Magic Moment.

The rider was leaning slightly forward as the large bike swept around the corner towards us.

I was about 14 years old and a passenger in my mothers’ car. That rider on that sunny afternoon in Cornwall has defined motorcycling to me ever since.

This was mid 80’s and the bike as an older Kawasaki Z1000, painted matt black. The rider was wearing Doc Martin’s boots, black jeans, old black leather jacket,  gloves, shades, open face helmet and the biggest grin I’d ever seen. The speed was not excessive, but enough to be making progress. He was riding for pleasure, fully present to every aspect of the moment.  

I’d already started helping my mother’s friends husband restore vintage, veteran and pioneer motorcycles. This was before at 16 that I could ride on the road. At this time, we lived in a bungalow in Perranporth, there was a private lane system from the bottom of the hill to the top. This was relevant because it meant I could legally ride the moped I acquired after saving up from my paper round. One moped led to another as addiction finally found a way of expressing itself beyond every magazine and book I could lay my hands on.

One of the sons of mechanic opposite came past one day as I was tinkering. He was a good guy, but in the past had taken something that affected him. He knew what was lost, and that it was down to him. Yet, he was a gentle soul.  We greeted each other, and then he gave some advice that has stayed with me ever since.

“Stick to the bikes, once I used to ride, now I can’t.” He spoke with sadness and wisdom.

Oddly 10 years later I was meeting friends in Perranporth, at the time I had an orange Triumph Dolomite 1500. I had been enjoying it fully and she smelt of hot car, warm brakes, etc.
As I parked, I heard, “It just had to be you, didn’t it…!” There was my friend who had given me the advice years before, with a smile on his face. I grinned and waved. Clearly, I’d listened to his wisdom and that moment I hope showed my appreciation.

There are times that help define, guide and create our understanding. Those two very different ones have stayed with me. 

Time to Confess… Cars or Bikes

I have a confession, some of my friends might want to disown me after this…

Yet, it is time to come out…

 

Most people assume that I love bikes more than cars, even many of long-term friends still think this, despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Within the biking fraternity, there is an assumption that any bike must be more fun than a car. For those who think this, I suggest trying a Suzuki Gs 500. Then you will know that watching paint dry is more fun than riding one of those. I think it might be better to say that generally, bikes are more fun than most cars.

Yet, whilst I do love bikes…

For me cars, well classic ones are more than just a mode of transport. For instance, my little Suzuki Vitara is not only work’s vehicle but also my friend. She has transformed how I do my job and if I was not impressed before it snowed I was certainly after. Every time I sit in her I smile, then I have to put fuel in her and the smile becomes a little smaller.  I’ve had an old beaten up Mercedes estate car that somehow was special. I’ve owned some cars that are so bad I lost the will to live, for instance, a Hyundai Lantra estate. After driving it to South Wales I pulled into a local supermarket and when I came I’d forgotten where I’d parked it. How bad does a car have to be that after driving it for 4 hours you cannot even remember what you had been in?

 

I’m writing this after buying a bargain Mazda MX5, a car that somehow has already wormed its way into my soul. It reminds me so much of my much-missed Triumph Spitfire. Yet with the bonus of being reliable and dry. Driving should be fun; the safest cars are often the ones that engage the driver at lower speeds.  Anyone who has driven a classic Mini knows this or the much-maligned Metro. They are safer because the driver is engaged in what they should be doing. With the added bonus the more passionate driver is rewarded with car that is fun at legal speeds.

For me, cars that do this are more fun than bikes, the view over the bonnet of a sports car sends a shiver through the soul of the enthusiast.

So I’m sorry to confess, but at heart, I’m a car guy and not a bike one…

Motorcycles and Renewed Friendships

When was the last we rode together?

The question hung in the air, the years had passed, more than we cared to remember.

An unexpected opportunity meant that 3 friends replicated a photo taken 29 years before.

Then there was 5 of us, each on a moped, a total capacity of 250cc and 5 cylinders. Now there was a total engine capacity of 2500cc and 7 cylinders. Where before there were 4 Japanese bikes, well one with an Italian engine and one East German one.  Now there was two from the land of the rising sun and one wearing a German badge, with an Austrian heart and a frame built in Italy.

The changes in not just the bikes, but in the riders, spoke volumes.

Middle age has crept up,  it seems bike clothing shrinks for all of us. Surely that must be the reason why once loose fitting jeans seem tight? Hair has become flecked with white, faces lined with experience. Yet, if you look closely, you will see the pleasure in friendship and motorcycles. A few moments before, we had been making a temporary repair to my bike, a little alternative engineering (bodging) that is such a part of motorcycling. Another aspect that bonds us together in more ways than we care to imagine.

Roads have become so much more dangerous than ever. The amount of traffic now combined with the brain numbing effects of satnav means that riding is more a lesson of risk management than enjoying the open road. The bikes we now ride reflect this.

Well for two of us anyway…

One of my friends has owned his 1200cc Suzuki Bandit for 10 years. The bike still looks as good now as it did we he first got it. One of the ultimate expressions of the once was known as a UJM, or universal Japanese motorcycle. But that would be unkind, the 1200 Bandit was as hooligan’s bike when introduced and can still surprise a few now. Like all things it seems, motorcycles have become larger and the 1200 bandit has shrunk, but now it is condensed, focused and understated.

My other friend has owned his Honda 650 Deauville over 3 years, has toured all over the UK and Europe two up on it. The bike is typical of the Honda being well built and thought out. Based on the long-running NTV 600/ 650, the engine will last forever. For today’s roads, it is ideal and I have no doubt my friend will still be riding it in 10 years’ time.

I was sitting on the joker of the pack, my newly acquired BMW F650. Unlike my friend’s bikes, I’m starting my relationship with it. It has already done more miles than their bikes. Being unlike anything I’ve ever owned before yet seems to work for today’s roads. I’d only ridden about 200 miles over 5 days at that point. After not been on a bike in about 2 years and enjoyed riding for far longer, I’m rusty, unlike the BMW.

Shortly after we left for a ride (scratch), clearly my friends have ridden together often. Their close formation and fast, but safe pace only one expression of that.  I was tail end, Charlie. The spot allowed me to ride at my own pace without the pressure of holding someone up.

With old friends, we have no need to prove anything. We can all ride or drive just about anything quickly, but understand it takes a few miles to truly settle down on something new. I sat back and enjoyed my own pace, keeping up, but not too closely.

With the promise of a mug of tea and bacon sandwich, we pulled into the café near Kit Hill.

The three of us once more riding together. Almost 30 years may have passed, but for us, it seems like only yesterday.

For the record, the line-up is the same from the left to the right.