Travel Reference
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GLENKINCHIE BY BIKE . This is trusty-steed, knight-on-a-quest stuff (it's hard not to feel a
bit heroic when you're on a bike. On the other hand Glenkinchie is the distillery nearest
to our house, so I'm not being that heroic). I'm riding a Honda VFR 800; by general
agreement, one of the best bikes on the road today. If that nice Mr Gore had been allowed
to assume presidency after winning the election, at this point I'd almost certainly be ex-
tolling the virtues of what I still think is the the world's best-looking motor cycle, the
Harley-Davidson V-Rod, however after the Bush putsch I started my own trade embargo.
The Honda is red in colour, which is generally a good thing in a motorbike and cer-
tainly makes this one look pretty damn splendid. The old VFR 750 I owned before this
model was nothing special in the looks department, plus mine was a sort of dull green,
which did it no favours, however the new one looks great. It has two double exhausts ex-
iting right up under the seat so it almost looks like a Ducati if you sort of squint at it in
subdued lighting conditions.
Ducatis are fabulous-looking and fabulous-sounding machines, but they can be un-
comfortable to ride, especially if you're over six feet tall, and the consensus amongst bike
magazine journalists seems to be that they're still not as well screwed together as Hon-
das. The 800 also has brilliant-in-every-sense headlights, which is an area where a lot of
otherwise very good, very fast bikes fall down (falling down being something that very
good, very fast bikes are in general quite good at anyway).
I'm sort of a born-again biker, though my early biking days were limited in nature. I
had the use of a Suzuki 185 GT for about six months back in 1976, looking after it while
its owner was abroad, and that was pretty much that.
Then a few years ago I thought it would be fun, and a challenge, to learn to ride a bike
properly, so did a course locally, sat and passed my test and, as tends to happen, really
started to learn how to ride a bike afterwards (all the test can really do is make sure you're
not too big a menace to others or yourself before you're allowed out unsupervised to start
the actual learning). I'll never be as entirely comfortable on a bike as I feel in a car - it'll
never feel as second nature just because I've been learning how to drive cars ever since I
was seventeen, whereas I've only been learning about bike riding since my early forties.
But oh-my-goodness it's fun. Scary fun, sometimes, but fun.
I'd better emphasise that I can only ever describe the merest foothills of what it is to
be a biker, leaving the higher slopes to others; I've never done a wheelie or got my knee
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