Do you remember what first got you into biking? What was your first trip? In this short interview, originally featured in the Excellent Euro K (BMW K Series) bike forum, Steve, AKA Slparry, recounts where, for him, it all began… forty years ago…
Somethings, like the smell of 2 oil or the rush of air in your face at speed, are nigh-on universal biker memories. We’re a mixed-age bunch here at Bigbikemad, yet Steve’s story got us all nodding our heads in agreement. Perhaps it’s because he’s caught some of the things that are so quintessentially ‘motorcycle’..
Anyway… we thought this was such an evocative account, grabbing something of the indefinable but universal elements of what biking is all about, that we decided with Steve’s permission to share it with you, our readers. Feel free to chime in with your recollections too – we give a t-shirt and gift for everything we use.
’40 years ago’ , begins Steve, ‘I started a lifelong partnership with motorbikes. That passion hasn’t waned, in fact, I’d say that it’s been the most stable relationships of my life. It’s the one single thing that defines who I am’.
While some of us are born-again weekend riders who dabble, perhaps re-igniting a boyhood passion for two wheels, Steve is a biker through and through. He continues;
‘I can’t overstate how great a part of me bikes are. I’m a motorcyclist, 24/7, all year round. I love introducing others to the passion. I love what bikes’ve given me; have felt the pain when friends have been taken and the glow of the good times’.
From the early days of my first little moped and the freedom it offered, on that first day I rode to Ruthin and felt king of the road at 30 mph, stopped in a lay-by for a cigarette feeling awesome that I had my own transport…the thrill hasn’t left me. I regularly pass that lay-by and remember that first stop every time’
I seem to have always been messing on bikes, even before I could ride on as early pictures show. The bike is a CB92 and the year is 1962 – a year before the Beatles first number one!
My first actual rides were on my Uncle’s bike when, to my great pride, he’d pick me up from school on his shiny black BMW.
Memories tinted with blue haze..
Some of Steve’s earliest biking memories are connected with noisy, rev-happy two-stroke’s;
‘My first long trip was to London with a mate on CB125’s – it seemed so far away it was like a trip to Mars. But real performance had to wait until I discovered Yamaha’s 2-strokes. The sheer illegal joy of hitting my first “ton” on my RD250B, blue 2 stroke smoke pouring from the yowling pipes, will stay with me forever. Then there was my gloriously antisocial RD400 with painfully loud expansion chambers; Public Enemy Number One to North Wales Police Force.’
Living, breathing and working bikes…
It just seemed natural to work with bikes, and eventually I got a job with Kawasaki. It was a dream come true – customers were not clients, but mates. I must have been one of the few people to look forward to Monday mornings.
While at Kawasaki, I started to ride bigger machines – including my first multi – a sweet, sweet Z650B. What a bike….Anyone who remembers it will recall the great handling and powerful engine for the day. And it was smooth too. That led to to the great Z1R – my first litre bike and the first one to take me into Europe. It seemed awesome at the time and it seems mad to think that nowadays a good 600 can put out more power’.
Steve continues; ‘From big Kawa’s I went (unusually perhaps) into big BMW’s. These took me to mountain tops along small tracks and down sheep trails where no machine had been before. So mileage mad was I, that I once rode two-up from Wrexham to the Cote d’Azur in just a day. I didn’t want to stop. I was having the time of my life’.
There are some memories that hold a special place; blasting along the Cote d’Azur, helmetless, on the twisting coast road to Cannes in 1990, air and sun in my face and a sheer drop to the rippled blue sea below.
Taking my mum on the back to see my brother in Germany in 1991 was an experience, and I’ll never forget introducing my daughter to bikes with her first little puttering Yamaha PW50. The pleasure in sharing my passion for bikes with the closest to a Dad I’ve known, my dearly loved uncle, Les. More than an uncle, more than a mate.
I’ve climbed the Col d’Lombarde to 7800 feet on my KLR600 as the thin air made the engine gasp. I gasped a bit myself too – at the stunning mountain views. I’ve ridden two wheeled adventures in the USA, in baking South Africa, exotic Asia and most of Europe. I feel lucky to have seen and enjoyed so much, but bikes gave me it all.
There have been some bad times too. Losing a brother on the bike I gave him to the poor driving of a local taxi driver was worse than I can say in words. Losing a mate’s girlfriend to another poorly driven car. Injuring my ‘ex’ in an accident caused by a motorist reversing around a corner.The typical car driver would probably look at the list of bad stuff and say it wasn’t worth it.
But, the truth is that I’ve ridden some 1,000,000 miles in total over the 40 years and the vast majority of that time has been simply awesome – and life affirming. Yes, the bad bits are bad, but I can honestly look them all in the face and say that the good times more than outweighed them. Life is like that; it’s neither all good nor all bad, but is what you make of it and a lot of that comes down to attitude.
One final thought; youngsters today who go straight to car ownership and miss out on bikes are losing so much. Yes they miss out on the risk too, but risk is meant to be a part of life – as humans we are wired to need it and can even thrive on it. Without risk we’d become bored and lose something or our ability to cope when problems do arise. Avoid the risk of biking and you avoid the thrills, the friendship and the joy too. It may be a cliche, but its a good one; “cars move the body, but bikes, move the soul.” Here’s to the next 40 years!