No recovery, no cure
Editor’s note: Neale Bayly really needs no introduction. He is a world-renown motorcycle writer, photographer, and adventurer, and has been read and viewed in over 100 publications worldwide. I’ve read of his travels and escapades since the 1990s, so it was quite the thrill for me to not only meet Neale, but strike up a friendship with him in the past year. His three-part chronicle, “An Englishman In Ukraine” that we published here, set in motion a series of conversations that have led to a new monthly feature Neale will pen for Road Dirt, entitled “Neale Bayly Rides“. His is a true #RIDELIFE.
My name is Neale Bayly. I’ve been an addict for more than 40 years now and don’t see any signs that I’ll ever recover. My addiction has driven me to the depths of despair and to levels of euphoria that only other addicts will understand. I’ve missed out on steady employment, making large interest payments, storage sheds full of shit and closets full of expensive clothes. When I go to sleep at night, I’m haunted by the memories that drive me further into my addiction.
There have been so many bad influences along the way. Ted Simon was the first, when I purchased a copy of “Jupiter’s Travels.” In my hometown of Torquay, England, I would lay in bed at night reading, only to jump up, dress, and blast out into the night on my Laverda 1200. I was so poor at the time that I didn’t have the money to fix a broken light switch, so I would ride with my left foot hovering over the rear brake (early Laverdas shifted on the right) in case I spotted the Old Bill (police in British slang). They would have nicked me in a heartbeat for riding without a taillight, but I thought dragging the rear brake to show a light would be OK if I was spotted, because I simply had to ride. That’s what Ted Simon’s book did to me.
Neale’s 1978 Slater Brothers Laverda Mirage 1200 (here and featured photo above article), snapped by friend Richard Newton at Castle Drogo in Devon, England, 1983.
That heinous fellow Helge Pederson was another terrible influence with his wonderful book, “Ten Years on Two Wheels.” How many addicts are in some far corner of the world having the time of their lives on two wheels, moaning and complaining about this book? I came to America soon after that, riding from Florida to Alaska on a worn-out old Honda CB550, then around Australia on an old Yamaha XV100, which blew up outside Alice Springs. I got back to America eventually and rode a Kawasaki GPZ 550, purchased for $300, from Guatemala to Peru. Six weeks, six thousand miles, and nine more countries further fueled my addiction. On that trip I crashed, got drunk, fell down, got up, fell in love with a raven haired beauty, and ran from various police and military check points that used to pop up randomly in those countries at that time.
On my return to the States I went back to work, but the itch of withdrawal was even worse, and inside the junky was roaring. Then a guy walked into the motorcycle shop where I was working and declared, “I just spent five thousand dollars on chrome for my Harley.” “You’re a f@#*ing idiot” was out of my mouth before I could stop it, so I quit my job, put my few possessions in storage, took five thousand dollars cash and headed to Europe. Some deft negotiation with my mother liberated some cash that had been stashed for my grandmother’s funeral to purchase an eight year old Kawasaki KLR650, and with a promise to return before Granny popped her clogs (British for passed away), I rode off. Five months, 17,500 miles, 23 countries, and the four corners of Europe later, I returned.
Neale last summer during his excursion deep into war-torn Ukraine. Photo by Kiran Ridley.
Over the following decades the addiction has only grown worse as I pursued a career in motorcycle journalism, which has taken me all over the world, riding nearly every type of modern motorcycle imaginable. I’ve ridden Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP bikes twice, joined the 200-mph club in the seat of a nitrous oxide devouring Suzuki Hayabusa and ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway on a 1936 Harley-Davidson. I even dragged BMW Motorrad CEO Hendrik von Kuenheim out of a river during a flash flood in Namibia once when he got pinned under an BMW F800GS, but that’s another story. As is the time I taught the Playboy bunnies to ride.
So when I was recently invited to join another group of addicts and share my habit on the cyber pages of Road Dirt on a regular basis, I jumped at the chance. Regular readers may have seen my scribblings on the pages of this publication recently with my ride through Ukraine last summer, and I hope to be contributing many more of my motorcycle musings as we go forward.
*Please check out Neale’s foundation, Wellspring Int’l Outreach, for his other great passion- helping needy children.
Wellspring International Outreach
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Neale, we are grateful to have you aboard Road Dirt’s squad of like minded addicts. Welcome to the nut house.
Thank you very much. I am very excited to get involved and see what sort of trouble we can get into.