BEN MILLER’S MOTO GIRO MAD­NESS

DEPUTY EDI­TOR THEN EDI­TOR, 2009-2014

Classic Bike (UK) - - IOM GREENLANING -

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.

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