When I was younger I wanted to fly aeroplanes and was lucky enough to fulfil my dream by gaining my private pilots licence. Sadly I had to give up the flying and for years I felt I was missing something. Then a friend of mine suggested I had a go at riding a motorcycle and to my surprise I found that biking is very much like flying, it’s the same open feeling you get and the tilting of right or left are remarkably similar to the power turns of an aircraft.
Whether it's taking apart an engine or riding, I find I am hooked on this wonderful pastime and would recommend it to everyone.
When I started writing this page I didn't realise how many bikes I'd got through in such a short space of time. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so, as it has given me plenty of experience with all sorts of bikes. Hopefully I shall add more bikes and details as I go along.
Incidentally, most of the photographs of my bikes are by Adrian Brown who amonst other things is a fine professional photographer of all things classic. If you look on his site you will see many of my machines in wonderful detail.
Enjoy my bikes
Well, I was on my way, the Compulsory Bike Test had been taken and after lots of egging on from friends I was about to embark on my first bike, albeit a learner it was a two wheeled machine and something that I had wanted to master for many years.
Back in the seventies I had tried motor biking, illegally of course, but somehow had never got round to taking my test. Eventually I was lucky enough to have a car; so that was it for the time being, I was happily driving around in my Morris Minor while friends were busy tearing round on their bikes. I did do a tour of Europe in 1977 on the back of a 1960s triumph Daytona 500 which included grape picking in Bordeaux and working in a bake bean factory in Holland.
But now the time had come for my own machine and what was I to buy?
In the end I fell for the cruiser look and purchased a Yamaha Dragstar 125 obviously thinking I was Dennis Hopper in "Easy Rider"!
For a 125 it was larger than I expected and although slow it still had the looks and I’ve been in love with well disigned custom bikes ever since. I paid way over the odds for it but you know how it is when you just passed your basic test, as soon as I'd seen the bike that was it. I used to nip over to the bike shop every lunch time from work, just to drool over it and as soon as I could I was asking for the pen to sign the paperwork.
The handling was not brilliant and practising for the proper bike test was a complete joke (try turning the damn thing), but what the hell I had fun riding around the country trying to look cool. In the end I went for a three day direct access course and took the test one February morning in the snow, luckily I passed and within a month I was searching for a new bike.
With the test out of the way I was down at a bike dealers in Gloucester checking out bikes for a fresh newbie. Whilst drooling at all the beautiful machines I came across the Yamaha XV Virago which really is an early relation to the Dragstar. As soon as saw the bike I knew I was hooked and the 125 Dragstar was exchanged in a reasonable deal for the Virago.
The bike was easy to ride and 500cc engine was perfect for a first time new boy eager to roam the country roads. No great noise, it sounded a bit like a washing machine but it did the job for me and I was pleased as punch with my new toy. The bike was in lovely condition and I would spend hours polishing all the chrome and cleaning the wheels. My wife naturally thought I was nuts and in particular when I decided to build a third shed purely for motorbike storage, however fair dues, although she has never ridden on the back of a bike with me, she puts up with all my tantrums and ramblings about two wheeled machines.
Eventually I had done my early apprenticeship and I was keen to move on to bigger machines and one day I whilst surfing the net I spotted my next bike; underneath the picture on the website was one word, Triumph.
I spent many an hour riding or touring round the Cotswolds on that wonderful beast learning how to ride a good big bike, it really opened up my eyes to motorcycling and was a wonderful experience that turned me from a novice in to a proficient motorcyclist. Very low torque and a wonderful cornering capability the bike was a beauty and I would spend hours tinkering with the engine and cleaning the bodywork and just admiring her good looks
Powered by the old reliable triumph Hinckley triple, although detuned the 885cc oozes power, wound open the old girl sounded like a squadron of Lancaster’s. I should have kept her for a lot longer than I did, but I was anxious to move on and realise the dream of owning a Harley. This is another machine that I have the feeling I will relive my adventures on.
Definitely a bike to cherish and I miss her greatly.
When you buy a Harley you enter a whole world of Harley clubs and mania, with a little bit of work each bike can be customised to your own specification. I bought mine from a chap who lived in the local village, he was not really an enthusiast but wanted to be part of the “look”! He’d had the bike sprayed black and by all accounts it was not a good job, the original colour I believe was purple so I can understand why he wanted a change. Because of the bad paint job I managed to get a good deal on the bike which was a bit of a relief as Harley's can be very expensive.
On first mounting a Harley and firing the beast up you get the impression you are on a world war two fighter plane, the noise is quite exhilarating and you feel like roaring off in to the sunset. Riding through towns and villages people will stare. Charging up behind cars, drivers will glance in their mirrors and pull to one side to let you pass, no doubt about it people know you own a Harley.
After saving some money I decided to have Ebenezer re-sprayed in a glorious royal blue and silver. The bike looked gorgeous and for a while I was the envy of friends, the pinnacle being when I went to a local Harley meet and all fellow owners came to view and chat about the bike, there's no doubt about it the Harley set up is just one big club which can be bad as well as good.
The negative side to owning a Harley is that the whole machine is like a giant vibrator, after a while you begin to see double and can have difficulty in walking after dismounting! One time the bike was throbbing away when I notice the headlight dropping to one side, the nuts had become loose and the whole thing was about to drop off.
Eventually after a few years I came to the decision that I had had enough of the Harley dream and although I loved every minute of owning Ebenezer the time had come for a change and so I traded him in for “Charlotte” the Triumph Sprint.
There is no question that eventually I will go back to owning a Harley but probably a bigger more modern machine than the wonderful Ebenezer Throbnicely.
Triumph Daytona 600
I spotted a Daytona 600 on eBay that was going for the ridiculous price; I couldn’t believe it and thought there must be something wrong with the bike or the price. Located nearby in Gloucester I made a few phone calls and ended up driving over to take a look at the bike.
It was my lucky day, apart from a few scratches the fact that the bike had been silent for six months there was nothing wrong with the machine, it still had tax and MOT. A local firm had taken it in payment for something and was about to auction it off for next to nothing, I bought it there and then.
I got a friend of mine to tidy up the paintwork and I gave the bike a full service, £50 later she was as good as new.
I never ridden a full blown sports bike before so on the first serious ride I took her out on to the main highway and opened her up to see what she had. She was quick, no question about that, dropping down a gear I sped past car after car, glancing down at the speedo I realised I was approaching 130 mph and immediately throttled back visibly shocked at the speed of this machine.
I only lasted a month, it was just too fast for me and although I enjoyed every blurry minute, one of us was going to end up in a heap at the side of the road.
I advertised her in the local press and a week later some local chap came to view and bought her straight away thinking he’d got an absolute bargain!
I bought it from a dealer in Cambridge at a fairly low price for a 1958 classic, but it was made up from various bits, (a Bitsa) so was not considered to be a true old Royal as the frame and engine numbers did not match. The only work I did on her was getting an MOT and having to change the head gasket, which normally most amateur mechanics would have a fit about, but took me only half an hour since the engine is so easy to work on.
Sadly the bike never really got any use as I was too concerned about keeping her clean and really would only go out round the farm and local roads if the weather was good. Eventually it was a bit pointless taking her out of the shed to have a look and then pushing her back in as soon as it rained. I sold her to an enthusiast up in Lincolnshire whom I believe is involved in the pre sixties trials and she is now used regularly for the purpose she was built.
What can you say about the GS bikes? The BM is something else, it just goes where other big bikes don’t want to venture. Touring off-road, carrying heavy loads that other bikes would find hard work, comfortable and smooth, no wonder Charlie and Ewan chose a GS to go round the world. The gearing can be quite clunky but once used to minor noise issues the bike will go on forever if you maintain and service regularly. I’ve known people buy a beamer at 50000 miles and they are still happily going along at 80/90000 miles as if still new.
The 850 is quite a rare GS only 2000 were brought in to the UK but spares are not hard to come by as most bits fit from the 1100. My only negative comment would be that coming from a Triumph Sprint the power is naturally a lot less and sometimes it would be quite nice to have the 1150GS as this has a bit more oomph! But I deliberately went for an 850 as I knew if I got a more powerful bike I would do something silly and most likely fall off at some horrendous speed.
The bike is certainly top heavy and it takes a bit of getting used to, one time on the way to work I came to a quick stop at a junction and before I knew what was happening the bike had toppled over, luckily I had crash bars fitted and there was no damage, but it brought home the fact that this is a heavy machine and you have to be extra careful.
I have the full set of panniers that I find very useful either for a quick weekend tour or carrying the laptop and stuff to work. The fuel range is amazing, happily doing 200 odd miles before a refil but as with all bikes that I find particularly annoying there is no fuel guage, why is this?
Hopefully one day soon, myself and a good friend from Cornwall are hoping to do a tour of Europe/Asia, but I am still waiting for his twins to grow up and to buy himself another good touring bike. C'mon mate times running out!
After a further "topple over" I realised that the bike was really a bit too big for me and the touring idea was beginning to fade as both my friend and I had little time and money. So I decided to sell the beamer and started hunting around for something else to play with!
Typically my son then informed me that he had already bought himself a Suzuki, so I thought it would be a fun project to work on the DR and get it up to standard, then use it for myself during the winter months as a green-laner.
The bike frame and cosmetics were in a pretty poor condition since I suspect being left outside for a few years and not being run. So it needed a good deal of TLC and a lot of scrubbing up. The surprising thing was that after a change of fuel and a clean of the carburettor the bike started first time although it did sound a bit rough, not bad considering a two year break. Overall apart from an oil change and a new spark and a few tightening of bolts the engine seemed to be OK, so I decided not to do any major rebuild.
Changing the rear brake calliper, two new tyres, some repair to the electrics and a hell of a lot of cleaning and repainting of the frame, the bike now runs well and soon I am hoping to put it through it’s MOT.
Update; the bike has now passed its MOT and is happily running around the cotswolds every weekend. I love this bike and would urge any bikers out there who haven't given a trials bike a go to do so, you won't regret it, I have more fun on this bike greenlaning than any kind of speed runs on the bigger bikes.
Well there was me raving about the delights of the BMW GS 850 and wham bam thank you maam, I trade it in for a Bonnie, but what a Bonnie. I had forgotten what pretty machines they were. The old school look with a bit of modern engineering thrown in.
Picked the Bonneville up from Hughenden near Oxford last week, before leaving I had my pictured taken with the bike, evidently all buyers mug shots are posted on the dealers wall. After a quick run round the local area I was on my way in to the centre of Oxford and heading home. Once in the city I stopped at a fuel station and within minutes two old guys came up to view the bike and one murmured to his friend, “now that’s what a real bike looks like”, I was pleased as punch.
For a 790cc twin it handles pretty well, the mirrors are teardrop custom which quite frankly look very nice but you have absolutely no hope of seeing what is behind you. Therefore the first thing I am going to do is change them back to the standard. Handling is very good but trying to ride fast over British roads can give you a bit of a wobbling feeling, so a set of steering dampers will be on my Christmas list, as will some wider handle bars. The off road silencers give the bike a genuine triumph sound and put a real smile on your face. Gear changing is excellent no more crunching like the beamer, very smooth but as all Triumphs it could do with that extra sixth gear.
Still it’s early days yet and I have big plans for this particular bike, I am going to customise it so that it is similar to a mecatwin Bonneville TT, the parts are already on order, these include a big bore kit (790 to 900cc), wider handle bars, Ikon rear shocks and a host of other refinements.
Shall post some pictures up as soon as it’s a nice day;
dealers were first rate, Hughenden, if you’re looking for a Triumph they come highly recommended.
The Bonnie is still at the mechanics but is nearly completed. The engine has been re-bored to 900cc and the the shocks, handle bars and gaiters have all been put in place. I have decided to update the front brakes but am in no mood to pay Norman Hyde £500 for a floating disc and new caliper. My mechanic has suggested an R1 caliper which will stop the bonnie on a coin!
A few months later:
The Bonnie has arrived back in all its new glory. It now boasts a new bored out 900cc wiseco piston kit, together with a smoothed head, a free flowing bellmouth and new Ikon shocks, a steering damper, wider Norman Hyde handle bars and a stylish Monza fuel cap. Over the past month I have had to re-run the bike in for the first 500 miles, keeping the speed down to 60 mph or below 3000 revs, but at last that has been completed and I can open her up a bit to see how she behaves. The torque is wonderful, so much power and sometimes you forget what gear you're in! It is early days yet and the bike still needs to be treated gently but I am hoping to take her over to the Bonneville 50th anniversary party in Warwickshire during May where I will be able to show her off to other triumph Bonneville owners.
A new front floating disc and a Pretech caliper has been added, the stopping power is amazing.
Well I’ve done it again, I bought myself a Yamaha Diversion 600 just for travelling to and from work which is about 30 miles each way. It’s a good bike, no question , but has the classic vibration at 4000rpm and the power is somewhat lacking but it’s ideal for what I want, a no frills motorbike that gets me from A to B in a reasonable amount of time and more importantly very cheap to run with loads of spares available. It has a top box and I’ve added two canvass panniers so that I can load up all my gear for work. The handling is pretty average and it’s a very forgiving bike, ideal for someone who has just passed their test or the commuter for every day use. I’ll keep it for a while and see how I get on but it might be underpowered for my longer journeys, we will just have to see.
Enough said for the Yammy, it was a good bike, very reliable but in all honesty I just found it a bit boring and after a year I think I was just about done in. It was fine for local trips to work but anything further like motorway use it really was under powered and I always felt I was in a bit of danger as I had no way of quickly getting out of trouble should it arise.
So what to find next on my great bike journey? I had the toy, the wonderful Triumph Bonneville (Annabelle) and now I still needed something with some umph for a bit of speed and reliability to get me to work and should the need arise travel further a field.
Recently while browsing through the web pages of a local bike dealer, I came across the motorbike for me. I had been toying with the idea of buying one of these but friends had told me that the bike would be too big for me and I would have trouble holding it up, a bit like the old BMW 850GS. But I went across to the dealers anyway to check it out for myself and I'm glad I did, as after a good test ride I was sold. "Brigitte" my new Triumph Trophy is a dream to ride, comfortable, quick, loads of torque and just a joy to ride. OK, so she's done 30,000 miles and she's an old girl (1993), but with a bit of TLC she looks the business and sounds as if she has only just been run in.
You can see she doesn't look her age and would you believe after the day I bought her I did a 100 mile test ride just in one afternoon, so much fun, I didn't want it to stop.
It's early days yet but I'll let you know how things go, it should be an interesting next few months!
Well its now been about 3 years and I still ride the old girl. Not too much mileage about 33K, but mostly in the summer months in and around the Cotswolds.
Unfortunately this year 2015 back in March I suffered a stroke, no paralysis but definitely some brain and balance damage that its slowly getting better. But because of this I couldn't ride Bridget for some time (around 8 months) which was quite disappointing.
Now nearly fully recovered I find I'm not so confident anymore on the old girl and this bike needs a confident rider. The other annoyance was she would not start cos of those months of neglect and in the end I had to replace the battery and buy a new solenoid . But finally she was fixed and I've had no trouble since.
Now all I have to do is put her in for the annual MOT and then well maybe, I'll keep her and gain my confidence back or sadly sell her and get something a little lighter and smaller. We'll see!