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Author: Neale Bayly

Goodbye Wedgie, My Old Friend

Recently a message on social media brought me the sad news that my dear friend Steven O’Brien, affectionately known as “Wedgie,” had passed away. Having been in my orbit for close to 40 years, and a major part of my formative motorcycle and travel years, it was a huge personal loss. Memories of racing to London on our Japanese 550cc four-cylinder sport bikes, strafing the lanes of England, he in the saddle of his big Ducati V-twin and me on my Laverda triple will be always be there to remind me of my fun loving, gregarious friend. With his laugh, demeanor, his zest and love for life, Wedgie was, without a doubt, one of the largest personalities you could ever hope to meet.

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Neale Bayly Rides: Cheap Fun On Two Wheels

That little Yamaha TT-R125L proved to be absolutely bullet proof, and apart from oil changes, air filter cleaning, chain lubing and adjusting, the only time it needed any wrenches turned was when something got too bent to ride. My son Luke had a unique ability to provide not only the most spectacular laps, but also more bent parts than the rest of us put together. So it was no surprise that the TT-R ended up on the ground in a pile of dust and limbs more times than any of us could remember while thankfully always surviving to ride another day.

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Neale Bayly Rides: The Threads of Life’s Tapestry

“Of course, when the Russians kidnapped me, they held me at gun point for 36 hours, but I’ve got to go…” as the phone line went silent. My mind drifted back to the day I crossed the Carpathian Mountains on my old KLR 650 and down into the city of Bucharest in search of my old friend, Simon. The year was 1996 and I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since the mid ’80s when we ran together in our hometown on the coast in South Devon, England.

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Neale Bayly Rides: Danger In Namibia

As the torrential rain relentlessly pounded the slippery dirt road beneath my boots, I watched in horror as the BMW F800GS in front of me dived into some deep water, churned and ground its way forward, then spat a submerged rock from under the front wheel causing it to lurch sideways. Desperately trying to use forward momentum to right the bike, the rider found himself stalling out in thigh-deep water, left leg submerged and sinking into the sand with his right leg stuck over the bike as it attempted to push him down under the fast-flowing water. With the two of us alone, now long separated from our group, I had to act quickly as I had no idea how long he could last in such a precarious position.

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Neale Bayly Rides: My Most Prized Possession

I can’t remember how many racetrack schools, off-road, and dirt-focused classes I’ve attended throughout my career. And I can’t remember how many inexperienced newbies have shown up at race track weekends on super-expensive motorcycles with $2,500+ aftermarket exhaust systems and thousands more on accessories and such, before going out and crashing on the first lap.

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Neale Bayly Rides: Getting Up

In the movies, when you think the chief protagonist has taken his last beating and can’t go on, he somehow summons the strength to defeat the bad guy, save the world, and get the girl. I’m assuming he stays in the next night to eat pizza; how do you follow up on a day like that? It doesn’t seem to work like that in real life though, and after the biggest beating of my life, it just seemed like no matter how often I got up, something kept knocking me down. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it got worse, and then got worse again: It got so bad at one point that if I had a dog, it probably would have run away.

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Biker Fitness: Mountain Bike Makeover

Now, while this might seem odd to most of you, I’ve noticed something very strange lately. Every year I seem to be getting older and those track days, adventure rides or dirt bike sessions seem to be getting a little more challenging. Without much chance of adding to my limited skill set, I made a conscious decision to stay as motorcycle fit as I can and to that end find myself doing a fair amount of bicycling these days. Nearly all top level motorcycle racers use cycling as part of their training. With it being the perfect activity to complement our motorcycling habits, I found myself in Georgia recently riding with my good buddy Scott Russell. Those of your old enough to remember rotary phones will remember he won the World Superbike Championship in 1993, as well as numerous American championships and a few Daytona 200s. Well, packing up to leave his place recently he grabbed his Mountain bike and shoved it in my car saying, “Pay me later.”

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Neale Bayly Rides: Falling, Rising, & Perfect Moments in Ecuador

In the saddle of my BMW F700GS riding with my mad buddy Christian Scranton and our Ecuadorian friend Erik, I can’t keep my eyes off of her today any more than I could 21 years ago. Rising up out of the lush, green farmland, capped in brilliant white snow, and against a piercing blue sky, Cotopaxi stands majestic as she overlooks the city of Quito. This incredible 19,300-foot volcanic mountain, then as now, symbolizes a time in my life when riding the wild places of the world would mend my broken soul.

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Neale Bayly Rides: In This Moment

An hour or so out of Sedona, Arizona, the red rock ridgelines provide a natural border to the sharpest and clearest blue sky I can remember. Purple wildflowers announce spring in the high desert, and the cool morning air delivers their sweet fragrance, stimulating dormant parts of my technology-anesthetized senses. My physical body is doing what it was designed to do, embracing the low temperature by pumping extra blood (adrenaline, perhaps?), and the high is clean and the dialogue honest. Out here you can’t escape yourself, even though the landscape stretches to a horizon that is further than a man can walk in one day.

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