The return of the British Superbike Championship at the weekend got me all reminiscin’. I spent the thick end of ten years chasing the dream (or should I say chasing my tail) in that paddock but I sacked it off about five years ago when I decided ‘real’ road racing was the thing for me. And whilst I’m definitely glad I took the sideways step to race between the hedges, rather than between the painted rumbles strips and gravel traps, I do miss it. But now I’m 30 years old and getting balder, fatter and more miserable by the day, would I go back to BSB? That was the question someone asked me last week, and I struggled to give them a straight answer.
It’s all too easy to view the past through rose-tinted spectacles. And it’s something I can’t help doing. Because when I look back at photos from my late teens and early twenties, most of them were taken when I was in a very happy place. At the time I thought I was chasing the dream; now I’m a bit older, I’ve realised I was actually living the dream, not chasing it.
Anyway, that’s enough existentialism for one day, let me tell you why it was so good. Twelve weekends of the year, it was like I was on the best holiday ever. Like going to a different holiday resort (BSB circuit) every time, and all my friends would be there waiting for me.
When I wasn’t enjoying the company of a paddock full of likeminded people, I was racing my bike round a circuit as fast as I could; which is still one of my very favourite pass-times today.
If you’ve ever raced a bike, you’ll know that it’s like a drug. And the higher the level you’re racing at, the more concentrated that drug. The euphoria you feel when you have a good result in BSB is off the scale. MotoGP riders must be trippin’ when they have a win.
So why wouldn’t I want to go back? It was one of the best times of my life…
Well let’s stick to our drug analogy for a moment longer, shall we? Every high has it’s low. And every drug has it’s undesirable side effects (well, all the good ones do anyway). So does bike racing. And, contrary to popular misconception, it’s not the pain of crashing. Or it wasn’t for me, anyway. I always just took that on the chin. It was the pain of paying for it all that really stung.
I can’t for the life of me think where all the money came from to pay for my racing. For a lot of years it was everything I earnt, most of what my dad earnt, and a bit on top of that from the odd sponsor. It was probably costing me between £20,000 and £50,000 a season. When I look back at that, the spectacles don’t seem so rose-tinted any more. In fact, all of a sudden, they’re shit-coloured.
When you’re racing at a decent level, it starts to take over your life. Your whole world revolves around the bike and getting it to the next race meeting. You miss birthdays, weddings and funerals because everything else is secondary. And whilst I was happier than a pig in the proverbial, back then, I think I’m happier now.
So upon reflection no, I probably wouldn’t go back to racing at BSB. Unless my circumstances dramatically changed (i.e. I won the lottery, or was offered a HRC contract), I think my days of riding a 1000cc Superstock bike at 110% for the sake of a few points are behind me. There are easier (and cheaper) ways to get your kicks.