The title to this post maybe familiar because it’s the title of a great Amy Winehouse track. It’s a song that walks through the possibilities of what happens when our shoes lead us down dark alleys and into shady dives. I’m taking a different approach to the title, one that recognises the same pair of shoes used on several epic moto rides. So, put your favorite trainers/pumps/sneakers on, read on, and then ride, epically!
But first, let’s understand what I mean by the term ‘epic ride’. A common definition, and one that I’m using, is that an epic ride is a ride that, like a long film or book, contains a lot of action, a journey, a challenge and life experience. The term epic is therefore usually about a historical subject, because in order to describe something as epic, you’ll no doubt be referring to a ride that has already taken place. You might want to plan a future epic ride, but it doesn’t mean to say that you’ll get one.
The other point of note is, what’s the chance, unless you plan it, to have several epic rides made over a couple of years, and done in the same shoes? I also mean shoes and not moto-boots of some sort. The chances are generally, pretty slim. So, let me introduce you to my pair of size 10 (UK), Barbour branded, practical, unglamorous casual/trainers/pumps/sneakers. They’re special to me as they are the connection between some of my most epic moto rides that I’ve done. Ever.
I’ve done epic rides on different continents in these shoes. The shoe fashion wasn’t planned with the ride, it just so happened to work out that I was wearing these at the time, and not because of fashion, weather or ‘just-the-right-thing-to-wear’ reason either.
As an introduction to two specific epic rides, consider the geographic differences between Arizona, USA and North Yorkshire, UK, and you’ll find they’re about the furthest apart from a weather, food, style, accent, topography, architecture, history etc etc. Both have their fascinations and a uniqueness to them. This post would be boring if I banged on in detail about the differences between these two places, so instead, I’ll focus on the North Yorkshire ride because I’ve already written about the Arizona epic ride, and you can read it using the link at the end of this post.
There’s one place that is special in my own moto-world, which I’ve also written about before, and it’s Scarborough. More specifically, the Oliver’s Mount race circuit, which is a road like the Isle of Man TT normally, but during certain weekends of the year, it’s a full-on race track. If you don’t know it or have never been there, watch some onboard footage on YouTube. The other thing that is special to me is my 1976 Yamaha RD250B, and I thought it would be a good idea to combine these two special things.
Scene setter; It is an early Sunday morning in July, the sun is shining (amazingly), somewhere in North Yorkshire, UK, and about 50 Yamaha-minutes great ride away from my destination, the Oliver’s Mount circuit. I put on my vintage Yamaha speed block design leather jacket, grab the helmet which has the ‘Mick Grant’ design on it, and put my trusty Barbour trainers on. I wheel the Yamaha out of its garage and start it up gently without waking the whole village. On this last point, have you noticed how pissed off people get when they hear a motorcycle early in the morning, but then hypocritically, are then happy to spend the whole day making a hell of a racket cutting the grass, strimming, chainsawing, power washing etc. It’s human madness. Anyway, I crept out of the village as quietly as a cold engined two-stroke twin can.
The Yam’, as it will now be affectionately known from here on, soon warms up when it’s allowed into its real powerband, which is between 6000 and 7500 RPM. The journey takes me through pretty villages and on empty roads, and as I’m heading to the East Coast, I’ve got the full glare of the low sun, which is desperate to burn out my eyes through my black helmet visor. I get into Scarborough and head up to the hill which over-looks the pretty town and arrive at the race track. I stop by the control tower where the commentator and clerk of the course sit on race day and take off my helmet and breathe in the sea air. It’s great to be here. The place is silent apart from two runners who pass by and greet me with a slightly-out-of-breath ‘good morning’. I look down the start/finish straight and remember all of the great races I’ve witnessed since I first went there in 1975. I take the selfie below, put helmet and gloves back on and ride around the circuit, slowly, and twice. Ha!
On the top of the circuit in one of the fields that is usually where spectators park their cars and motos, there are about 20 people, all standing 2 metres apart, dressed in assorted lycra, and doing whatever exercises they are instructed to do. The person shouting the instructions, and who looks waaaaaaay fitter than everyone else, is standing on a box and putting actions to the words. I’m dressed appropriately bearing in mind there is a hell of an onshore wind that is bending the tops of the trees. This Lycra-clad group hadn’t appeared to notice it. The sun was out, so it must be warm.
I ride down into Scarborough, through the town and along the sea front. There are some other bikers who’ve stopped for a coffee, loads of people running, walking the dog and, swimming in the cold sea! I ride on, do a loop of Scarborough and head back in the direction of home. My trusty shoes give me great feel to changing gear and braking. They might not provide much protection in the event of ‘an off’, but hey, they’re cool and comfortable.
The journey back was as epic as the ride out, and the Yam’ was running like it did when it was run-in sometime back in ‘76. I arrive back at home and struggle to get my helmet off over the wide smile that I’ve got. Not every ride is epic, and whilst this ride didn’t have any single thing that was memorable in itself, the combined trip provide that special moment in time when I can switch off, focus on the bike and the road, and be smug in the knowledge that the shoes I’m wearing, were on my feet when riding across the Arizona desert on a Harley (which melted them a bit?), or indeed getting in 4 Alpine passes on a BMW GS1200, but hey, that is another shoe story for another day.
If there is moral or advice hidden in this story, it is that we don’t need to dress like a Power Ranger or Motogp rider to have an epic ride, so just put on your favorite ‘F@@k Me Pumps’ and ride!
Here’s the link to the epic Arizona-on-a-Harley ridehttps://diaryofamotorcyclingnobody.com/motorcycling-you-can-check-out-but-you-can-never-leave/
All photos by the Author