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. 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 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.