I’ve been a pillion passenger on many motor bikes, and had several scary moments in my life. Being a sixties rocker, my husband always rode a motorbike and I, like the dutiful wife, accompanied him sometimes, when I wasn’t too busy washing nappies or cooking and cleaning. My first sort-of-scary moment was when I got on the back of his bike one day when we were going for a ride down to Brighton.
My baby sitters were standing at the gate with our two young babies, I was standing on the rear footrests of the bike just about to sit down. My hands were wrapped around two oranges in my leather jacket pockets. My husband opened the throttle at full tilt and roared off, trying to prove that his latest bike did 0-60mph in less than ten seconds. I think he proved it, but I was left sitting in the road outside my house, and he didn’t realise I had come off the back of the bike until he went to lean the bike around a bend, and couldn’t feel me behind him.
Another scary moment in the same era was when we had a sudden snowstorm while I was visiting a friend. I had pushed my baby daughter in a pram and walked the three miles to my friend’s house. My husband turned up later on his motorbike. A couple of hours later, there was thick snow outside, with no sign of it stopping, and it was getting late. No busses ran between our houses. My husband said there would be no problem if he gave me a lift home, and I held our baby wedged between us. In those days, we didn’t wear crash helmets, unless we were going on a long journey, and as far as I know, there were no real laws about not carrying a baby on a motorcycle. My husband went very slowly in the snow, but I was petrified. Just thinking about it now scares me to death!
Years passed, with several incidents of my husband dropping his bike for some reason or another; sometimes his own stupid fault, sometimes due to car drivers failing to notice him. Fortunately the result of these spills caused no ill effect except damages to his bike and apparel. We progressed to a family car, although my husband still had a motorbike for fun. After my children were both at school, I got myself a part-time job, but it was two bus rides away. My husband bought me a little Raleigh run-about. Top speed 30mph. Well, me being a rocker’s wife, I rode my moped flat out everywhere, leaning it over as I went around roundabouts, until one day I got stopped by a policeman who warned me that although the speed limit was 30mph, one wasn’t supposed to do it all the time! However, I didn’t learn, and showing off in front of a yard full of men where I worked, I came haring into the yard at top speed, wearing my little summer mini-dress and flip flops, and braked to a halt. The bike skidded in the gravel and off I came, sitting dishevelled in the gravel, blood pouring from everywhere. I hadn’t really hurt myself much, just my pride. I think I learned my lesson then.
After that, both my husband and I became ‘sensible’ and responsible. I learned to drive a car, and scrapped my moped. However, my husband still kept his motorbike, progressing as the years passed to bigger, faster and better models. In 1983 we went to the Isle of Man TT races, me on the back of the bike. I was not quite so big and brave as I used to be in the sixties, as I hadn’t really been on the back of a bike in several years.
Day one, my husband lost his motorcycle gloves, and so on day two (mad Saturday before the races start), when we went out riding the TT circuit, he had bare hands. Although he had been driving all the way up North to Heysham quite sensibly, wanting to make me feel safe with being back on the pillion again after many years, suddenly my husband decided to give the bike a good thrashing, and test out his new bike’s handling on the TT circuit. The bend at Kepple Gate was approaching fast. Is it really a 90mph bend? Not on our bike it wasn’t! The bike was leaning further and further to the left, surely we couldn’t lean much lower. Next thing I knew was a bang on my head, and I was sliding, sliding, sliding…….
“Watch out for the bike!” I could hear my husband shouting, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I was sliding, sliding, sliding in some sort of fog. I came to in a ditch, in front of a stone wall. The bike had apparently slid across the road in unison with me, hit a roadside post and reared up, just missing me as it crashed back down to the ground, broken and battered. My husband had tried to stop himself sliding across the road, in unison with me and the bike, with his bare hands, which he had painfully skinned on the tarmac. The slide across the road had worn a hole through the pocket of my Barber jacket, and through the purse that was in it. It had worn through my leather gloves and my knuckles on my left hand. We had both worn jagged holes through our jeans. But we were alive, and relatively undamaged. Our friend, who was riding behind us, thought we were ‘gonnas’. We were very lucky nothing was coming the other way at the time. However, nothing daunted, after a quick check over in hospital, we were back on bikes the next day, with my husband on the back of my son’s bike, and me on the back of our friend’s. We spent the rest of our TT races holiday very sedately, and left the road racing to the professionals.
Have I been on the back of a bike since? Not likely! I will stick to four wheels.
An assignment for Helium.com