The triumphs (and tragedies) of my two-wheeled affairs, past and present…
This 1959 BSA Bantam D7, a 175cc 2-stroke, was my first bike. It hardly ran and there was always something wrong with it, but on one occasion it did manage to transport me the seven miles into work, from East London to Bush House on the Strand, without breaking down. This mammoth journey was clearly too much for the little Beezer and the thought of the ride home brought out its stubborn side. After an hour of fruitless kick-starting I rounded up the BBC security guards to push me around the car park, but to no avail. The Bantam never ran again and soon it was part exchanged for a mightier relative.
Despite the temperamental Bantam, I was still in love with all things BSA and my next bike was a 1963 A65 Star, a 650cc twin. It was something of an impulse buy, based on nothing more than that it was black and shiny and started first kick. Of course there was still plenty of the usual teeth-gnashing one expects with British bikes, and it was pushed home on more than one occasion. But this was really the bike I learnt to ride on, and it became a reliable commuter, as well as taking me on my first motorcycle trip to foreign shores – a thousand mile tour of France with no breakdowns!
I had to sell the A65 to fund my trip of the Americas. It was a sad decision, but adventure was calling! I bought the Yamaha XT225 Serow that carried me on my twenty-thousand mile journey from Alaska to the tip of South America, across every terrain and through every climate imaginable. Naturally, I was rather attached to the old thing by the end, so I shipped it back to the UK from Argentina, had the engine rebuilt, and then some *@!# went and stole it! I replaced it with this 1993 model just in time for my honeymoon – a three-thousand mile ride through eleven countries in Western and Eastern Europe.
When I got back from my Americas trip, I had a little foray into the world of modern street bikes, with a Honda Bros 400. It kind of went against the grain, as I’m more inclined towards motorcycles that are either older than me or designed to get covered in mud. But my best friend, Lisa, was selling it cheap, and it looked like it might be fun. I was right about that – I’d never owned a bike that went faster than 60mph before! And all those cylinders and liquid cooling made for a nice smooth ride. It was a bit of a novelty, and as you can see from this picture, surprisingly versatile!
What with embarking on the life of a struggling writer, the Honda had to go for financial reasons. But as soon as I received the first advance for my book of Lois On The Loose, I decided I needed to make life harder for myself and splashed out on this beast, a 1978 Yamaha XT500. It took me a while (and a few bruises) to get the hang of starting it, but once I got the knack it was true love. It pulls away like a wild horse and the vibration turns internal organs to a pulp – but it’s taken the top spot as my all-time favourite bike!
This is the bike I rode from London to Cape Town. While on my ride through the Americas I met lots of motorcyclists on big bikes who laughed at my little 225cc Serow, so when I was planning my Africa trip I decided to take their advice and get a bigger machine – I went up an extra 25cc with this 2004 Yamaha TTR250! I bought it with 200 miles on the clock and gave it a right old hammering through Africa, but it never failed me once, and it’s still going strong. I could not have asked for a more trusty steed. You can read more about this bike and the modifications I made to it here.