If you surround yourself with short people, you’ll start believing your tall. If you surround yourself with ugly people, you’ll start believing you’re a looker. And if you surround yourself with slower riders, you’ll start believing you’re god’s gift to motorcycling. And I should know, because it happened to me; I really thought I was fast.
It all started some 15 years ago, when I was darting from one bike racing club event to the next, spending all my dad’s cash to try and win little plastic trophies. And I didn’t do bad at it. I could go to most club races, enter the Supersport class on my Triumph 675, and I’d never be too far away from the front. And with every plastic trophy I won, my ego got bigger and bigger and bigger.
It got so big that I decided the only place for me was the British Superbike paddock. I thought I was ready for ‘the big leagues’. So, believing my own bullshit, I persuaded a team to buy a pair of CBR600RRs and run me in the British Superstock 600 Championship. It was going to be brilliant. I’d already ridden most of the circuits that the BSB circus visited, and was pretty confident I could go as fast as anyone else round them, particularly on a stock 600.
It was during the very first lap of the very first session of the very first round that I realised I had severely overestimated my abilities. It was back in early 2008, but I can remember it as though it was yesterday. I was going as fast as I possibly could, I thought I should have been on lap record pace, but people just kept passing me. One after the other. People that I’d never heard of. Where had all these fuckers come from? As it happened, it only lasted about five laps; a 130mph high-side put an end to proceedings that weekend, and an end to my first ever round of BSB.
I thought about what had happened whilst I waited for my broken hand to fix itself, and decided to put that one down to experience. I’d move on from it and look forward to the next round. And the next round was marginally better, but only because I didn’t lob it at the scenery. Although, I might as well of; I can’t remember exactly where I finished, but I know it was closer to last than it was first.
Although my form did improve over the course of my first season in BSB, I never lived up to my expectations of winning a British Championship. In fact, in nearly 10 years of trying I never won a single race in any class at BSB. I never even stood on the podium. Because I was never as fast as I thought I was.
I sometimes wonder, if I had won a handful of races, and maybe even a championship at BSB level, would I have continued to tell myself how brilliant I was? Would my ego have continued to expand? Probably.
But I’m fairly sure that at some stage I’d have been brought back down to earth with a bump. Because no matter how fast you think you are, there’s always someone faster. In my case, there are a lot of people faster. And in my case back in 2008, they were all a hell of a lot faster.
So remember, you might think you’re fast, like I did back in ’08, but everything is relative. Perhaps you’re fast compared to some, but that doesn’t mean you can go and win a BSB Championship… like I used to think it did.