20 Ques­tions

Lem­bit Öpik, for­mer Lib­eral Demo­crat MP and cur­rent Head of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for MAG, lets rip

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

Q1 What are you rid­ing?

A 1989 Kawasaki GPZ550 that’s great round town be­cause it’s the width of an old 250 and has more per­for­mance than you’d ever need in an ur­ban area. It’s a bit of a rat bike and not very de­sir­able for thieves. I also have a Honda VFR750 that has a lovely en­gine and thank­fully doesn’t have the dodgy 16in front wheel.

Q2 Who do you most ad­mire?

Kenny Roberts. When I first got into bikes he was the king of the hill, TZing his way to world suc­cess. I was lucky enough to meet him once, which was just in­cred­i­ble as a 15-year-old kid. He had that strange courage that sug­gested he didn’t en­ter­tain the pos­si­bil­ity of death.

Q3 What’s your worst habit?

On very long dis­tances I start slow­ing down be­cause I start fix­at­ing on the pos­si­bil­ity of a front tyre blowout. I have no idea why, as it’s ir­ra­tional, but I slowly have to bring my­self up to speed again. I also bot­tle it if I think there’s even the slight­est pos­si­bil­ity of ice.

Q4 If you could have one rid­ing su­per skill, what would it be?

Man­ag­ing a bike when it starts slid­ing around, like speed­way rid­ers do.

Q5 What’s the fastest you’ve gone on a bike?


Q6 When were you last scared?

At the Il­fra­combe Bike Show about three years ago. I’d bor­rowed a prizewin­ning Yamaha RD250DX and a car pulled out on me. I thought ‘Christ, I can’t to­tal this bike’ and I had that hor­ri­ble feel­ing in the pit of my stom­ach. I had no dis­tance to brake, so I swerved and missed the front by inches.

Q7 How many miles have you done in the last year?

3000 or so.

Q8 What’s the high­est mileage you’ve cov­ered in one day?

About 400. I’m not one of those guys that do 1000 miles in day just to get a bag of chips.

Q9 What ir­ri­tates you most?

Rain. It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter how wa­ter­proof your clothes are, you know that even­tu­ally it’s com­ing in. That or driv­ers who are ir­ri­tated by fil­ter­ing, so they try to squeeze you out.

Q10 You’ve got two weeks off: where are you go­ing?

I would go to New Zealand and ride around as much of the North and South Is­lands as pos­si­ble. The roads are fan­tas­tic as they’re all the best of Scot­land with less traf­fic and more wildlife. Then I’d nip across the pond and have a four-day party in Fiji.

Q11 Got one pearl of wis­dom for new rid­ers?

As­sume everybody is out to kill you.

Q12 Ever fallen off in a car park (or some­where equally em­bar­rass­ing)?

Yes! As an 18-year old in Belfast I had a Yamaha RS100 and was try­ing to show off to this girl. So I was out­side her house and at the same time three of my mates were com­ing down the street. I revved it up, tried to do a U-turn and just fell on my arse right in front of ev­ery­one but it was an in­cline, so the bike just car­ried on slid­ing.

Q13 Do you have one in­dis­pens­able item of rid­ing kit?

My 1988 Frank Thomas boots.

Q14 Which four peo­ple would you in­vite on a Sun­day blast?

I’d love to ride with my he­roes but they’d all show me up in the first cor­ner. I would choose Fred­die Spencer to hear his sto­ries, my mate Ian Mor­ris who I grew up rid­ing with, Mike New­man who I grew up rid­ing with and Geri Hal­li­well be­cause why not?

Q15 Do you have a tool you couldn’t live with­out?

An im­pact driver. Used in­cor­rectly it will de­stroy ev­ery bolt on your bike but used well it will re­move any stuck bolt.

Q16 Do you ad­just sus­pen­sion?

I’ve learned from bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence that the Opik Garage of Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion doesn’t know quite as much about th­ese things as, say, Yamaha.

Q17 If you could have one of your bikes back, which would it be?

A Honda CB550 that I re­built from a write-off. But I should have changed the gas­kets as soon as I got it be­cause for all the time I had it, my jeans never faded as they were al­ways cov­ered in oil.

Q18 What would you never buy?

A Kawasaki Z1300. The electrics were shock­ingly bad and they were so heavy.

Q19 Which road would you have built on your desert is­land?

The Wye Val­ley from Mon­mouth – it’s 25 miles of pure joy.

Q20 If you ruled the world, what new law would you pass?

I’d get rid of the hel­met law.

‘If I ruled the world I would get rid of the hel­met law’

Cal didn’t stand a chance

Cal Crutchlow’s com­ments fol­low­ing the Mugello GP seem to sug­gest that tyre al­lo­ca­tion de­ter­mines who wins and who loses. If this is so, can we trust Mo­togp re­sults? Is there an el­e­ment of race fix­ing go­ing on here? Along with most Ital­ians, I was hugely re­lieved when An­drea Dovizioso hung on to win the race in Italy; he had come so close on many oc­ca­sions, only to be de­nied by bad luck or bad rid­ing by others. How­ever, Crutchlow claims that the Hon­das were at a dis­ad­van­tage as a re­sult of tyre al­lo­ca­tion, leav­ing him, Pe­drosa, and Mar­quez with no chance. So could it be that, at other times and on other cir­cuits, the odds are loaded in favour of this team or that, just to mix it up a bit and share out the spoils? With more and-more power to put down on the tar­mac, it’s the tyre peo­ple who hold the trump card, not the rid­ers, and the rid­ers suf­fer more and more crashes when the tyres can’t cope. Many peo­ple are won­der­ing if this needs to change. Sean Wood, Hove

Level TT play­ing field

Is it time for con­trolled en­gines/ecus/ tyres at the TT? Ev­ery year we get halfa-dozen rid­ers that can win the race and 40 rid­ers out there mak­ing up the num­bers. The ‘other 40’ take the same risks as the top six, and the crowd wait 17 min­utes to see six rid­ers rac­ing one another again. Let’s give ev­ery­one a chance of win­ning and make it more af­ford­able for the pri­va­teers to race with a chance of suc­cess. Pat Keenan, Guildford

Hack­sawed my tyres…

As a clue to my age, when I first started buy­ing MCN it cost 6d, that’s two-anda-half pence. I was amused to read last week’s sup­ple­ment on tyres; what be­wil­der­ing choices! My first sea­son of rac­ing saw me at Brands with light rain fall­ing. I’d just fit­ted a new rear tyre from the ex­ten­sive choice avail­able of Dun­lop tri­an­gu­lars or Dun­lop tri­an­gu­lars. For wet tyres you let out a cou­ple of pounds of pres­sure! My high-tech ap­proach in­cluded rough­ing up the tyre with a hack­saw. The bike (a Manx Tri­umph 500) weaved a lit­tle through Pad­dock but it felt ok and I came sec­ond. The guy who beat me had a pure 500 Manx and 20-30% more power. Sadly, I didn’t make my sec­ond race as I fell off on the way to the pits! Paul Gar­rod (aka - Ace in 69), Portsmouth

#ride5000 in Scot­land

We’ve just had a fan­tas­tic trip round Scot­land in ex­cel­lent weather. This pic­ture (above right) was taken in In­ver­aray on the west coast on our way to Oban on the A816. We did 1300 miles in four days. We had one night

in the St Ives B&B in Dunoon and then two nights in Fort Au­gus­tus in the King’s Inn. If you’ve not been bik­ing in Scot­land you are miss­ing out… it’s the trip of a life­time. Kenny Wright, email

Any Brno trip tips?

Any­one ever gone to Brno for the GP? Some friends and I are rid­ing there in Au­gust. Any sug­ges­tions on which way to go would be great. None of us have ever done a trip like this be­fore. Proper ex­cited! Gra­ham Dixon, #ride5000miles mem­ber

My long­est ride yet

My run home from France a cou­ple of weeks ago on my Tiger Ex­plorer saw me do 981.4 miles in 22 hours, 43 min­utes and 56 sec­onds. Apart from four hours on the ferry from Dieppe to Ne­whaven and four stops for fuel, I was in the sad­dle the whole time. I left Bayeux at 7.30am and ar­rived home at 5am the fol­low­ing day. It was dark by the time I passed Carlisle and al­most day­light again as I passed Aviemore. Pos­si­bly the long­est sin­gle ride I’ve ever done and my bike never missed a beat. Jamie Armes-har­ris, #ride5000miles mem­ber

Econ­omy class TT

When the TT was be­ing con­ceived back in 1907 there were two classes, a 90mpg sin­gle cylin­der and 75mpg twin cylin­der race. To en­cour­age man­u­fac­tur­ers to pro­duce fru­gal mo­tor­bikes, I be­lieve there should be a two-lap race us­ing a pre­cisely mea­sured gal­lon (for any stan­dard built mo­tor­cy­cle able to do over 75mpg at speed), a three-lap race for com­muter bikes able to achieve 114mpg and a high-tech ef­fi­ciency com­pe­ti­tion for the man­u­fac­tur­ers to achieve 150mpg over four laps. Am I be­ing un­re­al­is­tic? Well Bri­tish en­gi­neer, John Wooler, did pro­duce a 75mph 300mpg bike over 60 years ago, so why not this new TT chal­lenge? Stu­art Wilkie, Kings Lynn

Guzzi, Guzzi, yum, yum

Re­gard­ing your re­cent ar­ti­cle about the fan­tas­tic Moto Guzzi Stelvio, it was amaz­ing and long over­due. Per­son­ally, I don’t ride our beau­ti­ful lady, but have been a pil­lion for years and trav­elled far and wide from Scot­land right through Europe and Greece with many happy hun­dreds of miles un­der my belt. She is the most com­fort­able bike you could hope to sit on. Over all types of ter­rain. She is smooth over bumps and can take on any other bike on the Au­to­bahn. We’ve been to the Guzzi mu­seum in Man­dello del Lario, fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to see all the vin­tage bikes. Well done you for your ar­ti­cle and please, more pieces on the Guzzi. Thanks. Shona Bell, Scot­land

Re­spect to TT he­roes

Ev­ery year I am blown away by the brav­ery of the men and women who race at the TT across all classes. In th­ese sani­tised and po­lit­i­cally cor­rect times the event and all those in­volved should be ap­plauded. Dan Tay­lor, email

‘981.4 miles in 22 hours, 43 min­utes and 56 sec­onds on my Tiger Ex­plorer’

If Lem­bit had his way there would be no need for that hel­met

It might be old but it’s slim and fast enough in town

‘I was try­ing to im­press this girl and fell on my arse…’

Place to be for great rid­ing Kenny Wright and friends reckon Scot­land is the

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