WhichBike? – May 1983

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.

Cartoon by Spike Davies

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.

Ejected Carbonated Refuse: 2-stroke exhaust fumes.

Firm’s Bike: Vehicle used by Porkus Mobilius (see below).

Flankers: Devices used by the bike trade for convincing customers/journalists of a bike’s obvious worth.

Gone Whack-ola: Sudden descent into Wally-dom (see below).

Johnny Boys (a/k/a Smarty Boots): Those who ride in an anti-social, dangerous and flamboyant manner (e.g. C. Schiller after two Babychams).

Knee High To A Gnat’s Bollock: Not very tall.

Misconceived Ostracism and Vilification: Pass the dictionary squire, Williams has been at the Pro Plus again.

Moosh: My esteemed friend (e.g.”Oi Mmoosh, piss off”).

Munich Mogadon: A reflned motorcycle with many famous characteristics (e.g. slowness).

Naff-ola: Bad

Nancy Boy Gizmo:
Typical Japanese Styling trait masquerading as useful technical feature,

Popping A Hernia: Trying rather hard.

Porkus Mobilius or Mobile Pigs; Motorcycle Cops.

Oiled: Treated very well by those nice, honest PR men.

Powerband The Width Of A Cock On A Chocolate Mouse: Narrow powerband.

Richard Cranium or Dick Head; A very silly person.

Snazz-ola: Jolly good.

Teensy Weensy Foibles: Some drastic shortcomings that the R&D Dept somehow overlooked and we’ve been thoroughly oiled-up not to mention.

Turkey Dinner: A rather unmemorable range of motorcycles (e.g. Honda’s early lightweights).

Wally: Person of limited intelligence (e.g. Berk magazine readers, people who lend enduro bikes to WB? staffers etc, etc).

Wildly Exceeding The Structural Parameters: Beyond the bounds of even journalistic reason.

(And yes, these were all phrases employed by us irresponsible WB? hacks the likes of both you’d never find in a motorbicycle magazine these days – MW)

If you enjoyed the above, or even if you didn’t, why not sign up to get email alerts to future blogs using the link in the RH column. And/or bung me a comment, as 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.

7 thoughts on “LOOSE TORQUE

  1. Well done, still chuckling. What I miss about England is English because here in the US we speak ’Murican now.


  2. This WordPress is a funny thing. I’ve tried to comment before, but it wants me to log in having done so. Then if I do after commenting the text vanishes ? Or my ramble is being moderated ? (To a suitable receptacle ?)
    Anyways, I still remember some of the phrases from WB. Thanks for reminding. Via the powers of evolutionary development psychology some may well have entered into my own lexicography as a result. Recently I mused on the term ‘Sue Ferkin’ – she was either one of yours or another at the publication. I thought I knew what y’all meant, but could never be sure.
    As a student, back in late 80’s early 90’s I had a very old and tatty 1972 Triumph Toledo (a sort of budget Dolomite, if that means anything). And I often referred to its handling as being like “an acid-crazed pig trying to negotiate rush-hour traffic on a tea trolley”. I think the phrase was my own work – but it might have subconsciously lifted itself from Which’s pages……


    • Sue Ferkin? Nowt to do with me, squire, but I like you description of the Toledo’s handling and funnily enough, there’s an old geezer in the next tow to me who has one as his daily driver. True! Can’t quite understand your WordPress issues as here you are commenting and I’m replying! Best – MW


      • To ‘kill’ two (or more) posts with one comment (in your quizzing of my username):

        In a workplace far, far away, young Fumbletrumpet gazes jealously through rain-pimpled windows toward distant half five release, while an equally youthful chancer on a spannied RD crackles by.
        “Oi, Fumbletrumpet, make use of the burden that you are to me and find us a brew will ya !” bellows the superior colleague of likely moniker T. Wat Bosslin.
        Sue Ferkin, of course, doesn’t ‘do’ tea; struggling through the substitution of her Smith Corona by one of (Lord) Sugar’s shiny green-screen twin-disk-driven ‘processors. Sugary illusions linger on through the decades, as she once pranked the assemblage by making a pot using the warmed contents of a floppy bottle of own-brand Cola. Mostly, then, saving herself for an expectant and ambitiously elaborate cocktail (or these days perhaps the curious bar tap Prosecco).
        She’s more likely wearing Triumph than our Fumbler is to ever be found piloting one. And he’ll never find out anyway although thoughts of such investigations infuse sporadic mis-directed daytime fantasies and more frequent nocturnal ones. (And nowadays perforated plastic shroud doth not pancaked Amal make, in the other hand.)
        Should time and space fold backwards (dimensionally twice) the Toledo driver of adjacent locale (shurely benefitting from a liberal contemporary sousing in Dinitrol ?) could indeed ‘ave bin me, although by the time I briefly crossed paths with fascinating Kington the Tolly had gone nolly, thanks to – as is the way with us all, sometimes thankfully – age.
        You’ve momentarily inspired me to remotely (re)visit my (vacant) PressingTeens (via Google Sheepview) and I’ve now become distractedly fixated by the (imagined) history of Harford House, looking metaphorically somewhat propped and assisted in its decline (like myself) on the corner of Station Road. Besides Miss Blackburn’s redoubtable C19 facility (and all who drifted, ghostly now, within it), the neglected pump later suggests a former automotive connection perhaps ?
        Should the stifling grey drizzle ever lift and schedule’s tides draw back sufficiently to coincidentally provide suitable passage, now aged Fumbit should perhaps voyage West and go see fer’imself. Pleasant (if lengthy) rideout that it might well be. And should the sun ever shine again to further enable.
        The history of quaint, nostalgic and abandoned property, formerly supporting such singular enterprise and endeavour, is becoming increasingly fascinating, of course. Just as it rapidly evaporates from our landscape. Last traces of which I suspect, just about, still just about imprint, half-forgotten, in The Marches (and other equally less-connected corners on the periphery of conglomerate’s radar sweep). As they pleasantly once did in my long distant discovery of the town of Kington (and how it has changed when last I looked for it !). Nostalgia, as we’re equally tired of hearing, ain’t what it……errr.
        And from there, maybe, we turn full wobbly ellipse, somewhat.
        And you, Mark, wondrous, desirous perhaps, of the next turn, with eager, fluid alliteration and worthy imaginary depth, most likely have a very readable novel within you, no ?


      • Hi again Mr Wotsyourname. Thanks v. much for tasking the trouble
        but I cannot reply in great detail to your excellently composed missive not least because some of its geographical twists and turns have me confused or found ignorant, and also because I am writing-weary having applied myself for the last few hours to the very novel you suggested, kindly, I should scribble. Whether or not it’s readable remains to be seen but suffice to to say it has nowt to do with motorbicycles, shyte aulde cars, ancient rock’n’roll or obscure movies which are the only things I know something, if a little something, about. However you clearly know summat about the neck of the woods in which I currently reside, or at least most of the time, so if you ever return this way let me know. In the meantime onwards, ever onwards.


  3. Hey, that reads like excellent news ! I’ll look forward to the end result with great interest. Meantime, all the very best to you too.


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