A Biking Life
I first started playing around with motorcycles in 1979 at the age of 16 when I acquired a Suzuki AP50 from my brother. Actually I was lucky to have made that age because I tried it illegally at 15 and performed a 180 degree turn on a single track road without any indication whatsoever. Since I hadn’t checked the mirrors either, the two cars behind me were a big surprise and I was probably lucky not to have ended my affair with motorcycles there and then. But I survived, reached the age of 16, got insurance, a fresh set of L plates and I was off into the motorcycle world.
I knew next to nothing about them but thoroughly enjoyed my new found freedom and was screaming around in all directions with my new moped friends. At 16 we were practically bullet proof and knew nothing of danger so crashing all seemed to be part of the fun! How any insurance company accepted us I will never know and I actually crashed into the back of stationary traffic because I was too busy checking out a girl walking along the pavement. Hmm, hormones and engines, not good for insurance companies!
Then after that, I got all nostalgic and started playing with old British bikes. I heard a rumour about an old British 650 sitting rotting under someone’s kitchen window. I tracked it down and it turned out to be a 1959 BSA A10 Gold Flash. It had been sitting there for the best part of 20 years and it was in a real mess. None the less at 18, and with a mate who had already ‘restored’ a BSA C25 Barracuda I wouldn’t be dissuaded and I bought it. Looking back at it, it was far too far gone but we were full of enthusiasm and determined to restore it. Whilst I was busy doing that I also bought a BSA B25 Starfire for transport, if you can call it that. I seem to remember doing as much walking as riding and for a while we were known as ‘The BSA Rambling club’.
None the less, the A10 did get finished to a reasonable standard. At 20 years old I wasn’t interested in restoring it to concourse original condition so I did it my way and I thought I was the coolest cat in town! You could never afford to be too far away from a toolbox but we sure had some fun with those bikes. Memories of exhaust pipes flying off completely on the M5 motorway at midnight and being tied back on with electrical wire, primary drive chains snapping half way across Exmoor are just a couple and more than once the nights camping spot was decided more by the bikes than the riders. I was once bet a beer by a guy with a Z1000 that my A10 wouldn’t start first kick. When it did I was so busy celebrating that I hadn’t noticed it was on fire! All tremendous fun and we were learning a lot about bikes as we went.
Eventually the idea of reaching your desired destination took hold and I moved into an era of Japanese bikes with like minded friends and I acquired a Suzuki GS750EN. Again great times with great people and we started to ride them more than fix them. I was probably in my early 20’s by then and was screaming around the local neighbourhood causing noisy chaos as well as going away on camping trips and our first touring trips to France. They were followed by many different bikes and other trips through France, Spain, Portugal and later across half of Europe to the Greek Islands and back through the then Yugoslavia. A taste for adventure was combining with the motorcycles and we were off all over the place.
The more riding we did the faster we went and eventually we started to get more and more interested in racing. Of course, at that age we had no money to go racing and that would have been that had I not read an article in a magazine about a sport called Hill Climbing.
Now for those that don’t know, a Hill Climb is a race on a twisty, tarmac (ish) surface usually uphill and anywhere from 30 seconds to one and a half minutes long. There is a timing light at the bottom, another one at the top and it is done one rider at a time and against the clock. There’s all sorts of machinery in the paddock and he with the shortest time wins.
That looked quite a lot of fun for a very low cost so I acquired myself a Suzuki GT250 X7. My main race preparations seem to have been hack sawing off everything behind the riders seat and drilling everything I could think of. I had read that drilling was a good way to lighten things and I think I spent as much money on drills as I did on tyres! Not really a lot of point when you are already 6’1’’ and 14 stone on a 250 but there you go.
I kept on messing around with Hill Climbing for a few years with the X7, a converted Suzuki RM500 moto crosser and finally a crashed and rebuilt Yamaha TDM850. I eventually ended up 2nd in the championship but Hill Climbing is very much a sprint sport and you will be lucky to spend more than 5 minutes per day actually riding. It certainly gave me a taste for racing though and I bought a Yamaha RD350 YPVS and set off Road racing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the road racing too but had all the usual novice problems. Five crashes in six meetings wasn’t too good a start but I certainly wasn’t put off, not even by two broken bones! The 350 YPVS was followed by a Honda CBR600FL which got me through the Novice licence and then various Gsxr750’s and Gsxr1100’s followed over the next few years.
So by now, I have around 15 years experience of motorcycles and all this was before Bike Torque even existed but in late 1994 I started Bike Torque Racing and you can read more about that in the About_Us Section.
So the hobby had become a profession then in 1996 I bought a Suzuki GSXR750WT brand new and went off to do the NGMCC production championship. For once things largely worked out and I won the championship without crashing all year, and had Jamie Whitham presenting my trophy to me no less.
The following few years the bike was turned into a 750cc Superbike Racer. The whole process was a lot of fun, really educational and pretty expensive but again, I was learning a lot about bikes and parts. I raced that bike until 1999 when we bored it out to 813cc with a full race tune. At the time we were constantly chasing 1000cc R1 Yamaha’s so nothing less would do and it ended up making 153BHP on the Dyno. That may have been a couple too many though and it finally expired that year in such spectacular fashion that there wasn’t much left to salvage, so we went on to a TL1000S, a TL1000R and Yamaha R1. Then 2001 we bought a Suzuki GSXR1000 and built a bike to do some rounds of the World Endurance championship.
It competed in four rounds that year at Le Mans, Nurburgring, Brno, and Brands Hatch with respectable results and it would have been fun to continue in that championship. However, without major sponsorship further involvement proved impossible and eventually the bike came back to do the KRC British Endurance championship and the NGMCC Open championship. During my stint in the KRC Endurance race at Pembrey I crashed in the Tsunami they laughably call rain in those parts and someone ran over my head! Somehow the foot peg of the offending rider’s bike hit my skull just under the back of my helmet and I was knocked well and truly unconscious and quite badly hurt. It took weeks to even get me properly back on my feet and a year before I was fully recovered. So during that year I loaned the bike to one of the World Endurance Riders called Dave Smith and we shipped it over to Daytona in the USA to do the Daytona 200. Unfortunately, he never got to do the race because he crashed it in qualifying and it was too badly damaged to be fixed. A shame as it was a great holiday and great fun. I would recommend it if you are looking for some race time in February!
Then in the last few years I have been entering Sound of Thunder races on my Ducati 1098S. The chassis and drive train has been heavily modified and the engine has been tuned to match the full race exhaust system along with a power commander and surflex slipper clutch being added to the mix. I think it is definitely one of the best bikes I have ever raced and the Ducati drive out off the corners is both intoxicating and additive! Watch the site because it will be for sale soon complete with Brembo Race brakes, Afam chains and sprockets, Surflex slipper clutch, OZ wheels and a host of other modifications.
So there you have it. Age the tender age of 48 my racing days may be nearly at an end. The racing has been great fun. Nine broken bones in 25 years isn’t too bad and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. You just never know who you are swapping paint with. Many of the people I have raced with now run businesses in the motorcycle industry. Others have gone onto fame in the sport either as riders or team managers. Russell Benney from Phase 1 is now Britain’s most successful Endurance team manager and went on to win Two World Endurance championships. Paul Denning went on to lead Crescent Suzuki to the BSB Superbike title and become Suzuki’s Moto GP team manager. Hey, I still remember Paul when he first turned up at a road race meeting in a novice jacket with an RGV250, and he won too!
But there is far more to motorcycling than just racing. Over the last thirty years I have tried just about everything on two wheels. Road bikes & Race bikes. Standard bikes and Custom bikes. On Road & Off Road. Two strokes & four strokes. Single cylinder to multi cylinder and from commuting to racing. I have toured just about every country in Europe and am still really keen to do a lot more. All this experience has taught me a wealth of information about motorcycles and motorcycle parts.
Too many Web sites end up as faceless corporate communications and biking is not about that. It is about people and their bikes. Many of the people at Bike Torque have similar stories and between us we have over a hundred years of experience. If you have a bike problem then somebody here probably used to own one, crashed it, fixed it, blew it up then rebuilt it and sold it!
I have thoroughly enjoyed all my motorcycling from AP50 to 1098S and continue to do so. Most of the people I have enjoyed it with are still riding and laughing to this day but just occasionally it extracts a terrible price. So lastly a word for the people I have ridden and laughed with who are no longer with us. May you rest in peace.
As for the future, well who knows what might be next? I went to SPA in Belgium last year to watch some Classic Endurance racing and that looked like fun. Or maybe I could try my hand at stunt riding, or maybe some classic racing on a bored out Triumph Trident in a trick chassis, or maybe, or maybe, or maybe? One thing is for sure, my enthusiasm for two wheeled transportation remains undimmed, so watch this space.
The biking history so far. Suzuki AP50, BSA B25 Starfire, BSA A10 Gold Flash, Suzuki GS750EN, Suzuki GT250 X7, Yamaha TDM850 x 2, Yamaha RD350 YPVS, Honda CBR600FL, GSXR750 x 3, GSXR1100 x 4, Honda CBR900RRV, Suzuki GSXR750WT, Yamaha YZF1000 R1, Suzuki Tl1000SV, Suzuki TL1000R, Suzuki GSXR1000 K1, Kawasaki GPz750 A1, Kawasaki KX500, Armstrong 500, Triumph Speed Triple, Suzuki RM500, Harley Davidson 1340 FXRS Sport, BMW R1200GS, Suzuki DRZ 400E, Honda XR600, Kawasaki KDX250, Honda CBX1000 Six, Kawasaki Z1000A! x 2 Ducati 1098S and lots that I have probably forgotten about.