Breaking up with a bike: It’s not you, it’s me

Jock waves goodbye to a bike that last year he was all over. Seeing his new ride is a bit of a goer, we can see why.

It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve used that phrase more times than I care to remember. Often it’s just bullshit you say to make it easier on the other person when of course it is about them and you not wanting to be with them. No matter how you say it, you want out.

Recently I’ve been looking at my BMW S1000XR like this. Bought new in August last year, replacing my faultless but maybe too ‘girl next door’ GS, I sought an efficient loin tickler. One that liked travel and having a GSOH I felt it was a perfect match. Except the XR is a ‘taller than she looks’ model. At a standstill, I was on my tiptoes. All good things are a compromise you get used to I told myself as I asked for a low seat to be fitted prior to delivery.

But 2000 miles later the love affair has turned into flat expressions of love and really struggling to speak passionately about my compromise. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get enthusiastic about a bike I think I’m going to drop every time I go out on her. And that soon scratches and gnaws at the confidence. Coming to a standstill is more drama than coming to a halt should be.

A day in the Cotswolds on the XR, after a week in the Vosges on my tiny but sublime Street Triple 765RS, highlighted a day of nerves isn’t worth the engine, the suspension, the presence, the sleeper adventure bike appearance. I got home realising it wasn’t the bike; it was actually me.

The XR truly is a superbike on stilettos. Sure those spiked heels create less feel than a compact superbike does, how could they not? And if you disagree I’ll argue that yes the XR handles, but we’re talking feel here, not outright performance. Yes, it can tour, but with a van and a back that doesn’t like to travel, I don’t. Well, I do, but I break the back, so to speak, by driving the way there then day tripping around trippy roads. With the emotion gone and my problems fogging the ownership I have to face facts, she gotta go.

Admitting you’ve made a mistake is hard. Harder when it’s a bike. It’s a little bit like a parent privately knowing that their 3rd kid was a mistake they wish they’d not made, but kinda loving the thing all the same. (No, you may have guessed, I’m not a parent).

No matter how many people say they don’t care what people think of their bike choice, it’s still a reflection of you, your experience, your needs and wants and for many a symbol of what biking means to them. It used to be you bought a motorbike, now you buy a category and I’m all for that, even if it does put pressure on the punter to buy the ‘right’ bike.

Superbikes and Harleys are great examples of the image being central to choice. Adventure bikes say ‘windswept and wonderful’. XR’s say ‘too old for superbikes, not old enough for a GS, yet’. To me, my XR says GS on steroids and a misguided mistake that I’d manage to overcome the height. I haven’t. I have finally admitted that to myself. The lack of passion in my voice came as an honest wake-up call to someone who feels they usually make right decisions. Being quite a practical person, I like functionality and being able to turn the boring parts about a bike into righteous buying points.

So a warm sunny Sunday came and went, and I didn’t enjoy stopping the bike. Constantly looking ahead for foot placement, uneasy rolling around loose potholed surfaces and a sudden need to stop on one particular occasion had me searching for lowering kits via Google at midnight, German beer in hand. No retrofitting the ‘factory low’ option it seemed, it was off to the forums for ideas. And tired of conflicting warranty commentary I decided I would visit Coopers Motorrad in Tunbridge Wells the next day and strike while the iron was hot, or rather while the love was freshly waning. When the love goes why hang around?

Stuart on Servicing and Parts is a man with an honest sense of humour and ability to make you smile at your own stupidity. Asking the questions I felt I already had the answer to and getting those answers I gave up the pretence that I wanted to keep the XR. A ‘fuck it’ moment later and I’m signing paperwork for a new S1000R and wearing that new-bike-purchase excited feeling. You know, the one that makes you feel an inch taller, the same one that made me think I’d be fine on my XR…

So glad that I’d ‘resolved’ the height and uncomfortable stopping dramas my practical side was ignoring the dumbass impulsive decision to just flip-flop the S1000 moniker from XR to plain old R at a cost I could have avoided by not being a dumbass some months before.

I’ve had an R on a four-day test/loan/blag, and yes, they are the silly superb you’d expect from BMW. More importantly, it’s an easy purchase decision as all the new BMW bikes have a familiarity that one bike teaches about them all and if you like the functionality of their switchgear and oh god over any KTM I most definitely do, then you’ll feel at home pretty quickly. And more importantly, I can put both feet down comfortably on the S1R.

Quietly ignoring the notion that my stubbornness had likely been the culprit for wasting a lot of money in such a short space of time, I felt like I’d left the tall, sophisticated woman for a shorter, naughty but more athletic one with no rack whatsoever. If you’ve ever been in a frying pan to fire divorce, you’ll likely understand my ignoring plain facts and being swept up in the immediacy of making a decision, even if a costly one.

So cue explanations to cover my mistake. Justifications and excited descriptions of the new bike. But all new bikes should have excited descriptions, so I ought to scrub that from the record, m’lud.

I usually blame the ‘good advice’ on my mate Lee from MotoWorks in Kent. He’s the good advice behind my purchases when explaining to my not interested girlfriend. I like to validate all my decisions on someone else’s advice where there is a selfishness about them. Given bikes are my ball, and I’m not sharing them any bike purchase is a selfish one. Nice pillion perch? Don’t care; I rock solo bambino. Selfish for sure.

However this purchase has a costly, impulsive, but the right one, kind of feel. Yes, coulda, shoulda, done the lowering kit I hear you say. But maybe once the love has gone, you got to move on, even if there is a solution of a sort to hand? Asking the tall girl to bend down still makes me small and pondering the compromise. It’s not you, it’s me. And take the cost, wagging fingers and rueful head shaking on the chin.

It’s my first wrong purchase for a long time. So maybe this is my reminder that bikes need more than an acceptance of compromise, and more ‘look a little harder’ as there are a bucket load of options if you spend more care looking for the love of your life, not just the sweet, tall, fast lover on the end of your arm. Every category has something that will appeal. Multi-franchise dealerships are sweet shops for those with enough cash or a decent credit score. PCP, HP, cash, these are the things that allow a choice to become complicated. Last year I settled on touring with a monster engine, ignoring the high heels and small fact that I rarely tour old school these days. Old school? Listen to me, sliding in a shonky attempt to flower up the fact I simply chuck my bike in a van and drive. Not exactly ‘New School’, just ‘Lazy School’ or ‘Fucked Back School’.

sell the motorbike
© Jock McJock | Jock’s old bike gives his new lover the cold shoulder

The S1R will stir the loins, no doubt. Your loins would have to be dead if something like that couldn’t. It certainly stirred Bennetts, my current insurer, who refused to quote me on the S1000R, even though it’s worth less than the outgoing XR and is in truth pretty much a short version of the XR. Seems trying to insure a 2018 bike of any value isn’t part of their new 2018 policy if you live anywhere near London. A particularly good way to trim back their customer numbers given the price of new bikes in 2018.

Some other insurance brokers weren’t much help either, with one not so ‘Wiser’ company asking for a tad under £9000 for the annual premium. I paid £500 last year for my multi-bike policy. What with emission charges for older bikes and insurers not interested in new bikes, owning a bike in London is looking like a difficult proposition. I don’t live in London but it’s a difficult proposition for me out in the sticks, God help metropolitan bikers.

Will I return in less than a year whinging about this purchase? Unlikely, I have a naked bike already, a Street Triple 765RS, but they’re very different beasts. And I do like naked bikes, had a V4 Tuono before. I have previous carnal knowledge of overpowered supernakeds. So what’s not to like, apart from windblast? Mmm, already talking about compromises and acceptance…

On this occasion, it wasn’t a mate telling me ‘if the love’s gone, move on.’ Instead, it was a bunch of laid-back-but-knowledgable BMW dealership guys who did a sterling job of tactfully agreeing I’d maybe been a bit hasty getting together with the XR but the S seemed like a more stable and longer-lasting relationship would be ahead. Cheers guys. Especially the accessories guy, Stuart, who managed to persuade me to buy the new girl quite a few gifts (none of which are slutty in the least, oh no…).

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The Author

Jock McJock

Jock McJock

Jock would describe himself as a world child, though a child with a greying beard and ever-receding hairline.

Gaining his bike licence over 30 years ago, from the roads of Perth, Scotland, to the dirt roads of Perth, Australia, he stopped counting the miles as the half million mark easily came and went, barely noticed. Emotive, sarcastic, direct, as happy to bimble and take in the view as he is to drag a kneeslider and ignore the view.

His biking CV is an eclectic mix, from racer to tourer, track instructor to ride leader, he has ridden all over the globe, describing the journey as ‘in progress’, never ready to sit back and settle for the biking memories he has. Rather than just going from A to B, Jock makes sure A to B has a story in it to tell.

Jock revels in the analytical side of riding and product testing. His passion spills out into helping everyone from newcomers to aspiring racers, providing guidance to those riders who may lack confidence on their bikes, through lectures and riding analysis.

So buy him a donut and a coffee and settle in for a roller coaster ride of biking emotions.