As I write this, I’m celebrating my 31st birthday. Happy birthday to me, and all that. And, as per every other birthday I’ve ever had, I woke up this morning feeling exactly the same as I did the day before. Certainly not feeling a year older, anyway. And although I’ve put my body through the wringer, in my head, I still feel like a stupid 18-year-old. Because I might walk like I’ve got a stone in my shoe, I might have to sit down to piss and I might grunt like a rapist every time I heave myself out of my favourite armchair, but I can still race a bike. Because age is just a number and I refuse to believe that I’m ‘past it’. But how long have I got left?
Ok I know I’m not fighting for podiums in BSB anymore, but I’m being perfectly honest with you, I never really was. And although I have considered a British Superstock return, although I’d be prepared to put the effort in, I’m not sure if I’ve got the time, and I definitely don’t have the money. But that doesn’t mean I’m past it, does it?
Because you don’t need to be a BSB rider to be a bike racer. But sometimes taking a step away from reasonably high level competition to something a little bit less serious, feels like a failure. Even though it’s not.
I tell myself that I stopped racing at BSB to concentrate on road racing, TT, Ulster GP, that kind of thing. But when I look back at it, I feel as though the decision was actually made because of the fact that I couldn’t keep up any more. And it wasn’t necessarily the pace on track I couldn’t keep up with; that was the easy bit. It was the constant search for sponsors; the endless nights prepping the bike; the countless days off work. When I look back now, I have no idea how I sustained that lifestyle for so long.
I think my racing career peaked some time in my 20s. That’s probably when most people’s racing career peaks. And I can live with that. Because I’m still racing bikes, and I’m still enjoying it. Who cares if I was a little bit faster ten years ago? Nobody!
So let me wrap this birthday therapy session up with a conclusion; a bike racer’s never past it. it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how fast you used to be, if you want to race bikes, you can. Look at the likes of Chris Walker, John McGuiness and Michael Rutter. They’re not about to set any world records (any more), but they’re old boys enjoying themselves on their race bikes. When I grow up, I want to be just like them.