I’ve ridden bikes most of my life. And I’ve a whole load of interesting tales to tell about my time on two wheels. If I think back to before my motorcycling days, I’ve been a veritable Lance Armstrong, without the fame, the wins or indeed the drugs. But I’ve done stuff like try to race cars as I cut in and out of lanes on busy arterial roads, hung onto trucks as they drove past because of the boost, the good chance that the driver hasn’t noticed and the rather modest turn of speed that they have. That’s all before I started motorcycling.
My thoughts have now turned back to those early years because of sheer necessity.It’s the traffic. I commute from Ruwi Mumtaz to Al Khuwair and the 16 odd kilometres distance can be either a 10 minute sprint or an hour long drudge depending on the time of day and how many other doomed souls are doing the same commute. The root cause is the rampant construction activity at Wadi Adai and the Darsait flyover. It is as if someone has selected the two most sensitive points and struck there – there is no escaping the chaos, the wait and the sheer waste of fuel. My average full tank range has dropped from 540kms to 400kms and my irritation has gone the other way.One answer is to get back on the bike. Nope, I think a cycle is well beyond the limits of my creaking bones to handle, so I have to dust off the motorcyclist in me and get back in the saddle. Somehow, the bikers are the only ones who seem to have some spirit in them as they trundle ahead of us in the gap between lanes of traffic, even the couriers, newspaper vendors and food delivery guys seem like they have found a magic potion.
I have had three bikes in Oman – ranging from a Suzuki Katana, to a Yamaha Thundercat and back onto a Suzuki GSX. But then I thought I had outgrown the craze. Traffic in those days was much faster and like every biker on the Gulf region, I had to fight for my share of the road with car drivers who never quite knew how to treat you. At the same time as a car driver, I never knew which way the passing biker would go. The guys on the big cruisers love to ‘own the lane’ as they hog the road, the young sports bikers cut in and out while the bulk of the ‘bike to earn’ guys move along the yellow stripe, too scared to insist on some tarmac.
I’ve always stuck to the middle of my lane, as I should. But frankly this round is not about being completely law-abiding. The cars that are necessarily lane-bound don’t go anywhere fast. It’s the guys I see shooting into the emergency lane, short cornering traffic signals and using hard shoulders that are getting home 10 minutes faster than I do. So my whole idea of getting a bike is to ride the gaps between the cars, with a big grin hidden under my visor, just so that I don’t bug drivers as I pass, all the while hoping that cars that leap-frog ahead by switching lanes don’t take me down along the way.
The plus side is that in the bargain, I hope to regain a panache that was mine by default as a bike rider. I look younger and more charming to ladies, the guys think I am someone and once in a while someone will tell me how dangerous it is to ride Muscat roads. And while the few short months of our tame winter are ahead I can still try to rationalise it all.