A new start after 60: I wanted to do something stupid when I turned 70 – so I learned to ride a motorbike

November 20, 2022
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Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/

When Ron Williams turned 70, he had the urge to do something stupid. “People have this concept of 70, and it did worry me,” he says. “People think of a 70-year-old as elderly. I thought, ‘Right, well, I’ll try and knock that one on the head and do something that isn’t fully expected of an elderly gentleman.’” So he signed up for motorbike lessons.

When Williams arrived at the preliminary road-fitness test in Douglas, the Isle of Man, 20 minutes from his home, the instructor was “rather shocked” to hear his age. “He was very worried,” Williams says. “He had a concept of a 70-year-old as well, so I had to shatter that for a start.”

After an hour, Williams was out on the road. “I was trepidatious. But it wouldn’t be a challenge if you didn’t have things to overcome.” Five months later, he took his test, but failed for going too slowly. He passed at the second attempt, in February 2014His two daughters weren’t too shocked. “They were used to me doing slightly crazy things.”

He bought his own motorbike, and a few months later went on a road trip to visit his niece in the Netherlands. Each year he enjoys “going for a burn-up” around the Isle of Man TT course on “Mad Sunday”, when non-competitors take the route. The island has no national speed limit, but Williams picks a quiet time and keeps an eye on his mirrors for “the one that’s coming past you at 160mph”.

Now 79, Williams says he belongs to the “universal biking fraternity – which is a very nice thing”.

The bike brings a feeling of freedom. “You’re totally in charge. You’ve got the wind in your face. You’ve got that power under your backside you can use to get yourself where you want to be … The acceleration the motorbike gives you is exhilarating.”

He had learned to ride because he had thought that at 70, it was a “stupid thing” to do. But in fact, he says, “it was a great thing to do. I would recommend it to anybody.”

It was when friends came over for the Isle of Man’s Southern 100 race that the idea of learning to ride was first put to Williams, after he spent a week on the back of his friend Russell’s Harley-Davidson. But he was 68 at the time, and he laughed it off. “No! I’ve got a car. What do I want with a motorbike?”

There had been another near-miss decades earlier, when, as a student of geology in the 60s, he had borrowed his then girlfriend’s father’s motorbike to get to the interesting geological structures on the south side of the island. It is tempting to imagine him enjoying the freedom of the bike at a time of wider social emancipation, planting a long-submerged desire to have his own motorcycle. But, he says, the 60s came late to the Isle of Man. “Sorry to disappoint you – it was purely functional.”

Still, there must have been some hankering for adventure, because Williams grew up outside Liverpool, and remembers lying in bed as a child, then as a teenager, “listening to the hooting of the ships on the Mersey. It was wonderful to think of the liners going out of there. You step on board and you are on the sea and that is a pathway to anywhere in the world.”

His father was an engineer in the Merchant Navy, and Williams hoped to join too. But, he failed his entrance test because of colour blindness, and turned to teaching instead. Initially, he taught maths and physics; later, he was careers master at Ramsey grammar school on the island.

On the Isle of Man, of course, the sea is never far away, though on the bike Williams hears no honking ships, only the wind. “But I can go down to the sea at Castletown and look out and think: ‘You could get on a boat and go.’”

“Why stand still?” he says. “I’m a great supporter of Clint Eastwood’s dictum. When asked how he kept so young he said: ‘Don’t let the old man in.’”

To mark his 60th birthday, Williams got a tattoo. “I’ve got 80 coming next June,” he laughs. He is working on his plan.

Story Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/oct/24/a-new-start-after-60-i-wanted-to-do-something-stupid-when-i-turned-70-so-i-learned-to-ride-a-motorbike?utm_term=Autofeed&CMP=twt_gu&utm_medium&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1666592723

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