While at the Goodwood Festival of Speed a couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with an MCN reader about the BMW 90th Anniversary display, each of us singling out the models we’d own if money was no object. He was a nice chap, but his ‘mate’ clearly had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about the bike press.
I kept ignoring his subtle digs throughout the conversation, but when he claimed that we’re all obsessed by ‘what’s new’, that we ‘only ride around on free press bikes, and don’t have any concept of what its like to be a real biker’, I felt rather compelled to set him straight.
Having reeled off my biking history, and told him about what I currently own, he was a changed person. Funny how misconceptions can colour our judgements of others, eh?
While many bike journos have neither the time, space, money, or need to own their own little fleet, I’ve been too addicted for too long to give in to such sensible considerations.
At my peak I had eight bikes in the garage. I’ve battled my way back to a more manageable four now, and can’t imagine parting with any of them, which rather suggests that temptation will only result in that number growing again.
Picking a favourite is difficult, too. I’ve got them all for different reasons, and they all tickle my fancy in different ways.
The least emotive connection is with my so called ‘winter hack’. Bought for commuting duties, my 1998 VFR800FiW is a lovely bike, but it’s not soul-food. That said, I love riding it, relish that V4 snarl, can never quite decide if I love of hate the gear-driven cam whine, and am always surprised by how many people comment on its looks.
Firmly in the addiction corner is my Ducati 996 Bip. It’s number 80 off the production line, and despite the relatively steep mileage (33k), it’s in beautiful condition.
For someone whose addiction was massively in its ascendance in the late eighties and early nineties, the 916 family is era-defining. I know the purists want a 1994 registered 916 or a 998R (as do I), but I could afford neither, and 996s will only go up in value.
Another nod to my biking education is my 1986 Suzuki GSX-R750G Slabby. I’m only the second owner of this example, which has been subtly improved with WP fork internals, an Öhlins race shock, underbraced swingarm, GSX-R1100 carbs, and a full titanium Yoshimura system.
It’s otherwise stock, including the standard epic indicators, original tin pressed numberplate, the original mirrors, and some period stickers. Love it.
The final bike hiding in the garage is another Honda, a 1975 SOHC CB750, with a thorough lashing of Dunstall parts, including rearsets, clip-ons, ‘Devastator’ bodywork, ‘Decibel’ 4-2-2 exhaust system, finned engine covers and (reputedly) a 900cc Yoshi engine.
If I ever get round to pulling the engine out the frame, I’ll get the heads off and take a look – but I'm not banking on it being anything other than stock. It’s completely unrestored, and only needs some light recommissioning to get it on the road – if I ever get the time…
Only the VFR could come close to doing what my longterm test R1200GS does day in and day out, but the reverence I feel for the GS is very different to the connection I feel for my personal fleet.
Hopefully, they all help to keep my focus on the realities of bike ownership, the passion, breakdowns, frustrations, tinkering, modifying, and stolen hours of unadulterated joy while scything through the countryside and simply enjoying the ride.
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