I Ride for Myself
Kawasaki VN800 Classic
I’m not sure how it works in the USA, but it took me 10 months of hard graft to get my license in England. Starting out on a little 125, riding that for months, trying to get the hang of the clutch and cornering and stopping smoothly at traffic lights and generally not falling over...
Why did I ride? Oh yeah, there’s a man involved. A lovely, gentle introduction to riding bikes—a vintage enthusiast, I’d never have got on a bike if I’d been out with a sports biker.
So waving one (restricted) license, I set out determined to buy an 883 Sportster. I don’t understand how or why at 5’2” and 119 pounds I ended up in the cruiser camp. Probably because that man taught me the sheer joy of the ride and the need never to go anywhere in a hurry.
I gradually widened the search as my budget constrained me and sad as I was to see my 125 Marauder go, I was desperate for something with more power and less wobble. And on a visit to a local dealer one day, to look at a Shadow, there was the VN. Sitting somewhat apologetically next to its (too) big brother, the 900 Classic. I sat on it.
3 weeks later, I choked back the tears leaving my little Marauder and nervously eyed the VN. It was like a battleship compared to the 125. I got the 15 miles home without incident, and promptly spent another 2 weeks or so getting the bike fixed up after two very problematic drops on my slopey and slippery driveway—replacing a broken indicator and bent clutch lever, getting crash bars fitted, wondering if I’d made a very expensive and heavy mistake.
And now? Now I move around very carefully at a standstill. And me and this VN are just starting to get to know each other—how we handle in corners, the wind seemingly threatening to pull off your helmet as for the first time I’ve got proper acceleration. The lovely smooth click of the gears and the reassuring deep and quiet rumble of the engine. You may keep your Harley's and their loud pipes. It is a truly frightening and truly exhilarating experience.
And the man? Well, that was over a long time ago, pain and heartache and emotional toil. But time heals all wounds. I’m happy with someone else, but he’s always been in my rear view mirror, the one who took two and a half hours off work to pick up the VN with me, and who never judges me for wobbling round tight bends. The fairing you see peeking out at the back there is his Royal Enfield Classic Bullet 500. I couldn’t have done this without him. One day, I don’t think he will be in my rear view mirror any more; our lives will change. And I will bust out of my driveway on a glorious summer evening—because of a friendship that gave me my wings to ride for myself. Wings branded with a V.