Richard Hammond: My life in bikes

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Richard Hammond is one third of the Top Gear presenting team, a life-long bike nut, and keeper of an ever-changing stable of motorcycles from the oddball to the iconic

How did you get into bikes and what were your first years of riding like?

My first bike was a Honda MTX50, which I bought half-and-half with my parents for my 16th birthday. It was fairly beaten about, but it looked bigger than a 50cc bike, it had no sidestand on it so I had to lean it against stuff all the time, too. But, despite everything, I loved that bike so much. It represented everything I had been waiting for in getting onto a motorcycle for the first time. I had a series of other small bikes after that including a Honda XL100, which I just crashed all the time, and then a Kawasaki GP100 – which was written off when I got smashed into by a Mini Metro. Beyond a helmet, my specialist bike kit totalled a leather jacket I bought off a mate for £5, and a set of ‘off-road’ boots that were basically rubbish, but the best I could afford.

That was the early years of riding, what came later?

I had to take a break for a couple of years after the GP100 because I just had no money and I was working all the time. After a couple of years I bought a Honda NSR125R, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. I carried a picture of that bike around with me for a month before I bought it. Then some cyclist crashed into the back of me and damaged it. I was furious. My first big bike was a Honda CBX750F. I just couldn’t believe the noise it made. I used it for work all the time and used to ride around with this huge UHER reel-to-reel tape recorder for the radio station I was working for at the time. I was riding to a job once with some motocrossers, and they were at the far end of a field, so I thought I would show them I was one of the brethren, and rode across the grassy field. On a Honda CBX750F. I crashed, massively. They had to help get the bike off me, once they stopped laughing.

Any others along the way?

Loads really. I had a Kawasaki ZZR600, the one with the dodgy rear shock that collapsed. But I loved that bike. I had a Suzuki GSX-R750WP when I was about 24, and that was awesome. I toured all over on that, all around the UK and down to France too. I woke up one day and realised I had absolutely no money, even for food, I was living in a shared house I couldn’t make ends meet so I rode to Accrington and sold the bike to the dealer who gave me the most money. I walked home sobbing; just as well it was pissing down as I had tears running down my face. After a bit of a break I bought a Honda CBR1000F; a big flying fridge for £1000. I bought it as a winter bike, but when I turned up to collect it I realised it was mint. I rode that everywhere and absolutely loved it.

What’s in the garage at the moment?

Quite a few right now. A 1927 Sunbeam Model 2, 1950 BMW R51 RS replica, 1959 Norton Dominator racer, new Norton Commando 961 SE, 1976 Honda Gold Wing, 1974 Kawasaki Z900, 1976 Yamaha FS-1E, Honda SS50, Kawasaki ZXR750H1, Suzuki GSX-R1100, Kawasaki KR1-S, Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk1, Bimota YB9, Ducati 916 SPS Foggy rep, two BMW K1s, a Suzuki GS1000, BMW K100RS, R100RT, R90S, and my daily ride which is an R1200RT. I also have a Brough Superior SS100 being restored, and an SS80 period race replica on the way. Oh, and a Suzuki TL125 trials bike. I use all of them as much as I can. I don’t like to think of myself as a collector. I just love riding motorcycles; not on track but just to ride. I love it.

Are there others you would love to own?

Oh yes, of course! If I find a tenner down the back of the sofa I automatically think I can put that towards another bike. I would love a Vincent Black Shadow, a Honda CBX1000, Kawasaki GPZ900, Kawasaki GPZ1000RX, original 1992 Honda Fireblade and a Honda RC30. It’s never-ending.

Andy Downes

By Andy Downes

Former MCN Senior Reporter