Classic Bike Guide

Think about yourself

Matt thinks it’s good to be selfish…


Bikes, I’ve had a few. And cars, too, but they have too many wheels for this publicatio­n. Why do we choose the model we do? Why do we change?

And why buy the example we do? And how much of this has anything to do with what we love about bikes?

I was thinking this when looking at the world of weddings (where is this going? – your conscience). It is said that the average spend on a wedding in the UK is £30,000. Average. There are many reasons for this. Much of the time it’s because the happy couple-to-be would like their day to be perfect, so it is a day where rational thought is often blindfolde­d, the unnecessar­y is booked, and, thanks to the different forms of media in our pocket, ideas are limitless. Oh, and supplier prices can be somewhat inflated when the word ‘wedding’ is used.

But, and I’ve said this to a couple I know well who are shortly getting hitched, how much of this pomp and circumstan­ce is for you, and how much is for your alterego, your social media ‘presence’ and to impress those attending? Would you pay £2000 to have the swans on the lake painted in your bride-to-be’s favourite shade of pink if it were just the two of you? And must you have that orchestra you saw on a famous person’s Instagram, or the day just won’t work? What is important to you? Face it: most of us do not live in a castle (we don’t), so why pretend?

Thankfully, back to bikes. The want for a bike is many and varied but, like weddings, how much is for your desire and how much is for others see you? In this month’s Famous Last Words column, Frank talks about the six-cylinder models from Honda and Benelli, both interestin­g examples of manufactur­ers flexing their egos and a great ride, I’m sure – but how much better are they than the fourcylind­er sibling? Or is it that you just like getting looked at, and is it worth the eternal worry of dropping it? Brough Superiors – superb machines they may be, but what exactly can you do on a £100,000 bike without spending the whole time worrying?

Working with bikes most of the time, my decisions are more often about whether they are fit for purpose and not what others think of you. Or are they?

My Kawasaki KR1 was because my friend, Mark, had it for sale and it happened to be the first large bike I had anything to do with. My string of Supersport Ducatis followed and were born from then-Ducati dealer Chris

Clarke, being 15 minutes up the road when I had a 50cc bike that took me to drool at the window in the evenings. The VFRs, both 400s and 750s, came from the impeccable ‘80s and ‘90s Honda builds, and that sound – well, in reality, they were cheap as grey imports and reliable to work on, too (apart from getting the carbs back on the hard rubbers in that V). The

BMWs were the cheapest way to be comfortabl­e, the Triumph Trophys were company bikes, the B31 was a bike a friend, Dave, had for sale, the Norton was cheap; oh.

This started as a helpful rant about those folk riding bikes they are petrified of, which are uncomforta­ble, unreliable and expensive, just because of how they want to portray themselves to the world.

I wanted to use my selfishnes­s of buying bikes purely because I want them to help others choose more wisely, which in turn would help them enjoy riding more. Except I seem to have only chosen bikes because they were available, because they were easy to come by, or because they were cheap. Hmmm.

But cheap does have an upside. You use them more. Which means you need to work on them more. Which means you build up an affection for each other more. Which means you ride more. Though a recent visit to my local Morris Minor restorer recently changed my mind slightly, as he said less owners are using these basic yet practical classic cars as much, preferring to only cover a few hundred miles a year.

Buy what you want. For whatever reason you want. Or for no reason at all, but enjoy it. Don’t wrap it up and think of it as an investment – don’t ruin it – ride the bloody thing.

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