Bikes and a Bentley
I’m as happy talking about bikes as boats and I’ve been riding motorcycles since 1965.
The bikes have included a 250cc BSA C15 that taught me about mechanical breakdowns and a 650cc Matchless that almost killed me at the age of 19.
I had various reliable Hondas and Yamahas when I was ashore in the 70s and 80s, then a Kawasaki GPZ1100 whose performance you simply couldn’t ignore.
After a few frights on that I changed down to a classic 1979 Triumph Bonneville T140, followed by the star of my book Good Vibrations – a Harley Davidson Soft-tail called Black Madonna.
I needed speed after the Harley, so I treated myself to a Yamaha FJ1200. What an engine! Carburettors guaranteed massive torque all the way down to low revs and it would pull like a horse in top gear from 20 to (I’m told!) 150.
When the beloved FJ died of old age, I treated myself to a new Yamaha FJR 1300, its natural successor. It was a better machine, of course, but compared with the old FJ it just had no soul. Not deterred, it must be said it was a beast of a bike and I often rode the hour and a half to London on it. It was big enough for me (I’m 6ft 6in), kept me dry and with heated grips I didn’t feel much pain in winter. The acceleration was nothing short of thrilling.
I sold that after a hip operation. Fully recovered, I bought myself a Triumph 900cc Thunderbird in Legend trim, a naked bike which reduced the temptation to be illegal, but it still punched away from the roundabout like a rocket ship.
In the end, though, the need for a big bike got the better of me. I’m now riding a BMW R1200RT, the ultimate touring bike and besides, thousands of police riders can’t all be wrong, can they?. I’ve never had such comfort and the shove in the back isn’t bad either. It wouldn’t catch the straight-four ‘Yams’, but it’s nobody’s slouch and it makes up for it in sheer civilisation.
I’m a real petrol head and a few years ago acquired ‘Reggie’, a 1949 Mk VI Freestone and Webb Bentley, to do a bit of land cruising. We’ve driven him to Scotland, had an epic ‘spin’ down to Italy with a blown head gasket and been to several Goodwood Revivals. He’s also officiated at weddings.