My life in bikes: Chris Walker

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‘I did my first 100mph when I was just three years old’

Whether it’s on two wheels or three, Chris Walker shares his love of speed

How did you first get into bikes?

My dad and granddad both had bikes, so I was given my first bike at three years old – a little automatic Italjet 50. It was Italian so it lasted 10 minutes. 

So your parents always approved of you riding bikes?

Yes. I did my first 100mph when I was three years old, sat on the fuel tank of my dad’s Kawasaki Z900, and from that day on I was addicted to speed.

Did you get your road licence as soon as you could?

Yes, as soon as I turned 16. I had a Kawasaki AE50 and managed to slot a Kawasaki AE80 engine into it. My school metalwork teacher re-stamped the engine number for me to make it look like a 50cc. I could do 70mph on that bike – it was epic! It was snowing on the day I passed my test but I still managed to do about 300 miles on the first day of having my licence. Me and my mate set off at one minute past midnight, rode all night, skived off school the next day, and kept riding until about midnight the following night!

What was your first crash?

It was on the AE50, in Ripley Market Place. I was following traffic and saw a couple of girls that I fancied from school so I peeped and waved, not realising that the Rover 200 in front of me had stopped. The next thing I was lying on the car’s boot and the girls just looked the other way and another door was closed to me!

What do you class as your greatest achievement in racing?

I’ve had such an amazing time through racing and had amazing opportunities that I would never have got as an uneducated lad who left school at 14. I’ve travelled the world, been to Japan, developed bikes for factories, developed tyres, and just seen so much – and that means more than any single race result. I left school without a single qualification to be a bike mechanic and spent eight years on the spanners. Now I’ve come full circle and own my own motorbike shop and that wouldn’t have been possible without my years in racing.

Do you still own bikes?

I’ve got a new Kawasaki ZX-10R on order for when I do trackday tuition, and I’ve got a Kawasaki H2R that I ride on the few occasions when it’s possible – again mostly track stuff. It’s so noisy that there aren’t many places where I can ride it.

Sadly sold

BSA Gold Star
‘I no longer had the space to keep it’

Do you still have your BSA Gold Star?

No, I moved house recently and have much less space to keep bikes so had to sell it. I get to ride so many bikes through the shop now so it’s not that important to have one special bike any more. I’ve always got a few dirt bikes in the garage and a KR-1S too, which I absolutely love. I would still really like a Ducati 888 because I had one back in the day and I’d also love a Kawasaki ZX-7R because that was my last road bike before I started racing.

What’s the best bike you’ve ridden?

As a race bike, it would have to be the Honda RS250. It was absolutely amazing – you literally looked where you wanted to go and it went there. The steering and the stopping power were unreal. The Honda NSR500V I rode in Grand Prix was a hideous monster though – it was like trying to ride a shark!

Best bike

1994 Honda RS250
‘You went exactly where you looked’

Have you tested the sidecar yet?

Yes, just last week for the first time. It was a full-on baptism of fire because it’s not like riding a solo and it’s not like driving a car. On right-handers (with the sidecar on his left) it’s almost like riding a bike, but with a stabiliser, and on left-handers it’s like going round a corner in a car with a wheel missing! At this stage, it’s much harder to go left than right but I’ve got work to do in both directions. I don’t think I’m going to embarrass myself first time out, but I also realise I have a mountain to climb.