By Paul Maria*
One of the beauties of living in Portugal is that we get to ride our bikes in such lovely weather. Despite the two or three months when we really do have to wrap up warm, we are blessed with great riding weather. Having lived in the UK for most of my life, riding in the winter months was for the brave or the bloody stupid. Getting home involved hearing my knees click as I got in a hot bath, having a red chin which felt numb and testicles which had practically disappeared only to return when they were warm. Funnily enough, I felt proud because it was only very few who rode at those temperatures. The same applies here. It’s not everyone that rides in the winter in Portugal but here is where I feel a bit sad about it.
I’ve learnt that in Portugal, you stick two fingers sideways to another biker. All of you who do it know what I mean. It’s either to thank someone else for letting you by, or for just saying to each other ‘Biking rocks’. The Spanish and Italians do the same. In France, bikers lift their right leg up off the foot peg by twisting the knee slightly (maybe it’s a ‘chic French’ thing) and in the UK we nod – the simple motion of moving your head up and down slightly as if you were saying yes to someone without opening your mouth. We do it when we get side by side another biker or when we see another biker waiting at the lights of oncoming traffic. BUT…… we only do it in the winter. It started off as a courier thing. (Those mad dogs who ride around London ferrying parcels around on their bikes – there were so many of them before the advent of fax machines and email). Then other riders did it but only in the winter. Only in the winter because if you rode in the winter months you were part of a community of hard core riders who rode rain or shine, who had the knee, chin and testicle problems when they got home and the type who will stop for other riders when they’re in trouble.
I’ve tried ‘the nod’ here in Portugal but other bikers just stare at me in bewilderment. I just want to tell them with my nod that ‘Hey, you and me buddy… we’re not like those ‘meninas’ who only ride when it’s warm and sunny… we’re real riders’. But no, I don’t get ‘the nod’ in return. So I ask of you all, Portuguese knights of the road – please give me or any other winter rider a nod. We are the brave few who endure cold knees, red chins and you know the rest…
Post scriptum – If you ever ride in the UK, whatever you do, never, under any circumstances, do the Portuguese two fingered biker salute. We do it sideways here in Portugal but if you point those same two fingers upward, you’re telling the other guy to ‘go forth and procreate’. You’ve been warned.
* Paul Maria is an occasional contributor writer to Café Racer 351 and rides a 1992 BMW R100/r or a 1993 BMW K1100rs. He also dreams with a mid-fifties BMW R26.