In 2019 I have ridden eight bikes, one scooter, and visited nine cafés. I even got my old classic bike out and got it working! The weather at the start and now at the end of the year played its part, of course, being unremittingly hideous. I can actually remember a time in the middle of the year when it was ‘too hot to ride’ and everyone was moaning about how hot it was. As I pen this article I would like a couple of days like that again, now!
Of the two-wheelers, two were Italian, two Indian, two Japanese, and three British! I started the year with reminiscences about bike-related events and people I had met, with the all-important “Best of Reviews” and “Best Café” gongs to give out. I continued with some of my personal views on liability in accidents (“Where there’s blame”) which are a crucial part of my advice to bikers. These range from arguments regarding speed as a factor, filtering, or the “I am sorry, I didn’t see you” approach by drivers. Many of my cases are referred to me to take over from insurance appointed solicitors’ firms who were contacted immediately after the accident. Often they have little interest (not always) about any claimants who have an ‘off’ over the border.
March saw me on the Piaggio B300 scooter. I went to the Amalfi Coast the next month and those scooters were everywhere exuding Italian cool. May and June’s issues had me on the quintessentially Triumph 900cc Street Twin (Bonneville) and then the new Royal Enfield Interceptor (at a price just under £5,500)! July saw me on the Moto Guzzi V85 TT which is the BMW GS competitor, in a fetching white, yellow and black livery with a bright red frame. V is for V-twin.
Balmy August saw me on the extremely cheap £4,199 Royal Enfield Himalayan, 500cc single, blatting to Blanchland and back in the heatwave.
My next test was on my own 1981 classic Triumph Bonneville T140 ES (electric start!) bike. It had Iain loved but forgotten in the corner of my garage when it steadfastly refused to start, after I had left petrol in the tank over the previous winters. After a lot of frustration and the help of the inimitable Dave, together with the lads at Motech in Newcastle, we got the bike going and, after some false dawns (and some choice Anglo-Saxon words from under my visor at times), the show was back on the road. I penned an all-too-recognisable story for riders with older bikes, as to the trials and tribulations of getting back on the road.
What a contrast with my last test in November on the cracking 1200cc Speed Twin Bonneville. It’s essentially the same corse design but fast-forwarded almost 40 years. In between those tests, I squeezed in two Japanese visitors who couldn’t be more different. One was the “Bladetastic” 1000cc Fireblade, which first came out in 1994, and the penultimate test of 2019 on the Honda flagship, the Goldwing, (all £30,000 of it).
The Fireblade was very fast, lithe, and well-honed; and the Wing was the motorcycling equivalent of a camper van but done with so much panache and elan that both of them were a hoot but in totally different ways. Obviously I had to nickname them Eddie Large and Sid Little.
Best Café going? I can’t give it to Dishoom in Edinburgh because that’s a restaurant and it’s a little bit out of the way. It’s a close-run thing between the Italian Pizzeria in Benton, Spurreli’s in Amble, and the Gingerbread Coffe Shop in Red Row, Northumberland. By a whisker’s whisker, it’s the Gingerbread Coffee Shop. I will, of course, have to visit all three again, repeatedly, to double-check!
By a couple of necks, my favourite (Guzzi sympathy declared) was the V85 TT. This was a heady mix of grunt, panache, and build quality. Honourable mentions for different reasons go to the Triumph Speed Twin and the legendary Wing.
This is a big thank you to everyone who comments on my columns, the dealers who are happy to have their arms twisted to let me ride their bikes, and the café owners. Is there ever a bad day out in such company?
Mark Hipkin is joint head of the Personal Injury and Civil Litigation department at Alderson Law, and specialises in Personal Injury law (particularly for motorcyclists, scooterists and cyclists) and Civil Litigation including professional negligence. You can contact him at email@example.com.