The Humanising Effect of a Well-Placed Machine


Danica lives in rural UK and is the newest member of the IVV family. After being diagnosed with chronic headaches, without a cause or cure, Danica's Honda CB125 has become a source of hope and freedom in a life often abruptly interrupted by intense physical pain. Her quirky and honest accounts of her experiences will be featured here regularly as she strips apart her CB125 through the winter to get her ready to ride again, in all its cafe racer glory.


I have known I would ride a motorbike since I was a teenager but didn’t do the Compulsory Basic Training until October of last year at the age of 32. I had planned to purchase my first bike the following March but by the end of February I was scheduled for an emergency CT scan to rule out blood clots and tumours in my brain. The results were clear and months later after many appointments and another brain scan I was diagnosed with chronic migraine or possibly new daily persistent headache. As my life fell apart around me and I struggled with constant crippling headaches, unable to work or socialise normally, the idea of riding a motorbike became something of an obsession. At night I would lay awake unable to sleep as a result of the relentless pounding in my skull and would ride out along country lanes on the motorbike in my imagination, leaning into corners and breathing in the moisture of the night air. These solitary and imaginary nocturnal rides became as much my medicine as the painkillers I had been prescribed.

One evening a friend sent me a photograph of an old Honda that was up for sale and within a day or so I had decided that this little 125cc bike was for me and that it was meant to be. She would be my therapy, my way back to myself and the world.

And now after months of imaginings she is here. She is Home! I am happy to announce that I am the proud owner of a 1974 Honda CB125S. She is named Glenda, although this may change as she evolves.

I’m currently sitting on stump, leaning against the sun soaked garage in Robin’s back yard and gazing at Glenda. She is still sporting her original colour of Candy Topaz now scratched and warn away in places. What would once have been the flashy chrome of her forks, mud guards and chain guard are now all speckled with rust and her indicators are so large they look like they were lifted from an airstrip, while her brake light is so hefty it wouldn’t look out of place on the back of a truck. But this wear and tear and inelegant design are irrelevant because in my eyes she is perfect and full of the promise of adventure, freedom and hope. 

I am desperate to ride her albeit just up and down the long drive through the deer park that this lovely wee house sits in but as is so often true to form for classic cars and bikes she refused to start when I got her home (despite the fact that she had performed perfectly when I collected her). Once home I turned on the ignition and kick-started her only to see a plume of acrid smoke seeping out from behind her electrical cover. The mains fuse had burned away at some rate and with the help of my best-friend Robin and internet discussion sites I deduced it was the regulator which I have now replaced and if I could find Robin’s soldering iron I would be swapping out the fuse holder for a replacement instead of writing this. Once these minor works have been done I am hoping to take her for a spin before stripping her down and moving her inside with a plan to clean her up and turn her into a modest café racer. Moving her inside with winter approaching will mean that I can work on her a little bit at a time, headaches allowing, and having her as a bit of fixture in the entrance hall will also help to keep me motivated and positive when wellness feels a long way off.

The day that I bought Glenda was the first day in nearly seven months that I felt like a person and not a patient; that I had something of value to talk about that didn’t revolve around coming to terms with the crumbling away of my life and relentless pain. Although financially imprudent and nearly impossible, Glenda’s value is incalculable as it feels like she is the only thing between me and despair on a bad day. I am aware that this sounds grotesquely melodramatic but when no one can tell why you are ill or what to do to fix it can be hard to find something positive to grasp onto; something that can pull you out of the quicksand of depression when the future looks like more of the same. To find this is invaluable and rare. When I lose my way which I have done somewhat in the last couple of days I go outside and look at my motorbike and tell myself it won’t be long before I am well enough to ride out for real and experience my life again free from pain; this is the humanising effect of a well-placed machine.


Danica will do whatever it takes, and is therefore the John McClane of rural England. She has found solace from chronic pain in her CB125, ‘Glenda’. Her column on IVV follows her journey navigating personal struggles, defeating internal and external obstacles to freedom and living in the best sense of the word.