EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

It’s perversely gratifying that since I started posting my old columns here back in June, several hundred of you have been reading them each week. It’s also become clear to me as I delved into my extremely varied – and in qualitative terms, variable – back catalogue that many of the topics are as relevant now as they were when I originally scribbled them. Such matters as the failure of our parliamentary servant/masters to recognise the needs of bikers and conversely, our trade associations ability or willingness to challenge them are but two examples, and my constant carping about importers and manufacturers – not that we really have any British bike builders left – who fail to fully understand or cater to the real needs of the markets they’re supposed to serve have been familiar themes over the decades and they are still hand-wringingly pertinent even as, indeed especially as our numbers and new recruits to the fold are dwindling.

Cartoon by Hunt Emerson

However what many of you who’ve signed up to these blogs – and if you haven’t, why the hell not? – may not know, is that although due to the wisdom of their editors (and company lawyers) my columns in mainstream bikey mags have long since disappeared, I managed to persuade the odd classic bike or off-road mag editor to publish my rants in the early and mid-noughties, albeit tailored to suit their particular constituencies. But even they stemmed my streams of consciousness after a while when they realised that the space they accorded me could be better filled by features or, better still, advertisers (whose numbers were also dwindling), but at least one, even more specialist title has bravely continued to put up with me this past couple of decades, namely Motorcycle Trader.

As you’d expect, this is a mag aimed exclusively at those retailers, importers and suppliers who make up the once again declining biking business and so most of my columns, under the guise of ‘End User’, which nominally I still am, are designed or at least supposed to have relevance to those at the sharp end but as often as not they are thinly disguised tirades reflecting the same concerns I’ve always had, albeit often tinged with what I try and pass off as humour.

However with the advent of the Corona virus back in March, Trader stopped publishing its controlled circulation print edition and now exists solely as a website with daily bulletins spewed out to its subscribers, with no budget for, and arguably no point in publishing the random ramblings of a cantankerous old hack like yrs. trly. I’m told by the dear friends, and they are dear friends, who run Trader that this may change if, as and when Covid-19 allows them to resume operations accordingly, but for the past half year or so really I’ve missed using my poisoned quill to address truly topical matters so I’ve decided to intersperse the re-publication of ancient outbursts here with brand new ones, and what you’ve just read – assuming you didn’t fall asleep first – is by way of a preface to this…

It has of course been a summer of discontent biking-wise, with lockdown preventing us law-abiding bikers (ho-ho-ho) from doing much serious two-wheeled traveling until July, just when the weather turned nasty after a pretty clement spring and early summer, but since we were released from bumbling Boris’ grip, I’ve tried to get out and about quite a bit on both my K75S Beemer and my custom Honda VT500 street-tracker.

Where I currently live in mid-Wales we’re blessed with some of the least trafficked and most scenic roads in the UK, but these are in too many cases bedevilled by shockingly inadequate maintenance which becomes downright dangerous for those of us who hurtle round corners to be confronted by large, deep potholes, crumbling grooves and other surface degradations. I’ve written about this in Trader and indeed in non-motorcycle media locally and taken it up with local councils, needless to say to no avail that’s best characterised by buck-passing, e.g. well Westminster’s council budget cuts mean there’s no money for road maintenance, and in any case maintenance is farmed out to contractors whose profit motives incline them to ignore pot-holes in favour of occasionally and more lucratively re-surfacing a few hundred yards of main road that really don’t need it.

That said, and with no little irony, those of us – including me – who’ve had damage caused to our vehicles due to third world road conditions, can and do sue for consequent repair costs which councils are legally bound to cough up, and it’s always worth registering complaints about potholes etc. on such websites as www.fixmystreet.com  or  whacking off an email to info@highwaysengland.co.uk, and your local council’s website will have a link to the relevant department even if they’ll take no notice of your complaints unless and until you and your mates get really vociferous about them.

I mention this because during recent longer excursions on the Queens’ Highway I’ve noticed a change in biker behaviour which, if I’m being generous about it, might be a consequence of prudent caution concerning road surfaces. Take, for example, a recent blast along the A44 to Aberystwyth and thence down the coast towards Fishguard. This is a v. popular route for weekend warriors from the Midlands, hence me going on a Tuesday during which I was somewhat dismayed to find clumps of bikers on far more modern and flasher machinery than my 29 year-old flying brick dutifully sitting at 45–50mph behind trucks or slow-coach pensioners when a determined twist of the wrist would have them, as indeed it had me, hurtling past onto open road.

Given that the A44 is a well-surfaced main trunk road, I realised that my charitable pothole-avoidance excuse was irrelevant so can I can assume that the younger generation – if such those bikers were – are becoming far more risk averse than mine was, or am I still unwisely chancing it even at my ripe old age?

Ooops, but I already covered this in Bike way back in October 1975 under the title The Right To Ride… Dangerously, and reproduced here back in June this year. So everything old is new again, eh?

Hope you enjoyed this, so if you did or even if you didn’t, why not receive email alerts to future blogs by clicking on the box in the RH column?

And if the mood takes you, do please leave a comment – see below

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About markswill

For those unaware of my glittering career, I started scribbling for the underground press in 1968 and by complete chance was appointed Music Editor of International Times when I happened to visit their office for the first time in '69 on a day trip down from Birmingham. Naturally I took all of a stoned nanosecond to accept the offer... and it's all been uphill ever since. If you really give a stuff, a full resume of my, er, resume is available on the Career page of my website, www.markwilliamsmedia.co.uk, but for now just be content to know that I'm an opinionated media junkie of a certain age who won't sit still.

6 thoughts on “EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

  1. I too have noticed the risk adversity you mention, also with car drivers unable to pass approaching traffic with out haveing to brake !
    I put it down to the fact that the huge majority of vehicles are rented!
    Keep it up 👍

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  2. Whilst I share you views on the parlous state of large tracts of the Queens highway I’m not sure I subscribe to your gloomy views on the number of bikers. I managed 2 extended trips during our truncated summer. One was an enjoyable stroll from my Monmouthshire base through the highlights of mid Wales to seek out an old pal on Anglesey. The other was a long distance 4 wheeled tour through the highlands of Scotland accompanied by torrential downpours. On both occasions I was struck the by clouds of fellow bikers tackling the roads on everything from lovingly restored 70’s relics through herds of modern adventure bikes to the lightspeed swarms of sportsbikistas. I can’t recall ever seeing such numbers even back in the heydays of the 70’s. And as for speed, I’m not sure I enjoyed the probable 200 mph closing speeds I was subjected to by the latter group. Biking has evolved and the demographic does look older but it seems in rude health to me.

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    • Well Simon I think the large numbers you mention may’ve been a consequence of us lot who’d been cooped up for half the year finally being free to ride but rose-tinted rearview mirrors or not, I recall seeing far more riders on the roads in the ’70s, ’80s and even the ’90s than I see now. And yes, the mean-average age was somewhere around the mid-50s when I last checked but as us oldsters die off, hopefully not due to 200mph closing speeds, who is coming along to replace us? Certainly not anyone under 30 who can’t afford the insurance, entry costs and licensing barriers when they can have their fun in their bedrooms at their parents houses playing video games, online gambling and watching porn.

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  3. As I just wrote to Mark, there is nothing more gratifying and fulfilling than reading a perfectly crafted and concise 85 word sentence. I was honored to work with Mark and I still consider him the best in the business!

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