40 Years of Motorcycling.
At the beginning of September I celebrated my 56th birthday but September 2019 marks another celebration in my life, that of 40 years of motorcycling, as it was in September 1979 that I took ownership of my first bike, a Mobylette moped.
However, it all started much earlier than that as my dad had a scooter, (I know, but stay with me) and I can remember waiting for him with my older brother,(Mike) to come home from work so we could hop on the foot boards and enjoy the thrill of the ride down the rear ten-foot into the back garden….my first memories of ‘wind in the hair’ moments.
Here's me and Mike on dads scooter, circa 1967/68.
Mike is 3 years older than me and on his sixteenth birthday had a brand-new Suzuki AP50, it was delivered the day before his birthday and spent the evening in the living room! At 17 Mike had a Kawasaki 250 triple and all his mates had bikes too, RD250s, X7’s. I would watch them all pull up outside our house and then head off in a scream of 2 stoke noise and the smell of Castrol R…..the dye was definitely cast.
So, as stated above, in September 1979 I had my own sixteenth birthday and took delivery of the Mobylette. It still looked like a ‘proper’ bike with a petrol tank in the right place and pedals that locked to look like real foot pegs but it still didn’t quite have the kudos of AP50s and FS1Es. But it was MY Mobylette and I was going to ride it to within an inch of its life no matter what......as can be seen in this photo! It's of me trying to get my knee down. Note the lack of helmet or any other protective clothing for that matter. Obviously this photo was taken on a section of closed roads under strict health safety conditions......and not on the local estate as it appears to be.....honest!
Unfortunatelt that Mobylette wasn't the worlds most reliable moped and it was soon swapped for a Puch Grand Prix, which turned out to be as equally unreliable! And here it is, the gear box went; 1st, 2nd, 3rd....3rd....3rd...4th, if you were lucky. It was always a lottery which gear you actually got!
In September 1980 I was 17 and along came a Honda 250 Superdream. It was a strange colour, not really red, more orange and had a large (read hideous) fairing. The fairing was soon removed and the rattle cans came out, it was orange, then red, then white, then red and white…. each paint scheme better than the last (obviously!)
Within 18 months I’d passed my test and the biking bug had well and truly bitten. During the rest of the 80's I couldn't get enough of bikes and owned a Honda CB900 followed by a CX500 Turbo, another CB900 and then a Kawasaki GPZ1100, GPZ900R, NS400 Triple, LC350, you name it, I tried to own it!
Here's a selection of those bikes;
The CX500 Turbo was only in production for one year and was quite a rare bike, it was replaced a year later by the 650 Turbo.
This was my second CB900 and not long after buying it, I added the CB1100R kit as pictured in the next photo. Different tank, seat and obviously a full fairing.
The GPZ900, loaded and ready for a week of camping in Newquay with my mate Gareth on his Katana.
The NS400 triple, a proper little flying machine!
There was 2 major events in the late 80's and 1990. In 1988 I joined Humberside Police (more on that later) and in 1990 I got married, which usually meant the end of, or a break from biking but I managed to get hold of a realitively cheap CB900 (yes another one). It wasn't the prettiest 900 but at least it allowed me to continue riding, result!
In 1992 I decided to downgrade the car and upgrade the bike and bought a new FJ1200. That was the bike I did my first proper touring on, firstly for a week in Scotland and then my first European tour, to the 1993 Assen Moto GP. Looking back, it wasn’t much of a tour, motorway from the ferry to the camp site and then motorway from the campsite to the circuit, then repeat and home again but to me, it had been a great adventure, after all, I’d been ‘abroad’ on a bike!
Waiting to board the ferry, 1993
That 1993 trip was repeated the following year, this time on a YZF750. The colour of the bike was called ‘cocktail', but if truth be known it was pink and I even had matching leathers, WHAT WAS I THINKING!
Six of us went that second year, Rich on his GSX600, Tony GSXR1100, Matt ZZR600 and Graham on his gold-plated Goldwing! It was also on this trip I met a guy called Neil, (Yamaha 350 YPVS) and we got on like a house on fire. We went on to have many European trips together.
The 90's would see me get through even more bikes, a gorgeous looking Kawasaki ZXR750, a GSXR750, 2 Fireblades, a VFR750 and I finished the decade off on a another GSXR750, this one was R718YAG and gets a special mention because I saw it very recently at Seaways Cafe, East Yorkshire. Great to know it's still on the road 20 years later.
The gorgeous ZXR750, unfortunately it was probably the most uncomfortable bike I've ever owned with painfully stiff suspension.
One of my first Fireblades. This photo was taken in the Swiss Alps, long before Sat Navs, google maps or mobile phones, note the route directions taped to the petrol tank.
R718YAG, bought in October 1999 and seen recently at Seaways Cafe, East Yorks.
As I mentioned earlier, in 1988 I joined Humberside Police and within a few years I knew I wanted to become a Police Motorcyclists and in 1999 that became a reality when I successfully obtained a place in the dedicated Motorcycle Unit based at Hessle in Hull. At that time we rode Honda ST1100 Pan Europeans and I had the best job in the world! The 4-week advanced bike course and 5-week car course were just amazing and I learned so much about bike and car control. Other courses followed, high speed pursuit, VIP escort, and I even managed a week long off-road motorcycle course with the ARMY! I spent 5 fantastic years on the bikes and although some days were spent dealing with fatal and serious collisions and other unpleasant incidents, there were many lighter times too, especially escorting weird and wonderful abnormal loads around the county.
It was whilst in the motorcycle unit that I had my first introduction to 'BikeSafe'. It was 1999 and BikeSafe was new national road safety campaign aimed at encouraging motorcyclists to take up post test rider training. Little did I know back then how BikeSafe would shape my own motorcycling for the next 20 years, or that I'd still be helping Humberside Police to deliver their BikeSafe events today.
Between 2000 and 2010 my enthusiasm for riding never slowed (in fact motorcycling probably helped to keep sane through my divorce in 2000) and I had a string of bikes, often owning 2 bikes at once and flicking between sports bikes and sports tourers. I had 4 Honda Blackbirds, 3 GSXR1000s, a GSXR600, 3 Fireblades, an Aprillia Tuono, 2 Pan European, a CB1000R,a VFR800, a BMW R1150RT, a CB6000F and 7,.....yes SEVEN CB1300s! I really couldn't decide what I wanted!
Here's a few of them at various locations.
Between 2010 and now (Sept 2019) - I've owned another Blackbird, a VFR1200F, a Crosstourer, 2 BMW K1600s, a CB1300, a Pan European, 2 BMW S1000Rs and 2 BMW R1200GS Adventures, the second of which is my current and only bike.
I mentioned earlier how BikeSafe would shape my riding, after I left the police bike unit I wanted to maintain a good level of riding so continued to take the RoSPA advanced bike tests, (the first one I ever did was in 1998) and I continue with them today. In 2013 I became a Motorcycle Examiner for RoSPA and also joined a local group where I became a tutor and then the Training Officer. Since 2016 I have also added the following test passes to my biking 'CV', an IAM F1RST, IAM Masters (Distinction) and the Diamond Elite test and this year will see me complete another RoSPA test as it is the year of my triennial retest. Since 2017 I've also been an IAM bike Examiner and a Masters Mentor and a Diamond Trainer. All of which allows me to continue assisting Humberside Police with their BikeSafe events, it's still a great initiative and to see it still going after almost 20 years is amazing.
A hand shake from Mark Jaffe, Diamonds Chief Motorcycle Examiner on succesfully passing the Diamond Elite test.
Bikesafe, still going strong after 20 years.
As well as the bike Examining, I also work as a Tour Leader for Motorrad Tours, part of World of BMW. As the name suggests, I lead groups of motorcyclists around Europe on motorcycle tours. It’s a great role, it takes me to some fantastic places and brings me into contact with such a vast array of people and personalities from all walks of life, but all with the same common interest, their passion for bikes. ( www.motorrad-tours.com )
Here's a few from around Europe.
Working for Motorrad Tours has also enabled me to work on the BMW stand for the last 2 years at the NEC bike show. As a lifelong visitor to the show it was a great experience to be involved with a major manufacturer and see how hard the guys work to get everything ready on a daily basis.
So, what else have I been doing since retiring from the police? Well, I was encouraged by friends and ex colleagues to set myself up as an independent advanced motorcycle trainer and given that I have several police and civilian riding qualifications and the experience of BikeSafe and RoSPA tutoring etc, I decided to give it a go. So in February 2018 I launched 'Ian Speight Advanced Rider Training'. I wasn’t sure what to expect but after several initial enquiries I took out my first paying customer and so far things have gone really well with several customers going on to take and pass either their RoSPA or IAM advancved tests.
Bike wise, as mentioned earlier, these days I own a BMW R1200GS Adventure but the style of bikes I’ve bought have changed over the years, as has my style of riding, from head down sports bikes ridden without a care in the world, to more upright touring orientated bikes and a steadier self-awareness about my riding.
So there you have it, 40 years of riding completed. I’ve ‘maxed out’ a Honda Blackbird on a German autobahn, ridden the highest passes in Europe, completed several (very scary) laps of the Nurburgring, escorted members of the Royal family and a Prime Minister, watched customers who have never toured Europe before beam with joy as they ride a high mountain pass for the first time, had various pictures and articles published in the motorcycle press, passed on years of advanced riding techniques to new riders and watched a lorry pulling a 60 foot wind turbine blade demolish a church wall and several grave stones as I tried unsuccessfully to escort it to its destination…whoops!
Finally, I must mention my partner Kim, without whose support I wouldn’t be able to do (get away with) half the bike related things I do. Fortunately, Kim loves to ride pillion and in the last 7 years we have covered thousands of miles together around the UK and Europe and every day I know how lucky I am to be able to do the things I do. Here we are at the top of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Austria in 2017.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my 40 years of motorcycling as much as I have putting it together and here's to the next 40!