I had a Sportster 883R (crashed), then a Buell (dropped), followed by a Kawasaki ER-6f (lime green, survived intact) and finally a BMW F800 ST (ditto; I was improving). I rode pillion to Le Mans on a Harley and at considerable speed on a Suzuki GSX-R1000 with Kevin Ash, my friend and Telegraph motorcycling correspondent.
"What's the point in risking it?" I thought, and put away my lovely Dainese leathers and Alpinestars boots and gloves.
Since then, I've been back on a bike twice, once for Kevin's memorial ride-out at Silverstone and once on a Honda CBR500R, also at Silverstone. Both times I loved it, but not enough to risk a form of transport where the best rider I knew couldn't avoid a fatal accident.
Still, it gnaws away at me on a sunny day. My partner is a Triumph Speed Triple man, also bereft since he sold his bike five years ago. We keep wondering...
And so I write this from the Isle of Man TT, with the Senior TT having been won by Michael Dunlop. John McGuinness was of course out, as was Guy Martin after a false neutral his Fireblade two days before caused him to crash.
By the time we went out to dinner last night, I was picking a new bike in my head. The pubs in Douglas were rammed, drinkers and bands swaying to live music, a palpable, warm, familiar culture.
We were surprised at the amount of goodwill and general bonhomie about - no riders were out-muscling anyone on the roads, no one was sneering at lesser bikes. Everyone was clearly part of the two-wheeled community, a cheery, beery band of brothers.
I stopped to admire a Suzuki Hayabusa and the Dutch bloke let me sit on it. At breakfast this morning, BSB rider and TT women's lap record holder, Jenny Tinmouth, stopped to say hi. In the hotel bar, John McGuinness, perched on crutches with pins holding his leg in place, chatted with any passing fan. Imagine any of that in F1.
Of course, this is as extreme as road riding gets. But the elements are the same: unprotected rider, variable grip, high speeds, countless developing hazards that you have no control of but pose huge risks such as oil spills, drivers not seeing you, or not looking. Look closer at the TT crowds and you'll see more than a handful of spectators in wheelchairs.
I've watched the Senior Race, inches from my face, with an old crumbling wall between me and riders going at 180mph. The bikes are frightening as they pass: the speed that close to your face is brutal, so jarringly violent and ear-bleedingly loud. It's too much. There's no way out of danger; you're riding straight into it, on the verge of disaster and tragedy, for six laps. You can't see or react to the course; you have to know it in your mind already: every manhole cover, kerb and undulation of the 37.7 miles. The mental concentration is extreme, although Guy Martin has said that the reason he hasn't won a Senior TT race is because he'll start thinking about beans on toast for supper half way round. A friend of Dave Thorpe who races at the TT told him last year that he spotted him watching in the crowd, and correctly recalled where Thorpe had been standing at the time. It's mind boggling.
Except, it's going to bug me...