BEN MILLER’S MOTO GIRO MADNESS
DEPUTY EDITOR THEN EDITOR, 2009-2014
You’d be forgiven for thinking Classic Bike is a magazine about classic bikes. For me it’s a magazine about people. Relationships, experiences, memories – they’re more powerful and affecting than yet another essay on the evolution of the Bonneville (although there’s a time and place for the latter too, obviously.) I remember great bikes from my time on CB but mostly I remember the people – the lives that working on the magazine brought into my own. The owner of the flawless Laverda who insisted I ride his bike as hard as I wanted, and who used his relationship with the reclusive Richard Slater to set up an interview. The chap with a fly/ride rental business on Mallorca, who had us belting around the very best roads when we weren’t sitting down for roast suckling pig and more wine than an Englishman should drink at lunch. The Le Mans race car engineer who built a V-twin Ajs/harley-davidson mongrel that pulled like a tug and turned like a Spitfire. The Yorkshireman who wouldn’t rest until I’d driven to his place, put his irreplaceable Harris-framed Kawasaki racer in a van, driven to Spa in Belgium and ridden in anger on the planet’s most spectacular track. MV Agusta owner Graham, who still messages me. And the Laverda specialist who, after one phone ‘THE VERY BEST ROADS AND ROAST SUCKLING PIG’ call, refused to suggest a B&B and insisted I stay at his. After six hours in a van you want a gin and tonic; Keith poured one big enough to house goldfish and strong enough to poison the Pacific.
Old bikes are inclusive and a passion for them a cast-iron guarantee that two people will get on, regardless of age or language. I tried to create a mag reflecting this, believing a great well-written story is forever relevant, whether it’s a Suzuki or a Sunbeam. Japanese and British were equally valid, and both were changing. Resto-modding (old bikes made better with 21st century engineering) became A Thing in British classics, as it had been for a while with Japanese stuff; best-of-both dream bikes that went and sounded like a Trident, yet stopped and held oil like a Fireblade.
Equally the importance of originality took hold – the idea that a faded, rusted, lived-in bike that’d never been painted or rechromed was as valuable as the restoration beside it, perhaps even more so. And prices, sadly, skyrocketed; £400 Bantams went to £1000, then £2000. Jotas doubled in five years. Bevel Ducatis shot to the stars, making the day I spent thrashing an MHE on the TT course my Classic Bike highlight. Or maybe the Moto Giro on Bantams, which is over the page. Or Coupes Moto Legende on my 750SF. Or that Benelli Sei… I don’t know, it was all good.