Returned riders are those who had got a motorcycle licence as a teenager or twentysomething, then stopped riding while they had a family, returning to riding in a midlife crisis.
They now represent the biggest and fastest growing sector of riders as well as dominating the crash statistics.
Rather than preaching and quoting statistics, Kiwi rider Ed Smith (pictured above) tell us his tale of returning to b king ad learning how to slow down!
In 2006 I became the typical middle-aged returned biker after many years off. I was 48 years old and had been a biker since learning to ride on my mother’s 1950 BSA Bantam 125, at the age of 12. I had owned several bikes over the years, starting with my first, a 1951 BSA B31 350.
To say I was a passionate biker, would be an understatement, I loved bikes and riding them everywhere. I deeply regretted selling my ’73 Suzuki T500 in ’77 to get married, though I still have the missus after 40+ years, so didn’t regret that bit.
Anyway, family off our hands, my wife allowed me to get another bike.
After some looking around an acquaintance said he was selling his bike as he was unwell. Turned out to be a mint condition ’89 Suzuki GSX600F, his pride and joy and he had really looked after it. The price was good, so I bought it. It was a good fit ergonomically and the test ride saw me returning with the biggest grin on my face anyone had seen for a long time.
The most powerful bike I had previously ridden was the T500 with about 45hp and a top speed indicated of 112mph (180km/h). It did the ¼ in about 13 seconds, similar to a Ferrari of the day. It was a fast bike back then, only shaded by the Kawasaki triples, the 500 and the 750. I used to ride it at 100mph (160km/h) everywhere.
The GSX600F was rated at 80hp, almost twice the power, but of course better handling and it actually had brakes that worked more than once from speed.
I had to get used to the acceleration and handling of a much more powerful machine. Don’t laugh, you R1 owners, with your 150hp+.
One time I was enjoying a local “test road”, now not available for “bike tests”, and was accelerating in third and loving it when an R1 went by as though I was standing still. I guess 150hp and a 20kg lighter bike does make a bit of a difference. The Yamaha R1 was the first road bike to crack the ton in first gear. That’s mph, by the way, not km/h. Nowadays litre bikes can go close to 300km/h with a gear to go.
So, what did I learn? The reason why returning middle-aged bikers were overrepresented in fatalities.
I was racing a hot Audi one day. We accelerated up a hill with me easily matching him and I thought I was the bee’s knees. At the top of the hill, the road turned to the right over the crest with a bank and culvert on the left and a drop to the right.
I had driven this road for more than 30 years in all manner of motorised machinery and knew it like the proverbial. However, this was a bit different.
I was travelling much, much faster, following a car with 4WD and four large sticky tyres, one on each corner. I was on two rather skinny tyres and as I leaned into the corner, realised I was about 20km/h too fast. Oh, boy, did that pucker me up!
Click here to read why cars corner better than bikes.
I found out that modern bikes, (well, even though it was an ’89 model, it was modern to me), had reserves of braking, tyres and handling unbeknownst to older bikes. I also found out that my reflexes were still as sharp as ever.
I braked hard and leaned as far as I could, desperately muscling the bike over. Braking hard into a corner is not recommended but the bike didn’t twitch and I narrowly missed the culvert, skimming the white line and made it around. On the T500, it would have ended in tears.
After that experience, I slowed down, realising that modern power means you are approaching corners at far greater speeds, and accelerating much, much more quickly.
The number of motorcycle crashes on corners, testifies to the inexperience of older and newer riders with the performance of a modern bike.
- Now tell us your returned rider story! Send your story and photos via email.