MATCHLESS TO ITALY
EDITOR AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, 1999-2009
Brian ‘Badger’ Crichton thrums to the Alps on a pleasingly rusty Matchless
Iknew Classic Bike right from the start in 1978, helping out with photography on an early issue followed by occasional involvement on a few features. I joined full-time in 1999, taking the magazine into the new millennium as editor.
At that time British bikes were the core interest, especially Triumph. And the classic café racer scene was on the rise. Tritons in particular were in bloom and values were rising. The scene was given a major boost by the official re-opening of the Ace Cafe in 2001. In effect we had a permanent focal point open seven days a week – and London had a new tourist attraction. Working with Ace Cafe owner Mark Wilsmore, Classic Bike based several features there – I even contemplated approaching Mark to consider opening a Classic Bike satellite office at the Ace.
These were exciting times. The mag sponsored the Ace through publicity and still headlined the world’s leading classic bike show at Stafford.
Machine values were rising across the board and the Japanese classic movement was striding into the picture. Classic events were taking place anywhere and everywhere, and plenty of major classic names were key players on the scene including John Surtees, Derek Minter and Phil Read, who became a CB columnist, followed by Peter Williams. And Phil and Peter still continue to be VIP guests at many events.
Barry Sheene joined the classic scene, his racing appearances at Donington Park and Goodwood attracting vast interest. He won at Goodwood in his final racing year (2002) and I made sure I was there to report it. The following year the world FIM classic road race championship was introduced, set up by the persuasive George Beale. The series only lasted a year, but it signalled just how important classics had become.
Underpinning this colourful development and action was the private owner in the towns and villages across the land, keeping the classic faith, preserving the home industry’s heritage, forming clubs to share knowledge and enjoyment – and of course using their bikes. Riding to Italy with the Ajs-matchless club was a highlight of my time on CB; you can read the story over the page.
Today, 40 years on, Classic Bike is the biggestselling motorcycle magazine in print. An amazing achievement. I left the magazine in 2009 and since then the editorial teams have continued to keep the content fresh and turn up some amazing bikes. They deserve full credit for creative thinking. And so does Peter Watson, who lit the touch paper in 1978.
‘I CONSIDERED A CLASSIC BIKE OFFICE AT THE ACE CAFE’