One Ride From Hell | Riding Out The Black Dog

Date 03.2.2016

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  • Motorcycle Trader

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We all have our demons, even Roothie…

Motorcycling saved me from the “black dog” – a couple of lines in MT’s T-shirt competition but they rang clear as Contis off concrete. Thanks, GG. While it could be really depressing to devote a whole column to the kennelling of said dog, the fact is that, for me, depression lurks like the demons from hell.

Why? I don’t know. I’ve lived, and still do live, almost the perfect bloke’s life. Okay, so I haven’t gifted vision to thousands of poor people or worked with lepers in the slums but I’ve got a lovely girl for a wife – and I didn’t meet her until I was tired of strange beds. I have great kids, a shed full of bikes and a weird way of making a living that most people consider a holiday.

As a teenager, I figured in the perfect world I’d work for a motorcycle magazine testing bikes and spend days off photographing naked girls. Somehow both happened, although in those long lost, and often rather damp, dreams the complications never reared their heads. No, I don’t know why that piston’s poking out of the block and no, you’re not my child…

Joking! Jeff Kennett wasn’t. Possibly one of Australia’s most decent politicians  he considers his work with the Beyond Blue organisation the vital stuff of life. Winston Churchill, the bulldog whose bark turned Nazi steel to porridge, was known to be chased by the black dog too. I can’t take a piss in an airport or ride a highway without seeing ads that say ‘you’re not alone’.

But, like GG, I found the answer. Motorcycling. I’ve always been into bikes. Possibly that and youth meant I outran the black dog for the first 40 years or so. But then, just when life should have settled down into cruise mode, when the big goals had been kicked and the pattern laid, I started having doubts.

one ride from hell Ducati motorcycle riding out the black dog

Sleepless nights wondering why I wasn’t doing something better with my life. Giving up smoking meant eating more, putting on weight and bouncing from happy to sad like the flick of the kill switch.

It was weird; diving into gloom as if all the joy in the world had flat tyres. Healthy kids, lovely wife, shed full of bikes and a quid in the bank, yet there were times when the motivation to do anything just wasn’t there.

So I covered it up. I knew it’d pass, I just had to stay away from loved ones until the wheels bounced again.

The thing about the black dog is it sneaks up on you when you least expect it to. Most times, the depressed sod doesn’t realise what brings it on and what makes it go away. It took me a few years before I finally got it.

I was depressed because I wasn’t riding regularly. Life had shifted a gear, my old bike riding mates had moved, my job involved long periods of motorcycle-less-ness (cop that word, CHarris!), the daily commute went when I moved the office home and, hey, bite me black dog.

Like burnt points or a filthy filter, finding is fixing. Now I never miss a chance for a ride. I make excuses to go for rides. I plan work trips to allow for a day off somewhere to bludge a bike and hit the curves or the trails or just do a commute. And the black dog’s left snivelling in his den.

Why is that? Maybe it’s because motorcycling sharpens your appetite for life. When I’m riding I’m soaring, a free-flowing god amongst the sheep in their little pens. Everything the years have taken away returns, I’m light, fleet of foot, capable of outrageous speed and the complete master of my destiny.

Changing direction isn’t the ponderous push on broken knees, it’s the flit of the ‘bars and away. No more muted warbling about the weather, the taxes and bills, just the roar of power from big pistons pounding fat pipes.

This column was supposed to be about riding the new Indians. Actually, the last three columns should have covered that but each time I sat down to write them, you lot distracted me. No worries, I’ll just send this via the interweb and that’ll be that. Indians next time, possibly…

Hang on. The sun’s shining. I’m alive.

This article by John ‘Roothless/Roothie’ Rooth appears in Motorcycle Trader #299