A twisty road, a powerful motorcycle and a sunny day. That's my idea of heaven. Trouble is, there's been precious little of the last bit so far this year. But this week? Well, there have been hints. And after packaging up and posting a last-minute tour by lunchtime, I'd had enough of the computer. I shut it down and grabbed my helmet. Time to go for a ride.
Forbidden fruit tastes sweetest… so sneaking out for a ride when I should be working somehow feels all the better. That's clearly illogical, as I work for myself, but there you go. And if a ride generates a story (hello, reader!) then I guess I could call it work… but this wasn't that. If I'd been treating it as work, I'd have charged up the GoPro to get some onboard pics, maybe even a bit of video. But I just wanted to go for a ride because it felt like summer was finally here.
I set off without a plan. I just knew I didn't want to ride the same old roads. Obviously, given that I've been riding around Norfolk and Suffolk off-and-on since I was 17 (shortly after the dinosaurs packed up and left) there's a limit to what I can find that's new, but I deliberately headed off not towards my girlfriend's house, my mother's house, or on any of the usual "let's go for a blast" routes I do when friends come over. Sometimes it's these random rides that produce the freshest routes.
And it was perfect. The sun high and hot – clipping 30°C according to the dash on the mighty CrossTourer. The roads were quiet, the tarmac grippy in the heat. I rolled out of town through fields and copses, the road lined with the Scotch pines so typical of Breckland, before crossing an almost manicured village. There were only three cars ahead of me, the lead one setting a reasonable pace on the straights but slowing down way too much for the corners. After we crossed another neat village in convoy, I nipped past them as we re-entered the national speed limit.
I poked around for about an hour, turning onto half-remembered roads and rediscovering one or two nice little stretches (not to mention some bumpy ones I should have left forgotten). When I started to get thirsty, I rolled into a layby with a catering van... which turned out to be a not-very-mobile kebab truck. Not quite what I was after!
So I carried on and, coming into Redgrave (where we actually shot the promo video for A-Z Britain for Bikers) I saw a few bikes parked up at the pub. Good idea, I thought. And spent the next 45 minutes nursing a shandy and talking about bikes and cars with Anthony and Danny, reminding myself of what is best about these stolen rides and stolen moments: meeting up with other like-minded evaders-of-responsibility, all enjoying an afternoon of unexpected leisure.
Heading home, I was very much back on familiar roads but I didn't mind too much. For one thing, I'd scratched that summer-time-ride itch; for another, the CrossTourer had an appointment with the jetwash I felt it would be rude to cancel. I knew I should be going straight back to base… but I couldn't help myself. I turned off the direct route to ride a favourite twisty stretch of minor road, hooking a right turn over a hill and heading into Thetford Forest. After the baking heat of the open farmland, the shady cool as the trees closed in over the road felt like dropping into some kind of invigorating plunge-pool.
I emerged from the forest on the edge of the Brecks, with the choice of turning left to go home or turning right for another well-worn route through the wilds… which of course I took. When you're stealing a moment, you want to hang on to it for as long as possible. Empty road, head down, high in the revs in third, hooking fourth, then rolling off and going down again for the next tight corner before winding it on again, tyres dancing across the tarmac and driving for the horizon. It's hard to think of a better way to spend an afternoon. Even if I should have been working…