This month we meet national observer and LAM webmaster Mark Clarke.
I grew up on a council estate in the North East of England and one day the local scallies nicked a battered old Yamaha. I'm ashamed to admit that my first experience of riding was on a stolen bike going round in circles in a field. I didn’t know how to change up and screwed the sack out of it in first gear until the engine overheated and cut out. It was such a thrill and I've been hooked on bikes ever since. However, I tend to acquire them by more conventional means now …
I passed my bike test 6 years ago at the ripe old age of 50 - clearly, having my second mid-life crisis. After being wiped out by a car 9 months later, I thought it may be a good idea to invest in further training. Once I’d recovered from surgery, one of my friends suggested I check out 'Bike Safe' and I duly signed up for one of the sessions at the Warren. They introduced me to the concept of Advanced Riding and mentioned that LAM was my local group. I immediately registered with the IAM and joined the club, passed my test in 2016, became an Observer in 2017 and National Observer in 2020.
I've loved everything on two wheels ever since I was a kid. I spent 25 years riding and racing bikes (cycles). However, injuries and the passage of time made it impossible for me to ride, so I kept the faith on two wheels and took up motorcycling. Bikers make up 1% of road users, so we're automatically in the minority and are our own sub-culture – and I quite like that. I genuinely love the friends I've made through LAM, the camaraderie of my fellow petrol heads and the similar, irreverent humour we seem to share.
The skills and techniques I've learned from LAM have saved my life on at least two occasions. I find it incredibly rewarding to give something back and pass the skills I learned on to new riders. Hopefully, it will keep them safe and save their life one day.
I've a few ... I love Wales and riding up Llanberis Pass, over Snowden and down through the Ogwen Valley. The roads around the Nurburgring in NW Germany are simply amazing. However, I think the best roads are in Austria and Switzerland, amazing tarmac and breath-taking scenery, with the stunning Alps as a backdrop and no-one else on the road. However, a word of caution – if you go over there, stick to the speed limit as they have zero tolerance. When I got back from my European Tour, I had two brown envelopes waiting for me with speeding fines for going 5km/h and 8km/h over the limit!
Information!! Keep your chins up (both of them) and throw your vision as far up the road as you can. Riding is inherently dangerous but getting information as early as possible helps you spot clues, make a plan and navigate a safe path.
Focus on one thing, practice like mad, nail it - then move on to the next. Build on a solid base. Get it ingrained in your muscle memory so it's automatic and you don't have to think about it.
My snood. It's like Arthur's blanket in Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. You can't go anywhere without your snood.
Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX - I've had three of them so far. It's a sports tourer (more sports than tourer) and does everything amazingly well - commuting, track, touring, twisties or a trip to the shops. It completely flatters my riding and is a brilliant bike.
I got back late from work and as I was putting the bike away, the side stand flicked up. As it was dropping, I managed to catch it, put my body underneath it and lay it down on top of me. Unfortunately, I was completely stuck and couldn't move. It was a cold, wet January night at 10:30 PM and I was lying in a poorly lit parking bay. After about 10 minutes thinking “how the hell am I going to get out of this one”, I heard the 'click clack' of high heels and this lady asked if I needed help. She put her handbag down and deadlifted the bike up - in high heels - then walked off as if nothing had happened. Strong girl!
I have an eclectic taste, so ask me about anything about ballet, IT or bird watching.
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