Practice Day Ian Clarke
The air-bike hovered perfectly still and silent a couple of cms above the floor of his apartment. It resembled an old style jet-ski he had seen once but had a toughened clear canopy that completely enclosed the rider. He tapped the console and selected his destination from a list then touched the screen again to signal ready and held the hand grips, after that he needed to do nothing else at all, manual control was not an option. The front wall of his apartment opened in the middle then folded neatly aside and the bike slipped silently into the cool early morning air outside his 46th floor apartment. It glided straight ahead, lifted the nose slightly to ascend, banked to the North West and gradually accelerated to it’s maximum speed along the pre-determined route.
The Island was one of the last remaining places where it was still possible to own and ride a motorcycle, access is now strictly by permission only. It had always been a centre for motorcycle enthusiasts and still hosted the TT races every year. It was about 500 kms away but it was difficult to discern any sensation of acceleration or speed, the air-bike hummed almost imperceptibly and the canopy silenced all wind noise. The trip usually took about 90 minutes, he darkened the canopy and watched a movie to pass the time.
The old bike with bright chrome and polished metal curves throbbed into life as he kicked the engine over. The high octane exhaust fumes filled his nostrils as adrenaline coursed through his veins in anticipation. Out on the road the raw power grew rapidly as the engine revs increased and each successive gear change launched the bike to a greater speed. Lining the bike up for a bend he blipped the throttle to change down a gear, the exhausts crackled and snarled, he leaned over to clip the apex, the tyres gripped the road and he opened the throttle with confidence, the twin exhausts roaring in unison as the bike straightened up then before the revs peaked he changed back into top gear again and with the throttle wide open charged on to the next bend, grinning.
The rumbling vibrations through the bars, seat and footpegs made his whole body tingle, the rush of air tore at his leathers and buffeted his helmet. He was constantly listening to the engine and ready to respond to any change. He was aware of every detail such as the carburettors sucking air and the faint chatter from the valve-train, he even imagined he could hear the oil pump forcing the lifeblood through the arteries of the engine to cool and lubricate crucial components.
As the day wore on the shadows lengthened and fatigue started to creep in he gradually began to slow down and allowed the bike to cruise for a lap. The engine purred smoothly and deeply, the wind noise decreased as he gently pulled off the road. Finally coming to a halt inside the huge hangar he selected neutral and gave a last blip of throttle before turning off the engine. All was quiet now. He removed his helmet and listened to the tink-tink-tink of the swept back exhausts starting to contract as they cooled. He breathed, there was a distinct smell of hot metal and oil that was unique to motorcycles of this era. He just sat there breathing with ears ringing and whole body tingling, the adrenaline finally subsided as he waited for the circulation to fully return to his arms and legs before heading slowly to his lifeless, sterile, air-bike.