There’s something magical about motorcycles: a kind of primitive connection between bike and rider that seems to exist only rarely with cars. Perhaps it’s the stripped-down quality in a motorcycle that brings engine and owner into close conjunction. For many, a second-hand Yamaha or Kawasaki is their first independent mode of transport and, like one’s first love, it retains a special place in the affections.
As a teenager I couldn’t afford a motorbike but my best friend, John Simpson, had an old BSA and we had adventures galore on it. I remember us roaring off to the coast at Helen’s Bay on summer days, hoping to impress girls. We wore leather jackets but not crash helmets and imagined we were part of the biker gang in Stanley Kramer’s 1953 iconic movie, The Wild One.
In more recent times I owned a 750cc Yamaha and rode it on the island and in northern France. A beautiful motorcycle with swept-back handlebars, customised paintwork and a leather seat, it was a pleasure to ride. The roads in Brittany are ideal for bikers, with little traffic congestion and great scenery. Riding a motorbike there makes you feel young again. Nowadays, however, I wear a crash helmet.
Here’s a short tale (just 250 words) about one man and his motorcycle.
Pepsi Morgan thrilled to the power of the liquid-cooled 12-valve engine of his new motorcycle.
The dealer described it as the purest riding experience money can buy. He was right. Pepsi roared down the dual-carriageway like a bullet.
No stranger to bullets, Pepsi had left Afghanistan a month ago: a hero, they told him. Plain lucky, he reckoned. He’d seen some hot spots but Helmand was the worst, a killing ground.
Like all soldiers he’d become fatalistic. “If the bullet’s got your name on it,” they’d say and, yes, he’d lost mates that way. No amount of caution could save you. He remembered the patrol when Beezer got hit. A lone sniper. A bullet with his name on it, poor sod.
Pepsi had been lucky. Got home, got out, blew his savings on a brand-new Triumph Speed Triple, the perfect expression of stripped-down, brute power. Right now it felt like a package of pure energy rocketing him into the future.
He didn’t see the delivery truck that came out of nowhere. The impact was like a bomb exploding inside his head; more powerful than all the bombs in Helmand put together. He was dead before he hit the ground.
The broken motorcycle spun like a roulette wheel on the tarmac. The truck came to a halt twenty yards away. It was a big vehicle. White. The word “Pepsi” in two foot letters on its side. A bullet with his name on it.