Its May 1992 and I am standing on a street corner in Huesca, a provisional capital in northern Spain. Huesca is one of those moderate sized towns that you have never heard of. A medieval central square surrounded by ugly sprawling concrete streets of box shaped buildings. The town is big enough that I am having trouble finding a bike shop to fix the tyre that is sitting on the pavement next to me. The rear wheel with its deflated tyre came from the Honda 550 that has carried me and a large pile of gear, all the way through France to the small village in the mountains were it is currently resting.
The bus brought me and my buddy Mark to town, wheel in tow and deposited us in the town centre. That was an hour ago and since then I have been lugging the wheel around, trying to find a bike shop that was in the phone book but is now hiding in the maze of busy streets.
A bike pulls up at the lights, ridden by a young guy with a girl on the back. I quickly ask him, in my bad Spanish if he knows where this garage is. He looks at me, assessing the situation and his own time schedule before barking at his girlfriend to get off the bike. She looks pissed off and looks at her watch, they are obviously supposed to be going somewhere and I guess they are already late. He then barks at me almost as directly, to "get on". I climb onto the back of his bike with the wheel balanced across me knee, just as the light goes green. We take off, cutting through the traffic, way too quickly. I pull my knees in tight as we skim between the cars and I try not to think of possible consequences.
I notice that the bike, a VFR750 is battered, there are serious scratches down both sides of the cracked faring. This is a bike that has been dropped, several times. I am painfully aware that I am perched in the pillion seat, without a helmet and unable to hold on to the bike or its rider since I have a large wheel across my knee.
The bike accelerates roughly and brakes hard as we carve through the traffic. I suddenly realise that each time we brake I lunge forward and the sprocket (big oily cog) leaves an oil stain on his denim jacket. I am powerless to stop it happening and it does, repeatedly, shit!
I have been on bikes long enough to know that no matter how scary it feels, its probably best to let the rider do his thing and relax. We zip through the traffic and I grasp my wheel and resign myself to fate as we head to the suburbs.
We arrive at a couple of tower blocks and in the basement of one is a workshop. The old guy who obviously runs it is just shutting up for his siesta. After a quick exchange with my new found friend he agrees to have the wheel fixed in a couple of hours. I am terrified of not finding the workshop again but no sooner has the mechanic scribbled the address than I am hustled back onto the pillion seat and we hurtle out into the traffic. Now I realise that he was "taking it easy" on the way there and within 3 minutes we are back at the traffic lights where a very pissed off girlfriend is taking it out on Mark who is pretending not to speak any Spanish.
I jump off and thank him profusely, he has helped me out big time and all I have managed to do his cover the back of his jacket with a large oil stain and piss off his girlfriend. I am contemplating mentioning the jacket when la chica jumps onto the bike and they take off. I can only imagine the amount of pain he is going to experience in the next 15 minutes but I am massively thankful for his help.
Three hours later, I find the workshop, the area is very dodgy, but the wheel is fixed and at a very nice price. I love being a biker and I love Spain...