Why the hell would a man in his mid-40s suddenly up and buy a Ducati? This is what a lot of people asked me when I up and did it. The first words that light up on the frontal lobe in blinding blue neon are ‘mid-life crisis’.
Scientists at the University of Melbourne told us in March of this year that the MLC is more than just a justification dreamed up by man-friends shooting pool in a man-cave. The human animal is, they say, at his most completely miserable between ages 40 and 50. Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but I’m 45 so I can paraphrase, summarise or surmise if I feel like it. I am, after all, at the lowest point of my existence, happiness-wise.
It should be noted that there are two types of old-man motorcyclist: the ‘I’ve ridden since I was a kid’ biker who’s wise to the ways of two wheels and has the scars to prove it; and the ‘I haven’t ridden since I was 22 and now I’d like to ride again’. The latter are called ‘retreads’ and are the motorcycle equivalent of townies or men with soft hands. This is the group I’m in.
Since the 1980s, when ownership of motorcycles was at its peak in New Zealand, the median age of blokes on bikes has steadily gone up. Jimmy from TSS Red Baron Motorcycles in Alicetown, Lower Hutt, says this: “Typically, people buying bikes now are more mature. They’re in a more financially comfortable position.”
Lorde knows, there are innumerable reasons why the over-40s shouldn’t ride bikes. For example:
- It’s these and not your face, or fingers, that most painfully feel the bracing Wellington wind at 100kph, and the combination of arthritis in said knees and sub-sensible temperatures makes it hard to straighten one’s legs post-ride.
- For some reason, the first thing people think to tell you when you say you’re either considering, definitely getting or now own a motorbike, is that they know someone who has been life-changingly smashed to pieces in a horrific accident.
- Unlike my 20-year-old self, I am now brutally aware of my mortality.
So why do we do it? I recently had the chance to take part in a big group ride for charity. On the 150 bikes there were maybe a handful of riders younger than me, and plenty older.
Kris is 40. He rides an Aprilia RSV4, which for those who don’t know bikes is faster than a speeding bullet and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He told me he rides because, “It’s just you and the road, and all you need to think about is the next corner.” Neil is a trucker and Triumph rider who loves the camaraderie of the rallies.
As for me, yes, problems evaporate as you focus on counter-steering and whether that driver has seen you. And, yes, it’s nice to be part of a club. It’s a feeling of being connected to the world. A motorcycle is the perfect marriage of art and power, and it’s a way for a man with creaky knees to again feel strong and fast and free. Simply put, it makes me happy.
And when I say it like that, it sounds a lot like a mid-life crisis after all.