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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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?
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