20 questions with Richard Hammond
As The Grand Tour kicked off earlier this month it was perfect timing for our Head of Content, Tim Thompson, to catch up with former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond to answer some really big questions.
Q1. What are you riding?
My BMW R1200RT. It’s 130 miles from home to the office and, when you have a distance to do, its comfort, weather protection and low centre of gravity are unbeatable. I pile the miles on it.
Q2. Which living motorcyclist do you most admire?
A despatch rider I saw the other day. I thought I was good at filtering but this guy... my god. He was a great one to follow.
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Q3. What’s your worst habit?
When the roads are boring, I have been known to pop the RT’s cruise control on, turn up the stereo and have a go with my electronic cigarette. And overtak- ing cars with kids in when the cruise control is on is great fun.
Q4. If you could have one super power, what would it be?
When the back wheel breaks away I still, after 30 years riding, assume it’s time to bail. So drifting would be magic.
Q5. What’s the fastest you’ve ever gone on a bike?
I max’d a Busa when they first came out. So close to 200mph in those days.
Q6. When were you last scared?
A couple of weekends ago I was riding a ’56 Bonnie (US spec) on a beautiful set of bends towards Ledbury (it’s part of my route) and as I started braking I realised that a) I was braking far too late, obviously, and b) that I was car- rying too much speed even for a 916, let alone an old Triumph. The front end was all over the place...
Q7. How many miles have you done in the last year?
God knows because I’ve ridden so many bikes, but I’d say between 15,000 and 20,000. Some weeks I ride every day and others, when I’m staying in London or travelling, not at all.
Q8. What’s the highest mileage you’ve covered in one day?
Returning from the south of France on a GSX-R750WP. Great bike. We’d got all the way back to Lake District and my mate on a GPz600 stuck it under a car on the last bend of whole ride.
Q9. What irritates you most when you are out riding?
When people inconvenience themselves just to inconvenience me. So it’s rain- ing and I just want to get the hell out of London. I’m filtering and they close the door. They make all that effort just to inconvenience me. What have they gained from that?
Q10. You’ve got two weeks off: where are you going?
Scotland. I did a tour of the north-west highlands and islands and it was utterly beautiful. And I wouldn’t mind doing big old grown-up adventure on a bike somewhere in Africa.
Q11. Got one pearl of wisdom for new riders?
Ride on the basis that everyone is try- ing to kill you. What, you thought they weren’t going to pull out on you?
Q12. Ever fallen off in a car park (or somewhere equally embarrassing)?
I dropped a BMW K1200LT when they first came out. It was massive. The first bike I’d ridden with a stereo. I pulled away from a petrol station, music on, and it stalled. Couldn’t hold it on my leg... and it went over. People were
‘People were laughing out loud. Hooting. It took four people to pick it up’
Q13. Do you have one indispensable item of kit?
I bought a massively expensive Rukka suit 10 years ago and even when the rain is horizontal I still don’t get wet. I don’t want to sound like the tosser off the TV with too much money with all the best kit but there’s no getting round it – there are some things that are expensive because they really work.
Q14. Which four people would you invite on a Sunday blast?
My younger brother Nick. We ride to the Lakes every year. Plus the guy who taught me to fly helicopters because the last time I rode with him my cus- tomised Harley developed a massive tankslapper, threw him off and broke his collarbone. Foggy is invited, but he has to play nice – I think he would – and I’d invite my old mate Al Clarke who doesn’t even ride bikes any more but he’s the guy I rode to France with 150 years ago. We’d be a ragtag bunch.
Q15. Do you have a tool you couldn’t live without?
It’s actually a mountain bike multi-tool but it’s always in the rucksack.
Q16. Do you adjust your suspension?
No. I’m not a big trackday fiend so, to be honest, I’d be wasting my time.
Q17. If you could have just one of your old machines back, which would it be?
My old Gixxer 750 WP. It wasn’t the best but it meant so much to me. One day I woke up and realised I had nothing left in the cupboard, no room on my credit card – no choice. So I dragged it out of the lock up where it was hiding in the corner, rode it around Accrington and sold it to whoever would give me the most. Broke my heart.
Q18. What would you never buy?
I would have said a scooter but I’ve been riding a Vespa in London recently and it’s bloody brilliant.
Q19. Which road (or track) would you build on your desert island?
I’d have to design a road that includes the Honister Pass in the Lake District, which isn’t the best biking road but it is glorious, plus I’d include some local roads to me out through Ross-on-Wye.
Q20. If you ruled the world, what new law would you pass?
If I was being a b*****d I’d say: ‘If you haven’t got a licence by the time you’re 17-and-a-half you’re banned.’ Motor- cycling isn’t just something to talk about in the pub, it isn’t a cheap Ferrari. It should be something that obsesses you, that you dream about, that you try to as good as you can be at doing. It’s blissful and needs to be preserved.
Richard Hammond's new book A Short History of the Motorcycle is available to buy on Amazon now. Click here to grab your copy.