‘If I ruled the world I’d bin motorway speed limits’
Norton design chief and Executive Director Simon Skinner has a lively biking life
Q1 What are you riding?
I have Domiracer #50, but that doesn’t get used much, it’s a bit of a special so I normally use one of our test bikes. If I do miles I tend to use a Commando for the comfier riding position. If it’s a quick blast it’s a Dominator, so cool.
Q2 Which living motorcyclist do you most admire?
It’s a toss-up between Valentino and Michael Dunlop. Rossi has so much skill and consistency and Dunlop has commitment beyond belief. Both guys play the psychological game hard but remain grounded. If I had to pick, it would be Michael. You can tell both guys love bikes, that’s the main thing.
Q3 What’s your worst riding habit?
Poor overtaking especially when you have a bit of speed on and are in the zone. I think I could be better at checking behind me just in case someone is overtaking me at the same time!
Q4 If you could have one biking superpower, what would it be?
To see into the future. Even if it’s 10 minutes, I would never crash again.
Q5 What’s the fastest you’ve ever ridden?
Flat out on a Triumph 675 prototype test bike, whatever that is, maybe 160mph. I won’t say where it was, but it wasn’t a test track.
Q6 When was the last time you were scared?
The last time I stood on the pit wall at the TT and Davo [Johnson – Norton TT rider] came past at 180mph. Maybe next time I won’t lean over as far.
Q 7 How many miles have you done in the last year?
Not enough, I’m too busy doing my bit to grow Norton. Probably under 1000.
Q8 What’s the highest mileage you’ve done in a day?
Just over 600 miles, I was much younger then. A quick Sunday morning blast with a bunch of friends tuned into something much bigger, I can still remember the pain in my knees.
Q9 What irritates you most when you’re out riding?
Sat-navs in cars positioned right next to the mirror. It must block half the view. Oi Mr Driver: ‘Can you see me coming out of a junction?’
Q10 You’ve got two weeks off what would you do?
Spend it with my family, go to the beach, try to unwind. We all work too hard and those moments are special. When the wife has had enough of me being under her feet I will disappear into the garage and get my hands dirty on one of my many unfinished projects.
Q 11 What wisdom would you pass on to new riders?
If it rains, ride like a wimp and get home safe.
Q12 Ever fallen off in a car park, or somewhere equally embarrassing?
Yes! When at Triumph I wanted to try the then new Daytona 600 and the only one available was a press bike that was due to go out the next day to a magazine. It was starting to rain and I hate the rain so turned around in the car park, put my foot down on a wet manhole cover and dropped the bike. Somehow I managed to obliterate one whole side at 5mph. I’m still grateful to the workshop manager for covering that one up.
Q13 Do you have one indispensable item, of kit?
My helmet. It’s so important it fits right – you only have one head.
Q14 Which four people would you invite on a Sunday blast?
My dad. He sadly passed away before I passed my bike test. He was a big BSA fan in his youth, I would have loved to ride on a pair of new Nortons with him, especially one I’d designed, it would make him proud. Other than that Mick Grant for the straight talking, Steve Plater for the giggles and anyone from Norton as they’re a right good bunch!
Q15 Do you have a tool that you couldn’t really live without?
My Swiss army knife. Often imitated never bettered, it has got me out of so many pickles.
Q16 Do you adjust your suspension?
Yes, I’m an engineer so love fiddling. I can attribute at least one crash to massively incorrect suspension settings, a low-side at Cadwell when I ran out of travel and then skill!
Q17 If you could have one of your bikes back, what would it be?
My old Kawasaki ZX-7R, my first proper fast bike, I only bought it because I was a closet Chris Walker fan (don’t tell him!) but it was ace. S o many fond memories, I’d buy it back tomorrow.
Q18 What kind of bike would you never buy?
I appreciate every kind of bike has its place but a cruiser just isn’t for me. No Harleys in the Skinner house.
Q19 Which road (or track) would you build on your desert island?
Easy, the TT course, it has everything. Plus, can you imagine the size of my island?
Q20 If you ruled the world, what new law would you pass?
Remove speed limits on the motorway, I’d get around so much quicker.
‘I went flat out on a Triumph 675 prototype, maybe 160mph’
Skinner has been behind some of the greatest British bikes around Skinner worked on some top Triumphs (but don’t let him out in the wet)
Skinner has Domiracer #50… the lucky devil