Friday, 31 December 2010

The Wisdom of Rupert Paul

A thought to end the year with. I've been doing quite a lot of work with Bike magazine in the last few months and I found this short piece while I was doing some research. It was written by one of my favourite bike journalists, Rupert Paul (above). As the former editor of Performance Bikes (in its late-80s, early-90 cultural heyday), Rupert was instrumental in reinventing British bike mags. He also helped me get a job once and wrote about Mablethorpe beach races for Sideburn 3.
Anyway, I like this a lot (I retyped it, so if there are any mistakes, they're mine not his). G

It was the Buddha in one of his far from idle moments, who said that a meditation on death is the greatest meditation of all. Only when you are aware of how fragile and transient your time here is, can you truly and fully engage with life.
Riders love a risk or we'd live in jars packed with cotton wool. But are we that aware? Control freaks, more like. I love riding fast — don’t know anything else, really— and the kick comes from endlessly balancing skill against risk. But whenever I’ve crashed, the two or three seconds before show me who I really am - a very fragile, very mortal bag of skin, muscle and bone feeing deeply, deeply regretful. Thus, as the trajectory towards the car/ditch becomes obvious:
Myself (to imaginary omnipotent being): Could we start again, please?
Omnipotent being (in the guise of reality): Crunch.
Equally revealing is that, as soon as we feel able, we forget how scared we were and put on the bravado again. I once crashed in a busy street while carrying a giant thermos of tea in my rucksack - with the result that, as I got up, gushes of brown fluid splashed onto the floor. A small girl was horrified: ‘Oh look, mummy – blood!’ In seconds I went from total panic to laughing out loud as I explained.
The truth is, we kid ourselves that it’ll never happen. If we didn’t, we’d never get on a bike. RP


stevie coles said...

maybe as bikers we are more aware of ourselves than others. so as a result are more likely to trust in our abilities to get us out of the situations that we like to get into.
either that or its arrogance!!.
anyway im off to mt kailash for a walk round wi the bald one!!!.
happy new yr throttle twisters!.

Anonymous said...

Very well said! Having just returned to the land of the "normal" from a hard get off, all these thoughts are crystal clear in what's left of my little bitty brain. Risk and stupidity vs thrills and bravado and living life to the fullest. In the hospital, a sane person really begins to question why in fuck we do it?

The one question I keep asking myself is...when is the next track practice day? My bike still has fresh tires fitted!

Love, Mule

Moto Freako (aka BlackCountryBiker) said...

Having spent time in hospital facing an uncertain future, it struck me how fragile this life really is. Thankfully I'm still here and appreciate every day, whilst also making the most of everything - and that includes taking a few more risks, be it on my mtb or up on the mountains. The Doc should give me the all clear to be able to start riding my motorcycle again this year too! Wahey!!... life's too short to play on your Wii or Xbox so sieze the moment...

Hey Stevie C, apparently a single circumnabulation of Mt Kailash washes away the sins of a lifetime. you just gotta remember to keep dropping to your knees to kiss the earth. Fancy some company?

stevie coles said...

i was wondering if i can get away wi walking the track nxt time im at the showground.
it is 366mtrs, that should be plenty!!.

Mick P said...

Not so long ago - though maybe as long as a year (my oft-bumped brain is non longer able to judge), Rupert did a similarly thoughtful piece in his column for Bike in the light of a quite serious get-off that left him in blinding pain for quite some time. That, too, was an excellent piece that connected with loads of readers. If I get chance, I'll point you to the issue in which it appeared.

Rupert Paul said...

Gary, I'm honoured that you put my dribblings on Sideburn. Mr Mick P recently wrote something about discovering a copy of 'Uniform Babes – Nazi Special' under the workshop on Christmas day, the resulting self abuse leading to a 'frog-eyed grimace' three minutes later. I nearly wept it was so funny. It should be up here too.

Sideburn Magazine said...

I think we should be encouraging people to go out and buy Bike magazine as they are one of the only motorcycle mags in Britain supporting quality freelancers, like the aforementioned Rupert Paul and Mick Phillips, with reasonable pay rates (at least when compared to the rest of the market). Sideburn, by comparison, is nothing but a boil on the arse of publishing, running on nothing but favours and promises of jam tomorrow. Viva Bike magazine (and PB, of course)! GI

daws said...

Great words from Rupert. I remember an epic photo in PB(?) of him and a newly binned Kawasaki Zephyr which perfectly illustrated the post crash confusion.

I'm still on crutches nearly 7 months after a fun day at the MX track turned into a helicopter ride to the Hospital. 3 days in ICU, 26 days in the ward, multiple fractures, a lot of drugs, a couple of operations and lots of time trying to pick up nurses followed.

Times like these make you question a lot of things but I never questioned why I ride or race, maybe the circumstances surrounding the crash makes a difference. You also get to find out just how awesome your friends are when they come to visit and happily put up with you repeating yourself constantly.

Like Mule says, it's Risk V's Reward; You can eliminate the risk entirely but you're not going to get any reward.

My bikes have been gathering dust for some time now but when I look at them, the only thing I can think of - apart from "I really should fix that MX bike" - is getting back out on track.

Rupert Paul said...

After a big crash in 2009 I talked to a few riders who'd had really serious smashes like you Mr Daws, for an article in Bike. They all said how fantastic their friends had been, and how they found their own ways to deal with dark moments. You've obviously got a long recovery mate but I hope the worst of the pain and drugs is over. It is amazing how much you can recover if you do your physio, and how strong you can get again.
I've still got that picture!

daws said...

Thanks Rupert,

I see it that injury is just a hurdle to overcome, there's no reason I can't get back to how I was before. Sure, there will be days when you hate the world but everyone has good days and bad days, regardless of how much metal they have in their body!

I'm looking forward to the physio sessions, even though the physio told me it's going to hurt... a lot! I'm making plans for this season and in a few months time I should be back on track again. Faster, stronger and fitter than before.

fredbob said...

I believe motorcyclists ride that line of the Yin Yang knowing we could roll into the light, or crash into the dark. We're much more suited for this life I think... of course after 30 years on a bike, I may be biased. Who care? We riders rule!

Oh.. I crashed pretty good a while back, lost a new helmet in the process, but I got right back up like I did in my racing days, then popped my shoulder back in and rode home. I realized, disturbingly, sometimes I LIKE to crash. We probably would have been EMO Cutter kids if not for bikes. Ride on mates.