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