The Sunday Social with the Great British Bake Off's Selasi Gbormittah
We caught up with former Great British Bake Off contestant Selasi Gbormittah to talk travelling through Europe, sportsbikes and bike thefts.
What's for breakfast at the cafe?
"It would have to be a full english."
What's in your backpack?
"Just my wallet and my phone. And a battery pack. Phones don't last long now and I use mine for GPS. I don't carry much at all, I like to be a bit free when I'm on the bike."
What's your mission for a Sunday ride?
"Nice clear roads. The big thing about having a bike for me is the freedom it gives me and not having to worry about traffic. If the road is clear and nice then I'm happy and I can enjoy the ride a lot more."
Is that what attracted you to bikes in the first place, the freedom?
"Yes, and I also got into biking through my my family in Switzerland who are massive bikers. Every summer when I visited them I'd go on the scooter on the back of their GS and I got really into it. So when I got back into the UK I did my test and it's given me a lot of freedom. I really like it, I can just jump on the bike and get anywhere I want to without worrying about traffic, you know.I'm an all weather rider, I don't worry about the weather and I basically ride all year round."
When did you pass your test?
"Six or seven years ago I think. I'm from a very traditional African background, so they don't like dangerous things and all the things that come with it. But as I got older and I could stand my ground I was like 'Yeah, I'm doing this' and I didn't need to ask anyone's permission,"
What was your first bike?
"I started off on a Vespa 125 then when I got my full licence I got a Ducati Monster 696+. On my desk at work I've got replicas of all the bikes I've ever owned, although it's only four bikes!"
What are you riding at the minute?
"I've got a BMW S1000RR at the minute in Motorsport colours. Before that I had a 636cc ZX-6R. The S1000RR has always been my dream bike so I think I'll be on it for a while before I make a change."
You're enjoying it then?
"Yeah. It still kind of scares me at the moment but I love it. I only use rain mode, which doesn't give the bike too much power, and then sport mode. I've managed to stay away from race and slick mode for the time being."
Have you always been interested in sportsbikes?
"Yeah, apart from the Monster. I just think they look so much cooler because of the riding position. They've got the proper biker look I think."
Have you done any track riding yet?
"Yeah, I did a track day at Donington Park. Carole Nash invited me a few months ago and it was amazing. I rode a CBR600RR. The weather was absolutely horrible but it was still fun and just amazing and I didn't really have any fear of leaning the bike or anything. I just went for it."
You recently finished a trip round Europe with BMW. How did that come about?
"I've always wanted to do something abroad on a motorbike and after Bake Off I started to plan it out with a few of my mates. Unfortunately two of them had to pull out due to work commitments and it ended up being a solo trip. The whole idea was to enjoy the freedom of the bike, the R1200GS, I did five countries in 12 days stopping off at loads of bakeries."
Are you looking to do more touring?
"Yeah, it's funny you say that. I've decided to do it every year. Next year I plan to do Spain and Portugal. The following year I'll go to Eastern Europe and then I'd like to venture further out like Asia and Africa. I've been telling people it kind of fees like a drug, you just get addicted to it. So I thought I'd make it an annual thing. The same with track days as well. I went to the Isle of Man for the TT this year for the first time as well and I absolutely loved that. It was one of the best experiences ever. So I'm planning to go back there next year too."
What did you think to the TT?
"The bikes were really loud, really fast. It was amazing, it was completely different to watching it on a screen. You're there and although you're not on the bike you still get the adrenaline. I only went for two days though. I met John McGuinness but unfortunately he wasn't racing, but it was pretty fun and I just enjoyed the experience."
Going back to your Europe trip, how was the R1200GS when you're used to sportsbikes?
"The GS was delivered a week before I left so I got used to it a bit but it's such a huge bike, and such an amazing bike. Obviously I had the panniers on so every time there was traffic I couldn't filter but performance-wise it's very smooth and for its size it's quite light when it's moving. I think the S1000RR is heavier when it's moving. I was still a bit nervous before I left because it was my first time riding a bike of that size with panniers and riding in countries I'd never been to."
Are you sticking with sportsbikes for now then?
"In London I will yeah, but for the tours I will definitely use something like a GS. I'll never use a sportsbike for long distance, it would just be too painful. Using the GS made me realise how comfortable the whole experience was because you're sat upright and everything was just so smooth, and cruise control was perfect. I don't think a sportsbike was ideal for that."
So you commute in London every day?
"Yeah, I use the bike everywhere, even when I'm flying, provided I don't need a suitcase. Everyday to and from work."
Do you ever get worried about all the bike thefts in London?
"Massively, especially now it's on the increase. You've got all these moped riders riding against traffic, mounting pavements. I've seen stuff on Youtube where they try to jack bikers. It's made me be more cautious and I've got alarm, immobilisers, a tracking device but it's not going to stop them. My first bike, the Ducati, was stolen so I know the feeling. Lucky enough it got recovered but I was without a bike without three months and it was hell."
Do you know anyone personally who has been victim to the recent thefts?
"Not to the bikes but a colleague at work had his phone nicked by those thugs. He was on his phone at the traffic lights and they rode past, took the phone and sped off. Actually, a friend of mine in my bike crew was approached by some guys who had weapons, angle grinders and things, and they just nicked his Rolex. He wasn't on his bike so he as lucky I guess. It is a big problem now. We have security at work and securing parking at home but if I'm going somewhere I don't think is safe I get a taxi or the tube."
Moving on to slightly more positive things, what was your best experience from your Europe trip?
"I've got quite a few! I'm really bad with navigation so I rely a lot on the GPS and my bluetooth headset. I got the directions wrong almost straight away. From Calais we went to Belgium and Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels. From there I was heading into France and the town I was heading to has a similar name to somewhere else and I put in the wrong one. I got to the place thinking I was there, but it looked a bit dodgy so I called the land lady to tell her I was there and she said she couldn't see me. I checked and I was three hours and 40 minutes away from the actual destination! But I didn't get angry and the Gs was amazing for that. The GPS took me on the best roads ever, so it turned out to be one of the best rides I've ever had. On a sportsbike it wouldn't have been pleasant but on the GS I was absolutely fine.
"From France I went into Switzerland and then into Italy. As soon as I got to Italy it started tipping it down really badly. In a way the trip was amazing because I got tested in all conditions. Italy was the worst and the area I was in had really steep, windy roads so it wasn't ideal. I put it in rain mode and that was fin but it was quite an experience. All my gear was soaking at the end of the day and I had to dry it."
You sound like a fan of riding modes?
"Yeah, they do a lot more than just control the power and I just feel a lot safer. On the ZX-6R I was careful when it rained but the back tyre still skidded a few times but I've had to brake hard in the wet a few times on the S1000RR and it's fine."
What's next in your biking career?
"I'll try and stay alive first, I've done a Bike Safe course. I'm looking to do a lot more touring around the world, just doing this small one really opened my eyes."
When you were on Bake Off did you get on well with Paul Hollywood as he's into his bikes?
"Yeah he like his bikes and I think we got on really well because of that. We talked a lot about bikes. He's got a H2R I think and we've talked a lot about going out for a ride but he's quite busy. I saw him three or four weeks ago and we're trying to plan something. He says he's a biker but he does a lot more car racing. You're not actually allowed to ride while you're on the show."
Did you secretly ride?
"No, they would have found out. We all had to travel up the day before filming. I tried but but they said the insurance wouldn't cover us so I had to get a train the whole time. It would have been so much easier on a bike without having to worry about public transport."
Thanks for your time, Selasi
"It was my pleasure."