When a man nudges north of 50, there are a couple of things he should probably avoid doing. Bungee jumping, leaping out of a perfectly good airplane, skinny dipping in the Amazon teeming with piranhas and learning to ride a motorcycle are among some of them.
It doesn’t help when you’ve got friends who constantly egg you on, trying to convince you to take the plunge. When I was a young buck, I had toyed with the idea of learning to ride. Unfortunately, life and work had a habit of getting in the way.
After more than two years, I’ve finally decided that it was now or never. Part of the appeal was the romanticism and the sense of adventure associated with hitting the open road, feeling the wind against your face, your throttle inputs determining the size of the grin on your face as you eat up corners and smoke the asphalt.
The other was the yearning to see what was out there, to test myself against the elements, against what the machine will throw at me, sleeping rough on the road and grabbing a quick bite when you can out in the middle of nowhere. Why else would T.E. Lawrence ride his Brough more than a hundred miles over half the
countryside to get his bacon, sausages and eggs on his round of marketing twice a week? Joy.
It is the ultimate expression of individualism, and despite riding in packs, most riders say that it’s just you and your machine. They are also quick to add that you’d never get it unless you actually do it.
It was not a decision that was taken lightly, though. I am quite attached to my bones, having never broken a single one. There’s nothing remotely heroic about being tossed over the handlebars and sailing through the air like a fat comet on a low, shallow trajectory and landing like a sack of Idaho potatoes several metres away after being hit by a car. Blood makes me queasy, more so if it’s my own. At my age, breaking a bone would require months of convalescence. Hence, the trepidation.
There are a couple of other things that are working against me. I am not mechanically inclined and cannot tell the difference between a sprocket, a spark plug and a swingarm. I have the grace of a sloshed, overweight and undertall wallaby on a cheap, fake hover board, and my hand-eye coordination is probably only slightly better than Gary Busey’s. Once, in the office, I tested my reflexes by trying to grab a pen that was dropped in front of me. The cleaning lady gingerly put it back in my still outstretched hand, closed my splayed fingers and said “Iya… tidak apa Encik. Lain kali sukses,” long after it hit the carpeted floor.
The first order of business was to find the right driving school to get my B-full licence. I settled for a driving school in Kampung Melayu Subang, because it was the closest to home.
My first session was quite surreal.A bunch of us were herded into the air-conditioned room that looked right out of the set of Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu, complete with beige walls with faux wood border trim and a plastic potted plant in one corner. The class was made up predominantly of 16-year-olds, school leavers, and a clutch of young working professionals. There was only another middle-aged gentleman who was there with me. He was also after that elusive B licence.
It wasn’t long before the group settled into a typical classroom setting; calling our instructors cikgu (which made my skin crawl), finishing their sentences for them (“Lampu apa..?!” Lampu hijau, cikgu!), and speaking together as a group. My mandatory eight hours there was part of Kursus Persediaan Pemandu 1.
The next step is to sit for the traffic law module. Pass that and I’ll be issued with the learner’s permit. That would enable me to operate a motorcycle on public roads, legally. But that’s not for a few more weeks. My more immediate concern was getting some seat time.
My first time on a proper motorcycle consisted of me straddling the machine and turning the lights on and off, and that was it.I went through several dry runs first, going through the start-up procedures first in my head, and then going through the physical motions so that I was familiar with the sequence. On the
third day, I grabbed the bull by the horn and fired her up…
Haris Hussain is deep in the throes of a second mid-life crisis. Instead of taking up ballroom dancing or the sport of curling, he’s opted to learn to ride a motorcycle. Follow him on his journey over the next few weeks here…