The gloves aren’t working. The mercury is hovering just above freezing and my hands have turned into two useless claws. Modulating the throttle on this old lump from the 1980s is becoming increasingly difficult.
To make matters worse, the original disc brake at the front is about as much use as a pedal-powered wheelchair and the beefy drum brake at the rear likes to instigate a full-on skid wherever possible.
The roads are wet, the tyres are skinny and my poor choice of eyewear (Ray-Ban Clubmaster, if you wanted to know) is fogging up at every opportunity.
But if you could see beneath the flimsy polka dot neck-warmer covering my chapped lips, you would find the sort of smile that only an idiot aboard a motorcycle on an empty road could possess.
It is the essence of what makes motorcycling so addictive and here, in amongst the barren landscape of Hampshire’s New Forest, aboard my heavily modified Honda CX500, I am in a Zen-like state.
The bike was designed to fill the hole left by a previous Honda CB400 Four project. It had taken up years of my life and used up every mechanical favour from friends at Cable Tie Developments.
The proceeds allowed me to jump straight on eBay and secure the next project: a 1980s Honda CX500 Café racer/Brat mash-up that was screaming out to be finished.
Honda’s lumpy 500cc 80-degree V-Twin engine was the first thing to have me salivating, with its bulky cylinder housing jutting out of the bike’s frame, while the ComStar wheels (revolutionary at the time thanks to their strength and light weight) provided a cool nod to the bike’s past.
Now, I’m no Honda expert but friends with more grey hairs than me have said the CX500 – or Plastic Maggot, as it was affectionately known – was a courier rider’s vehicle of choice during the late 1970s and early 80s.
The bike was easy to wrangle around the city streets and Honda’s reputation for creating near-bullet proof engines meant that maintenance costs were kept to a minimum.
Testament to this is the fact that my bike has only needed a few, low-cost bits and pieces to keep the engine healthy and running. It will even start second or third time on a frosty morning.
You can see the other additions to the bike (I won’t bore you with the details) and can make your own mind up about its looks but I adore the way this thing rides.
Heading out of the busy Bournemouth city centre towards the open roads of the New Forest, the CX500 thumps and burbles at cruising speeds. The exhausts are sans baffles and have a tendency to make pedestrians on mobile phones swear uncontrollably.
Once out through Christchurch, it’s time to swing left onto the A35 towards Hinton and Lyndhurst, where I’m due to meet photographer Jonny Fleetwood. I’m late.
With only five gears to play with, the old CX sits at around 7,000rpm at 70mph. The noise is borderline deafening but it just screams to be wound even further.
These tight, single lane roads wind their way through the fringes of the New Forest, which is currently lined with a surplus of foliage, much of which is still clinging on to its gold autumnal colours and doing its best to provide a banana skin at every corner.
Tuning into this machine has taken a long time and knowing to first feather the front brake and then gently dab at the rear to scrub off speed has taken many near-misses, but it’s highly addictive.
Slow the machine down, drop the gears, lean its chunky frame into the corner and wind on the throttle.
With handlebars mounted to the front forks and the majority of the bike’s weight directly under your nether regions, it becomes habit to shift mass forward at every corner, leaning onto the tank for support and sticking an elbow out in a hope that it might prevent some horrific spill.
Despite its leaf-lined periphery, the New Forest is one of my favourite mid-winter blasts: not too far to travel yet with enough challenging corners and undulations to keep the senses fizzing.
It’s almost pointless in a car thanks to a 40-60mph speed limit enforced on most roads, but perched atop a rickety old thing like this, it feels electrifying.
The B3056 meanders along and breezes past the Lime Wood Hotel, which is a must visit if you don’t mind parting with good money for meals and drinks.
Its Raw & Cured bar in the Herb House Spa offers a range of natural, freshly made meals. The staff say that everything is seasonal and sustainable, with a team of “raw chefs” preparing concoctions from scratch and we’re not ones to argue. It’s delicious.
But we aren’t here to eat healthy grub and drink coffee all day, so we peel off the B3056 just after Beaulieu Road Station, onto a road that slithers its way towards Applemore and Southampton.
The meandering stretch of blacktop features a fairly steep incline and some tight esses that just beg to be tackled at speed. But with the road surface covered in winter’s crud and an audience of wild ponies gathering, I decide to park the MotoGP stuff for a summer’s day.
Peeling off towards Totton, Bartley and Stoney Cross, I start to lose feeling in my hands and thighs. Heated grips don’t work particularly well on a bike that has all of its electrics bundled up and bolted under the seat and frame.
So I make a beeline for Burley, making the most of an empty Lyndhurst Road, before taking the back roads to Bransgore and Burton.
My jeans are covered in spray from the road, my visor is almost opaque with slush and the warmth emanating from the V-twin beneath me is the only thing preventing hypothermia.
But there’s a smile underneath that neck warmer and it’s goading me to take the more scenic coastal route home. So I stick out a frozen left hand to indicate my intentions and point the bike towards the Channel.