VINCENT ON THE A1
The Great North Road by Rapide with Hugo Wilson, plus highlights of his era
Two big things happened during my time on Classic Bike. First, people who’d started riding in the 1970s became CB’S target audience. If you were a teenager in the mid-’70s, growing up with Mott the Hoople, Bowie and bell bottoms, then punk and popsicle purple FS1-ES, you were early-forties in 2003 (like me), with difficult teenagers of your own. You needed to escape to the shed to fettle a Triumph Daytona or Kawasaki KH400, and needed a metaphorical escape to nostalgia for your own teenage years. As well as the bikes in Classic Bike getting younger, the language and tone changed to reflect the age in which the CB reader grew up. Less black leather jacket and Bill Hayley, more Suzuki GT250 and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Second, the internet. Suddenly everyone had an autojumble at home which could be accessed after a couple of cans of lager and offered parts and bikes from all over the world. The unobtainable became available because you could buy genuine NOS from Arkansas, or because someone in Slovakia had a batch made.
These things changed values. Bikes from the ’70s started going for proper (sometimes daft) money while generally ’50s and ’60s bikes stagnated. And because the parts market was a global online auction, prices became what people were prepared to pay. There were no more bargains, but there was an upside. You no longer had to trudge around dispiriting, wet auto-jumbles, sorting through piles of worn-out tat hoping to find a side panel for a 1973 BSA (one would come floating past your computer screen soon enough). It meant events changed too; club rallies declined (so did clubs generally) but ‘festivals’ started to be significant. I wasn’t complaining.
After a typical English club event, the Coupes Moto Legende event at Montlhéry near Paris (which later moved to Dijon-prenois) was a ray of sunshine. A reminder that classic bikes and classic biking should be cool, accessible and entertaining in a way that a field full of Francis-barnetts never could be. The other was the Manx GP. The anal rivet-counting ‘those handlebar grips aren’t correct’ attitude of some of the scene was entirely absent among people who went to the Isle of Man in August to thrash old bikes around while the Manx GP classic races happened alongside. It was all about enjoying old bikes through riding them. Hard. It was where we met Rick Parkington. I worked on CB for 106 issues. We had a lot of fun. And if anyone’s got a CPBL gearbox for my ex-wd Matchless they’d like to sell, then please get in touch...
‘CLASSIC BIKES SHOULD BE COOL AND ENTERTAINING’