I have spent a lifetime with bikes and it is a great honor to be sharing my passion for motorcycles with you in this column. Bikes have been woven into my life since I was ten years old when my Mum confiscated my non-existent driving licence, for riding my Raleigh mo-ped into the side of a cow shed, almost permanently ending both my riding career – and my young life.
I was born on the wrong side of town into an utterly dysfunctional family which would now make a brilliant TV comedy series. I left school aged sixteen to become a shelf-painter – with the intention of then moving on downwards to become a complete and utter failure.
Then bikes arrived – and saved me. Through a series of incredibly lucky breaks, I went on to a life which has been so blessed that it sounds like a fiction story. You can read the whole saga in: “A Penguin in a Sparrow’s Nest” (www.frankmelling.com)
On the journey, I was at the very end of the British bike industry and was BSA’s last ever works rider. I desert raced in Lucerne Valley and rode Husqvarna ski bikes in the depth of a Swedish winter. I have ridden bikes as exotic as Moto Guzzi’s eight cylinder GP racer and 32cc mo-peds and, because I am in love with motorcycles and motorcycling, I have enjoyed every single one.
So, I would be honored if you would join me on my continuing journey. We’ll look at great classic bikes – and terrible ones too. There will be modern bikes which have struck me as interesting and events I like to visit. The stories will be eclectic, highly opinionated and, I hope, entertaining. More than anything, please let me know what you think about the tales because it is you, the reader, who is important.
On the trip alongside me will be two other people. First, there is Carol who is my wife, best friend, business partner, proof reader and race mechanic. The first time that I took her to a race meeting I discovered that she could warm up my works BSA without stalling it and, with natural talent like that, I proposed marriage on the spot. After all, you can spend a long time looking for a wife of such quality! You will often hear Carol mentioned in these stories.
I also need to introduce my editor, Byron Wilson, because in many ways he represents mainstream motorcycling. Byron is slightly suspect for two reasons. First, he can’t spell tyre and secondly he has a beard and a large collection of maps of Syria. Salaam alaikum, Byron. (Editors note: I’ll let this spelling faux pas pass for now, but rest assured it will be the last. As for my beard and maps, they’re nothing more than a weak attempt at being a worldly hipster.)
Regardless, Byron hovers on the point of being a classic motorcyclist. When he recently visited the British National Motorcycle Museum (www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk) the curator was turning off the lights and Byron still wouldn’t leave so clearly he has an interest in old bikes. I hope that these stories will reach out and convince him that life has something more to offer than 100mph power wheelies and a suite of electronic rider aids which would put NASA to shame.
Now, let’s explore the weird, wonderful and utterly addictive world of classic motorcycling.