Vintage writing from motorcycle journalist, Mark Williams
Being a meticulously slung–together selection of Mark Williams’ columns in various magazines that should’ve known better from 1971–2020… forty-nine inglorious years of controversial views, wild claims and mindless nonsense on matters motorcycling
Author image: Alex Ramsay Illustration: Hunt Emerson
WhichBike?, the nominally objective and irritatingly independent ‘consumer guide’ that I’d launched five years after launching Bike, had become rather wilfully self-indulgent and whacky by the early ‘80s. despite having an excellent, much respected if a little straight-laced editor, John Nutting, and this column was an effort to reflect if not explain why.
Sorry to disappoint, but what you read elsewhere in this issue is a lie.
Well maybe not all of it. Despite your deepest suspicions I am not about to blow Mr Nutting’s cast-iron drag strip credibility by revealing that he makes up all our performance figures, but I must respectfully admit that some of the stuff I wrote just isn’t kosher. Specifically the bit prefacing the XJ900 and RD350LC tests (Which I gone to Japan for in this issue – MW) claiming that i would un-lid the animal behaviour of Euro-journalists on a Japanese junket.
No, large wads of bribery have not changed hands (more’s the pity), and I can’t even tell you that I was beaten within an inch of my life by otherwise upstanding family men from that hot bed of creativity that is Peterborough, (Home of EMAP and almost all the other UK ‘bike rags – MW) merely to put the frighteners on me. All that’s happened is that I just started asking myself who needs to read this crap?
Who, indeed, wants to know about the enticement of innocent Japanese girls for the purposes of what I can only describe as lugubrious activities of a physical nature? Or the wilful spreading of vicious germs by cunning PR men anxious to immobilise serious investigative journalists who, subsequently confined to their sickbeds, were thus unable to expose the sham and trickery of non-standard test bikes? Or the drunken claims of the young turks who edit rival publications about how they poach WB?s readers and, of course, refute any changes of promo-puffery by dismissing the entire XJ900/RD350LC launch in a few paragraphs at the front of their mags? Or the pitiful sight of grown men watching Samurai movies and drinking tea:
Passé, my dears, distinctly passé.
Besides, there are more important things afoot, although they do indeed stem from that little jaunt I made to Japan, courtesy of Yamaha’s good offices. All the executives I spoke to at the various presentations and binges were, you see, confused.
“I am confused,” added Shoji Sek, Manager of European sales and Marketing.
And even Satoshi Watanabe, the normally perceptive senior general manager of Yamaha’s entire overseas operations collared me and said, “I am confused.”
Approached thus, I naturally responded sympathetically, for I have in recent months given some considerable thought to how hard a must be for those of such a markedly different culture to fully understand the manifold subtleties that attract we westerners to this or that breed of motorcycle. (Of course there is the hypothesis that since they are rapidly driving every other motorcycling nation out of business, this rather simplifies the problem of choice.) So when Mr Ikeuchi first came up to me I thought maybe he was going to offer me a fat retainer to advise his company on the socioeconomic factors affecting design and marketing, but then I remembered they’ve already got a big one in the shape of Yamaha Motor NV’s head-honcho, Paul Butler (joke). (Paul was a friend and all-round good bloke with a wicked sense of humour – MW) In fact what was perplexing all these gentlemen was something far simpler; they couldn’t understand half the stuff that’s written in WhichBike?
Of course I explained to them that most of the hacks who write for us are illiterate oafs too gullible to demand a decent fee for their efforts, but since they were used to westerners bandying those sort of excuses about in respect of Japanese factory workers, it just didn’t wash. Instead I came up with a solution, a glossary of biking slang that will once and for all de-mystify the quirks of Which Bike? If in doing so it removes the protective veneer of incomprehensible gibberish from the biased, libellous fakery we’ve got away for so long, then tough bananas: my contract is up for grabs next month and I’m hoping that I can get an office boy’s gig at Super-yike (A bowdlerisation of Superbike magazine, then in terminal decline – MW) now there’s a job with a future. So here goes with the Oriental Guide To Which Bike? Jargon
(Led by wordmongering contributors Colin Schiller and Roger Willis, it had become a merry competition to see who could, quite literally, out-obscure each other – MW) Part 1:
Banging Nails Through Your Winkie: Roger Willis’ rather curious notion of amusement.
Big Lunch: Falling off one’s motorcycle in a rather serious manner.
Bins The Lightbulb: Throws out that idea.
Blimp: Eye up (N.B. Not “Ay up’) or fond term for magazine editor.
Edge City: The area of psychic experience immediately preceding the Big Lunch.
Endoed Oriental Ore: Japanese bike that has recently had a Big Lunch.