This eclectic collection will hopefully have wide appeal and is, basically, just an assortment of things which, over many years of involvement with old motorcycles, have interested and intrigued me; people, places and, of course, the motorcycles. There’s not a huge amount of rhyme nor reason, while I’ve plenty of other subjects to investigate in the future too.
Most of those featured in this collection I’ve had personal involvement with or experience of; I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden every incarnation of Bonneville, from the first pre-units to the latest ‘modern’ examples – in my humble opinion, the ‘best’ of the bunch was an extremely well sorted 1970 USA spec, which combined classic looks and agility with a fantastic, eager engine – several Vincent twins, many Bantams, a couple of Rotary Nortons, at least two Scotts, KTTs from Mk.I to Mk.VIII.
I don’t pretend to be privileged enough to know either Jeff Smith or Geoff Duke, though I have met the former on several occasions and seen, first hand, his almost unbelievable skill as he hustled a sidecar outfit up the Healy Pass on the Irish National Rally, as I flailed around on a solo, unable to keep up, while the late Barry Sheene provided me with one of my most ‘memorable’ experiences (and earlier my favourite toy…); around 10 years ago, when I was helping out on Classic Racer magazine, Barry phoned from Australia asking to speak to my then editor, Nigel Clark, about a feature in the magazine. Nigel not being in, I took the call, only for Barry to explain he wasn’t too impressed with a report we’d put in from the MotoGP support race at Donington. But rather than rant for ages, he simply played, in its entirety, Alanis Morissette’s song You Learn featuring the line ‘Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)’ down the phone and left it at that… it was only two days later that we learned of the illness which was eventually to claim him.
Cadwell Park is a place I’ve visited for years – one of my earliest memories is struggling up the hill to Cadwell in the family 2CV sometime in the early 1980s – and only 10 miles from where I’ve ended up living, while Brooklands is always a huge joy to visit – a walk up the banking is simply amazing, in that one doesn’t appreciate just how steep it is, until trying to climb it – and my first blast up Test Hill was one of the more memorable moments of my motorcycling career.
The rockers’ cultural movement is something I’ve only ever skirted around – ownership of a Brando-esque black leather jacket age 16 was more Ramones inspired than rocker revival – while I did have a seminal BSA cafe racer for a while, too.
So, there you have it, reasons for each and every chapter; yes, perhaps they are rather self-indulgent, but I do hope that others take pleasure and enjoyment from it too. I’ve always reasoned that if I’m interested in something then others will be too (well, it always seems to be the case when I’m trying to buy something!) so, on that reckoning, I won’t be apologetic about my selections, just say – I hope you enjoy what we’ve put together.
Author: James Robinson