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The one that got away

Published: 21 January 2002

Jonathan Durrant, 53 is fromWarwickshire. He’s owned 26 bikes

" When I first started work at 16 there was a chap I worked with who was an avid motorcyclist. I was earning very little money, only £3 a week when I started, and he helped me find a bike. We put our earnings together bought an old Ariel single, cadged a damaged sidecar from a local bike shop and put it all together. We finally got it running properly, taxed, MoT’d and insured it and he was going to bring it round to my house on the Sunday for me to ride. He didn’t turn up and when I saw him the next day he said the head gasket blew halfway to my house and he’d left it in a farm gateway. We borrowed the work’s van to go and tow it in the next morning and it had gone. The police said, ‘We know where it is. Some lads pushed it in the river’. I had to pay a £6 fee for a garage to get it out of the river and tow it into town. I was still only earning £3 a week. I left it around the back of work because it was full of water and the next night someone set fire to it, so I never even got to ride my first bike. "

Despite this nightmare start to his biking life Jonathan persevered and saved up for another bike. His troubles weren’t over though. " I got a very nice Ariel and sidecar. My parents were avidly against me having a bike, because my uncle had been killed on one in 1939. So I rode about all day on this Ariel because I daredn’t go home. When I eventually did all hell broke loose. But a week later I was taking my mum shopping in the sidecar and all was well.

" Back then I was very naïve and when the Ariel started giving me problems I had a back street company give it a rebore. After that I could never get it to right run again, " Jonathan ended up selling the bike and bought a Bown moped made in Tonypandy, Wales, a centre of motorcycle engineering excellence only rivalled by Hammamatsu and Milwaukee.

An NSU Quickly that only did 20mph followed and then an ex-police Velocette LE. " That’s the one they call the Noddy bike. I bought it from a local scrap merchant for £1.50. It’s all I could afford at the time. I had it a long time, but it was the most embarrassing bike I ever owned. I went to Technical college on it which was terrible. I used to set off early and park it right at the bottom of the bike sheds so no one would see me. "

Jonathan progressed until he got a sporty Triumph T100 Tiger. " That was the bike to have, even though it was ten years old. In the late-Sixties I was heavily involved with a local bike club and we used to go all over the place. We’d ride a 190-mile round trip just for a coffee at the Ace Café. "

Jonathan kept the Tiger and added more cheap and cheerful Brit bikes to his collection. Then a couple of mundane Honda plodders were bought, commuted on for years and sold. Before he knew it Jonathan was 51 and purchasing his very first brand new bike, a Suzuki 600 Bandit. " It was wonderful, but I scared myself to death on it. It was just so quick and totally different to anything I’d been used to. The handling was out of this world, so much more precise and everything happened so quickly. "

When his beloved Bandit got mashed by a learner driver who crashed into it when it was parked, Jonathan bought a Suzuki VZ800 Marauder; a cruiser his wife was keener to travel on the back of. The cruiser bug bit; Virago, Intruder and V-Max folllowed, but Jonathan still had to have his classics and bought another brace of Brits.

" Recently I wanted moped to go to the allotment on, but then I saw a Yamaha XS850 triple for sale at the same money so I bought that instead. The days are numbered for the XS and the 1400 Intruder that I currently own, because I’m going to buy a brand new V-Max. The V-Max was the best bike I’d ever ridden. It’s comfortable, it has so much power it’s unbelievable and the looks are great.

" My tastes haven’t changed that much over the years because I still like the old bikes. I like their simplicity and the fact you can ride them slowly and potter on a sunny Sunday or summer evening. Modern bikes aren’t made for going slow. In ten years time, I’ll still be riding hopefully. I’ll definitely have a classic and I think I’ll have a modern bike, but it won’t be a sportsbike, it’ll probably be a retro.

Jonathon’s Old Bikes

2x Ariel VB 600

Bown 98cc moped

NSU Quickly moped

Velocette LE

2x BSA C12

Triumph T100

BSA M21

Sunbeam high cam 250

Ariel Square-Four

Triumph T21

Honda CM200

Honda CB200

Norton 350cc Model 50

Armstrong MT500

2x Suzuki 600 Bandit

Suzuki VZ800 Marauder

Yamaha 1100 Virago

Suzuki VS1400 Intruder

Yamaha V-Max

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