And then I start my bike.
It’s like the noise of the engine triggers latent aggression buried deep inside me and it bubbles to the surface with the vibrations. My heart rate quickens, my hands twitch in anticipation of holding the handlebars and I start the Stop Clock. I time my commute you see. It wasn’t always like that, I only started doing this when I got the CBR600RR 12 months ago. I have been commuting for many years of course but never like the mad bastard I became on the CBR. The commute was never a race, it was a treacherous obstacle course to be completed safely. But the CBR, with its manic, revvy nature, cat-like agility and uncanny ability to fit into the tightest of spaces took commuting to a whole new level for me. It became a predatory, hunting experience and I became addicted to it. Even if I was in no hurry to get anywhere, I still HAD TO ride like my family had been taken hostage and the only way to keep them alive was to break the existing commuting speed record. I live in southern Sydney 18 KMs from my office in the CBD. In a car, it would take me around an hour at peak traffic time from my garage door to the car park boom gate. My best time on the CBR was 18 minutes. This is in peak hour traffic with stop lights, some 50KMPH suburban streets and the average speed of cars on the Eastern Distributor being 10KMPH. That time is a bit insane and I don’t do that regularly as it takes me 15 minutes to stop shaking after. The average is more like 30 minutes but some days my hand twitches more than others.
I ride my motorcycle every day, hail or shine. Here’s how a typical commute flows for me.
I snick it into first, release the clutch and ease out of the garage. I stop outside, press the garage door remote button in my right trouser pocket to close the door behind me. I then wave bye to my kids who always come out to the balcony to see Dad streak away on his bike. I look at the bike clock and make a mental note of the starting time.
Accelerating slowly down the street I let the bike warm up a bit. Stop at T junction to turn left. There’s a car coming down the hill on my right but he’s still 20M away. I cut in front of the approaching car and accelerate swiftly to get away from it. The genial, accommodating Harry who gives up his seat to the elderly is already gone. 50M ahead is a traffic light 5 cars deep. I filter to the front and watch the traffic lights in all directions to be able to predict when my lights are about to turn green. I look into the car on my right to see if they’ve taken offence to me splitting to the front. There’s a burly man in a ute looking agitated so I take off hard from the lights and am clear of the intersection before he has even moved. Hang a left at the roundabout and take back streets to avoid the big lights to get onto The Grand Parade. Get onto The Grand Parade further up the road. The fun begins.
The morning sun rises over Botany Bay to my right and the water shimmers. I see old people walking along the foreshore on their morning walks and hot chicks in tight pants try to distract me with their calisthenics on the beach but I stay focussed on the task at hand. I come up fast behind a Garbage Truck in the right lane with a slow L plater blocking the left lane. I ride bang on the centre line between the 2 lanes to try to glimpse the road ahead from between both vehicles and plan my move. There are many cars up ahead but they’re all moving and in my mind I visualise virtual LEDs lighting up a zig zagging path through the traffic. If only I can get past this damn truck now. I could split between the truck and the L plater but I can see the young, Asian female L plater is freaked out by the huge truck next to her and is struggling to maintain focus and line. Too risky. I wait till the L plater drops just behind the truck, bang it down a gear and take the truck on the left before the L plater has any time to panic. For a split second I register the negative effect the howling CBR has probably caused to her heart then I quickly change focus to my breathing. My breathing is slow and measured, my back is taut, my hands hold the grips only lightly, my eyes are wide and my brain is attuned to my surroundings like a Cheetah scoping its prey. I carve up the next 10 cars keeping a margin of at least 2 feet between myself and all vehicles front, back and sides. I also always have an escape route if the car in front brakes or the car behind speeds up or the truck on the side merges into my lane. I am constantly checking my mirrors, looking through car windows at the drivers to gauge the level of attention they’re paying to the road. Then I make my moves.
There’s a jam up ahead near the airport, I sneak in between a Hertz Rent-a-truck and an AMG Mercedez. The truck suddenly moves left to block me, maybe inadvertently. I was expecting that so quickly clench the front brake to stop inches behind the AMG’s flashy driver side mirror, probably worth a few grand. The mature blonde lady driver looks sternly at me. I smile at her in my open face helmet then look away. I paddle walk the CBR between the truck body and the AMG mirror with maybe a centimetre to spare either way. I can feel Blondie’s disapproving stare fixed on the back of my helmet, which has a sticker that my mate Madart made for me. It has a sword crossed skull with a latin phrase scribbled across it “Oderint Dum Metuant” – “let them hate, so long as they fear”. I wonder if it applies to Blondie. I then create my own highway between 2 wide lanes, dodging and weaving through SUVs, sportscars and sedans. Some people make space for me. I stick out my left hand as thanks, if I can. Then I get honked at. I pay no attention. I get to the tunnel under the airport runway just as a giant 747 crosses it, carrying people full of the anticipation of far away places. I relax and wave at the translucent airplane windows, maybe someone can see me. Maybe I made someone smile. Then I make the CBR wail in the tunnel and split the narrow space between lanes. Exiting the tunnel, the 2 left lanes are always blocked, so I head over to the third lane and gun it swiftly past a ute that’s about to turn right into my lane. He hasn’t indicated or made any movement to turn right but I just KNOW he’s going to turn right. He’s got the telltale look of a tradie heading to the Mascot industrial area. I look in my mirror to satisfy my curiosity and smile smugly as I see him change lanes behind me. I store that information in my ever growing database of motorist behaviour.
I streak past the 2 lanes of stopped traffic on my left, watching out for the smart arse who will try to suddenly pull out right and try to jump the queue further up. I spot him 20M ahead, a second before even he knows he’s going to pull out in front of me. I give him a wide berth as he pulls out exactly as I had expected. Just as the Grand Parade curves left up onto the flyover over Botany Road I spy a tiny spot and tuck in behind a car that’s just moved forward. Then I swing left between lanes and split all the way over the flyover. As we reach the bottom of the flyover, a lane joins us from the left and I know, from experience, that this is the quickest lane so cross the solid white line and jump into the left lane. This one comes to a crawl about 200M up the road and there’s a tiny stretch of asphalt between the lane and the kerb. I head into this “lane”, which is about a foot wide and full of cracked and swollen tarmac. I consciously slow my breathing, tighten my core, my hold on the grips light and my vision far in front of me as I guide the CBR at 50KMPH, straight as an arrow with my front left brake disk less than 6 inches from the kerb and my right mirror 6 inches from car mirrors and truck bodies. A couple of places I need to jump over gutters, fallen debris and sticks. I stay on throttle to keep the front wheel light and the CBR remains composed.
I hit the Eastern distributor, which is crawling at snail’s pace, and quickly shoot up the emergency lane maintaining a constant 60KMPH. I scan constantly to my north-east for possible cop cars or bikes and inattentive drivers who may drift into the emergency lane. I know there are cop bikes usually lurking here to pull rule breaking motorbike hoons over but I roll the dice. The alternative is to crawl along in traffic but that is not why I took up motorcycling. You see, motorcycling has a flowing rhythm, it only works when you’re moving at a certain pace, otherwise it just feels awkward and silly. Motorcycling makes no sense at 10 kilometres an hour. I decided a long time ago that I will ride my way or I will not ride at all. I will not be dictated to or cowed into submission with threats of my own safety. I ride smooth, safe and in a state of hyper alertness. What I’m doing may appear dangerous but it certainly doesn’t feel like that to me and I feel in complete control. My right index finger is always hovering over the front brake lever while I keep the throttle constant. Sometimes I drag the rear brake through really tight spots, I find this stabilises the bike when you need to be straight and stable at walking pace. You can carry a higher rpm and don’t need to feather the clutch as much. Not great for your rear brake, of course, but it’s hardly used anywhere else and I haven’t found any excessive wear on it.
Then we (Casey and I) hit the Eastern Distributor Tunnel, which is fairly easy to split through and doesn’t hold me up at all. I cut off at the William Street exit and a couple of stop lights later, I’m at my car park. I look at the bike clock and calculate my time. 18 minutes.
I park the CBR next to the other bikes in the lot and stroll through checking out the bikes. I then walk to the office, decompressing. My fellow pedestrians are unaware of the adrenaline pumping through me. I am indistinguishable from them as I show no overt signs of being a motorcyclist. No jacket, no boots, no helmet, no swagger.
I work amiably with my colleagues, designing enterprise grade software systems that help my company sustain their phenomenal growth. Evening comes and another uneventful day has passed. I text my wife I’m on my way home and check if she needs me to pick up any groceries.
Then I start my bike.