True Biker: Confessions of a bike courier
We have to make one thing clear with our True Biker series: Our definition of a ‘true biker’ is someone who puts bikes and biking somewhere very close to the core of their being.
For them, biking is a need that has to be fulfilled. Maybe even an obsession, and clearly never far away from everyday thoughts.
A true biker is someone who is so involved in their biking that they earn respect from other bikers – even if that respect is a little misguided sometimes. See #bikelife for plenty of examples.
A true biker, is not, by our definition, someone who represents biking, or any part of the biking community. But someone who lives and breathes it.
We are taking great pains to point this out because Steve’s story, as you’ll quickly discover, can’t be condoned.
At times, he’s been a complete twat (he admits it too) and we had to think twice about putting him in the True Biker category.
But he is a bike nut. Bikes have never been out of his life and while he might have used his recklessly he lives and breathes bikes, managing, however skint he is, to keep one one the road and to keep riding.
But he’s clearly someone to steer clear of on the roads, pulling some of the tricks he has.
As Steve will definitely be reading this I obviously need to say he’s actually a really nice guy, highly intelligent and very funny; but thank fuck he’s no longer a courier.
Enough of the disclaimers. He’s had 76 points wiped off his licence
So why are we telling his story? Because it mostly beggars belief and despite everything a lawyer would tell us not to admit, much of it we recognise as ‘little victories’.
Those moments when it’s Us one, The Man nil.
Do none of what follows yourself
I first met Steve* at a wedding party and, as bikers naturally do, we quickly discovered our shared passion and started swapping stories.
We were both fairly drunk, but it soon became apparent I was talking to someone who had ridden a lot of miles, done a lot of stupid stuff, had a lot of crashes (at least 20 at the last count) and had at least 76 points dismissed.
You read that right. 76 points. And no bans
Knowing there was no way I was going to remember all of his stories after endless vodka shots, we agreed to meet up once we were back in London, so I could get the tape recorder out over a few pints.
What follows will make grim reading for some, especially the close shave involving drugs and drink.
So let’s start with those 70-odd points you managed to wipe out. How come so many?
“It started back in about ’95, I had a GPZ550H at the time and was couriering. One time I was in a hurry to get through Shepherd’s Bush, coming from the north, and there used to be a buses-only lane that cut out the roundabout if you wanted to head down to Hammersmith.
Anyway, I’d used this before, remember this was in the days before CCTV, and I used it that day, and then headed down towards Hammersmith. At about the point you get to Brook Green I could hear a siren behind me, so I pulled over to let through the ambulance/police etc. that was in a hurry. Only for this policeman on a bike to pull in behind me and start ranting…
I replayed the last couple of minutes in my head, looked at my bike, and thought “oh shit, this isn’t good”. So he proceeds to tell me how I’m irresponsible etc, 85 in a 30, in a bus lane.. brake lights not working on either switch, bald tyres… That’s five lots of three points right there. And the final one: Contravening a prohibition order on my bike. Another. Three. Points.
However, I protested this one there and then, because although the GPZ had been prohibited from use the previous week on Victoria Embankment [Ed, he didn’t say why], I’d had it lifted 3 days later by getting it re-MOT’d by a friendly MOT place, and taking said MOT to Reading police station.
Thing is, Reading police didn’t deal with prohibitions at that point, so it had to stay on the system because they couldn’t lift it. Anyway, long and short of that one was that CPS clearly looked at it and didn’t want to admit the system had a problem that was the last I heard of it. 18 points saved!
About two years later I was moving house from Slough back to London and my bike (a super high-mileage GT550) had been off the road for a couple of months as I’d been to court for totting up points up to 12, and thought I was going to get banned.
I didn’t but the bike was in a state. No tax, no MOT, bald tyres, bad brakes etc. Anyway, I decided to move it to my new house by riding safely down the 12 miles of M4 and parking up. Should be no problem.
Having not ridden for a couple of months I got a little over-excited and was cruising at about 100 between cars doing 70-80… Enjoying life…
Then, approaching the elevated section, I see a blue Pan-European on the hard shoulder going as fast as me… And he’s gesturing for me to come over and join him. I clock that he’s police and decide I’d better.
So I pull over and he pulls in front of me Duke’s of Hazard-style, jumps off, comes running over – or waddling – points his finger in my face, and says, “Riding like that, you need to see a psychiatrist!”
I nearly said, “With a job like that…” Anyway, he then points out that he’s been chasing me since Junction 4, for about eight miles, he wasn’t pleased with my lack of legality, and he got pretty angry. I’d gotten within two miles of home and he said I couldn’t finish my journey.
So I call the AA, expecting a ban in the near future. And then I notice after he’s ridden off that he’s put the location down as being M4 J4 to J4 … Not Junction 4 to Junction 2 as it actually had been. Try explaining an eight-mile chase that took place in a vacuum.
Anyway, once again CPS must’ve seen this and laughed him out of the room. Another 18 points up in smoke! Pretty lucky really…
I’ve had another 40-odd points that I have had and contested (Ed, mostly using loss-of-employment as mitigating circumstances, if I remember). But spread out over 25 years such that I have never been banned.
I’m currently on nine points and remarkably un-bothered.. it’s just a game really.”
How many crashes do you think you’ve had? I seem to remember that you could put an exact amount on it…
“Yeah, who knows really? Somewhere between 20 and 30 I guess. I once fell off 3 times in one journey, although I was trying to ride my DT175 speedway-style on snow.
Had plenty low-speed collisions with vehicles turning right in front of me without indicating when filtering at speed. A few on my own, just trying.”
What’s the worst prang?
“There are two answers to this really. The first being when I flipped a borrowed Honda H100s on the mountain road from Llandrindod Wells to Aberystwyth.
I came into this left-hander too hot, chasing a mate on a pretty sorted Powervalve, and realised I couldn’t brake or lean any more and I wasn’t going to make it.
I saw the white line in the middle of the road go from being on my right to my left very fast and the next thing I know I’m crawling out of a ditch 20 yards away.
The bike was parked on the white line, upside down and facing the wrong way, its handlebars and grab rail pushed a good four inches into the seat, clocks etc. On the other side of the ditch was a sheer drop of at least 100 ft…
I don’t really know what happened, there were tyre tracks going up the grass bank on the outside of the bend, a following friend said he just saw a pair of legs going around the corner like a V sign…”
That wasn’t the closest shave, if I remember…
“I’d been up till 4am taking ketamine and drinking, got up at 8am for work and had done about 200 miles in traffic on a searing-hot jJuly day. It was muggy and really close weather.
I was heading back to the office down the A3 and had been stopping at every garage for another Red-Bull as I was so sleepy. Anyway, I fell asleep in the middle lane doing about 50.
I woke up just in time to watch myself crash into the barriers that are on the left side of the road on this section of road. I pulled the bike right and the left bar went into the armco, I was slowing down on the brakes as much as I could, but my left hand hit the bolts that join sections of barrier together… Like fuckin’ ow!
I came to a stop with bike still upright, the coolant hoses had been ripped off the left side of the engine, but otherwise my CB500 was fine. I was contemplating riding home, but I couldn’t pull the clutch lever in.
Anyway, the police turned up and said, “Have you broken down?” I replied, “No, I’ve had a crash, I think my wrist’s broken, I fell asleep.”
They mumbled something about dangerous driving, but actually were very helpful, calling an ambulance and pushing the bike to my next “Red-Bull stop” only 100 yards away… So close… Anyway, hairline factor to my wrist and back to work three weeks later. Pretty lucky again, I guess.”
You were banging on about the Monday Knights when we first met.
“Yeah.. Ha! This was a group of friends that I used to ride with who were in general a little bonkers. This started in the 90s, a time of few fatsos [Steve’s name for Gatso speed cameras], no ANPR, CCTV etc.
We would ride out every Monday night to a pub about 50 miles away, then race back on the same road. Full racing-speed wherever possible, loads of old Z’s, CBR’s, Bandits, whatever people had. There were lots of crashes and points, but it was pure road riding adrenaline, with the fastest road riders I’ve ever come across – proper mentalists.
I remember one time doing nearly 160 at Midnight on an icy A33 racing a mate who’d been talking a lot of shit about how fast he was.
We were approaching a roundabout and I thought, I have to out-brake him here, comprehensively. So I waited for him to put his brake light on, counted slowly to 3 in my head then put my brakes on. I went through the roundabout largely sideways at about 85 and came out the other side about 50 yards in front of him. He shut up after that….”
Are they still going?
“Nah… The mobile cameras and multiple fatsos everywhere took the fun out of it. People moved away… started doing track days etc.. good times though…”
Like most bikers, you are a pretty normal bloke to meet, but put a lid on and there’s a transformation. What do you think happens to us? Especially when it’s your livelihood and a lot more is a stake than on a weekend hideout.
“I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie. From starting to ride BMX when I was 10, to doing things to see if I could get away with them. I figured as a courier, that there was no point doing it if I couldn’t enjoy it. Even now, if I’m out on my bike I won’t be riding slowly if I think there’s a chance of getting away with going fast…”
That’s like all of us, surely? You claimed at one point you had London’s fastest courier bike…
“Ha! Not the fastest bike, perhaps, but I was up there with the quick boys round town. We would race if we met on the same route and I never came across anyone that could lose me, and I lost many.
But there were definitely a couple of the other guys who were also fucking quick… I used to say I could get to any London post code from the West-end in 20 minutes… Try it and get back to me?”
With that, the talk turned to how he’d calmed down, a bit.
And, after taking his long-nursed shandy as a sign that it might be true, I left him as he climbed on his modded ZXR750R and rolled off, somewhat sedately, it then seemed, into the night.
Then, as I walked towards the Tube, I heard him give it the full beans down Borough High Street.
Get yourself sorted:
Don’t ride like Steve.
*Steve is not his real name and while his stories are all true we have had to change certain details to protect ‘Steve’s’ identity. You’ll be glad to know that while still riding, Steve is no longer terrorising London’s streets as a courier. Obviously, we do not condone Steve’s behaviour. Jeez…