bum.
I’m starting to seriously question the general assessment that Japanese bikes are reliable. I mean, SERIOUSLY. The thing is a joke, but not a funny one. Like a French joke maybe – you know the kind. It’s one that makes me laugh with an undertone of voodoo and death metal and Hitler.
Who to blame, I wonder as I stand like a cucumber, my helmet in hand, in the bus lane? Nothing doing, the aggravating Japanese refuses to hear anything. Each turn of the ignition produces a whining sound under the seat, like a pack of lethargic bees trapped in a cybernetic straw.
In a moment of clarity, I decide that the dealer is at fault. He KNEW it. He sold me a dud. I took pains to explain to him that I was buying the Ten because it is a RELIABLE motorbike that I will bring to Laos where there is NO dealer, no TRAINED mechanic, and I need the bugger to not give me ANY trouble. Because trouble there means being reduced to the sorry state of a walking being. A scary prospect.
In a second moment of clarity, I decide that the first crash may have caused a slow-to-show malfunction. Which one, I have not a clue. But clearly my bike just died on me after riding it 20 minutes, and I’m as disbelieving as I’m pissed off.
Fuck. Fuck and double fuck.
Trying to figure out what to think or do as the dodgiest scooters whizz past – Chinese, Nigerian, French, even Japanese – an uncomfortable witticism flashes in my head: I bought the Ten to have a great adventure in Laos, and all it’s giving me is a shitty time in bloody London. Needless to say I notice the uncomfortable part much more than the witticism.
Honestly, I try very hard to find a solution that doesn’t involve my go-to man for all things motorbike. So it takes me a minute to finally call Fabrice. Poor guy. True to form, his first instinct is to jump in his car and rescue me out of my Japanese misery. But for the first time ever, he listens to me and stays home, where he’s got a bucketload of things to do before he departs the next day for Almeria and a few days of track riding. He’s got a BMW S1000, you see, them Germans actually work when you need them to.
Suddenly, on the phone to him, I have the idea of renaming my Ten: it is now officially called the Yellow Peril. Yeah yeah, not PC. I’ll be PC when the bastard stops being a cunt, that’s what. Give me a good reason, and I’ll be bloody polite. Until then, fuck off or get going.
After much deliberating, calling the dealer, thinking of getting AA cover on the spot (for 2 months!) and convincing Fabrice to stay bloody put, I decide to finish my journey on foot. With the unbelievable Ten in tow. Zorro on his zero.
As I start pushing, the epitome of kindness and you-don’t-know-how-much-I-wish-you-hadn’t-stopped comes to a halt by my side. A 60-something man, with a helmet on.
On a 1200GS.
I mean, how cruel can life really be?! A BMW, the same as my R but in trail guise, stops (at the man’s command) to enquire what is going on with my fucking reliable Japanese trail toy bike. God, if you exist I truly hate your sense of humour.
I thank him dearly for his concern, explain the situation quickly, and start banging my naked head on the nearest brick wall as soon as he’s opened the throttle again. Yeah yeah, go, you rich stuck-up German buying crowd follower.
Nice guy. Not enough though: you can’t do that to me man, not on a BMW. Anything but that.
Half and hour later, having lost a few stones in sweat, I finally push my bike into a stop at the end of the climbing wall car park. I squeeze it between a rubbish tip and the temporary cabin. Hidden from view. One way to see it is to say that potential thieves won’t see it. The other, and truer way, is to say that I’m so ashamed of this good-for-nothing twat that I’d like to forget it ever existed. Hide, Ten, hide.
I have one of the shittiest climbing sessions. I thought the anger would power me to onsight a few V13s, but I struggle on V3s and anger quickly turns to frustration to the-world-hates-me and finally to extreme tiredness with life and motorbiking and climbing and pizza-eating and even reading on the loo.
Fuck’s sake man. All because of the Yellow Peril.