‘I WAS TER­RI­BLE – I DIDN’T WIN A SAUSAGE FOR YEARS’

Mick Grant talks dodgy tun­ing, ice cream vans, and his worst bike ever

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

How and did you first get into bikes?

It was round about the time of the Suez Cri­sis (1956) so there was petrol ra­tioning. A pal of mine’s father was an en­gi­neer and needed some petrol coupons so he bought a Tri­umph Tiger 80 – which was a 350cc, pre-war sin­gle – be­cause it came with some petrol coupons! We rode that thing round and round the fields for hours. I was about nine or 10 at the time.

What your first bike?

I rode my dad’s BSA Ban­tam for a while but the first bike I ac­tu­ally owned was a 250 AJS Sap­phire. It looked gor­geous but it used to break a crank­shaft ev­ery 6000 miles. I wanted to buy a 500 Ve­lo­cette but my dad wouldn’t let me.

Do you re­call your first crash?

My first crash was on that Tiger 80. I was on a lit­tle back road and Mr Lumb was com­ing straight to­wards me in his ice cream van. I pan­icked and fell off into the hedge. Mr Lumb just kept on driv­ing so I didn’t even get an ice cream out of it.

Did you have many road bikes be­fore you started rac­ing?

I even­tu­ally got a 500 Ve­lo­cette and that’s what I started rac­ing on. I re­ally wanted to com­pete in tri­als or scram­bling but I didn’t have the bike and I didn’t have the money so I turned the Ve­lo­cette into a race bike. I was ter­ri­ble at it though – didn’t win a sausage for three years. I was do­ing all my own tun­ing but didn’t know what I was do­ing so I kept mak­ing the bike go slower. Af­ter about three years I put it back to stan­dard trim and won a race! Ev­ery­one was ask­ing me what I’d done to the bike to make it go so fast and wouldn’t be­lieve me when I told them.

Did you still ride bikes on the road dur­ing your rac­ing ca­reer?

I’ve al­ways had a road bike but never been too fa­nat­i­cal about it. When I was rid­ing for Kawasaki and Honda I could pick what­ever road bikes I wanted. I had a Kawasaki Z1 but like an id­iot I opted for a Honda CX500 in 1979. You don’t need the fastest bike when it’s not rac­ing but that bike was bad.

What bikes do you have now?

Un­til re­cently I had a very nice col­lec­tion of vin­tage mo­tor­bikes, mainly 500cc sin­gles. I like me­chan­i­cal things, but I sold them all be­cause it got to a point where it was like paint­ing the Forth Bridge – they just needed per­ma­nent work and I wasn’t pre­pared to ded­i­cate my whole life to keep­ing them run­ning.

So you don’t have any bikes now?

I’ve still got two of my fac­tory rac­ing bikes – the 1977/ 78 Kawasaki KR750 that I won the TT and set a new out­right lap record on, and my 1982 Suzuki XR69. My pas­sion is tri­als rid­ing and I ride ev­ery week­end on my clas­sic tri­als bikes. I en­joy work­ing on them as much as rid­ing them. I de­vel­oped a 500 Ariel for 30 years and couldn’t do any more with it so sold it and now I’m work­ing on a BSA Ban­tam.

What’s the one that got away?

It’s ev­ery rider from my era’s dream to own a Honda-6, but that’s not go­ing to hap­pen! I rode a proper Honda-4 though – it was amaz­ing.

What would your life have been like with­out mo­tor­bikes?

It would have been f**kin’ aw­ful! I’d have been push­ing a broom up the street with a wheel­bar­row.

Bonkers for Borgo Panigale?

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