I was a late starter at biking, getting my licence in my early 50s. A flying mate introduced me to it; a lot of pilots are bikers. I found the extensive training schedule and the test quite demanding, which reassured me. Biking is potentially dangerous, and good training coupled with tough testing is essential.

Never having ridden modern motorcyles I knew little about them. The biking press recommended the Honda VFR as the best all-round bike, so I bought a second hand one. I found it ever so bland, so I traded it in for a Honda Blackbird. That was frighteningly fast, but felt like a turbine powered magic carpet. It had amazing performance (180 mph allegedly - I never took it beyond 140. And it did 0 to 60 mph in about 3 seconds if you could hang on!). But it had no character; it was almost silent, and at 120mph it felt like you could get off and walk, so uninvolving was the experience. So that, too, had to go. Honda bikes do what it says in the brochure; but character? Forget it!

 My VFR. Red, of course!

 Me and my black (it has to be!) Blackbird in Tyndrum, Scotland

So I sold the Blackbird and bought the bike I'd always fancied - a BMW R1150GS. It was 2 years old, but immaculate; and it had character! That was the bike I went touring on. I rode it from Wilmslow to the Sahara and back, and all around mainland Europe. Then I figured any advance on that would mean riding in the 'States or New Zealand - so I sold it as it was sitting in garage between occasional daily rides, and wasn't getting the use a bike like that needs.

My BMW R1150GS in Morocco

The next purchase to occupy that bike-shaped space in my garage was something very different - a classic British bike. A 1979 T140 Triumph Bonneville. The Bonnie has a proud history as a British bike. But by the end of the 1970s it was being seriously challenged by products from Japan; they were oil tight, reliable, but just like today... bland! Not only that, those earlyJapapese bikes just didn't handle very well.

By 1979 Triumph at Meriden, towards the end of the co-operative period just before they disappeared completey, got the Bonnie right. It could still drip a bit of oil, and as the ultimate development of Edward Turner's 500cc parallel twin bored to 750cc it certainly did vibrate a tad. But it handles superbly, sounds lovely, and has bags of character. A bit like our dH Chipmunk, really! (See 'flying' in this blog).

Mine is a T140D Special UK specification model. They only made about 1,000 of them (many more US spec ones were made and most of those were actually sold in UK). Mine is original, unrestored, and I'm the third owner (the second owner was my mate Tony who sold it to me). It's just the thing for a retired guy; fettle it in the winter, and ride it out on local trips around the Peak District or to bike and classic car meets in the summer.

1979 Triumph Bonneville T140D UK Special Edition

Will I keep the Bonnie? Will I fancy a change? Who knows! Sometimes I wish I'd kept the BMW because of the miles we did together... or the Blackbird for its sheer performance. But for now, the Bonnie does what I want. And it's a hoot to ride!

EDIT - the Bonnie's gone; see the blog, and the Griso below.

Suzuki Freewind 650cc single

Here's another member of the fleet, a Suzuki Freewind. It's a 650cc twin carb twin spark single cylinder motorcycle I rode home from its previous owner in Reading in September 2011. Lots of character in a modern bike! There's a report of the acquisition of this bike in the September 2011 section of this blog.

In March 2012 this little bike joined the fleet. See the details on the blog (21st March 2012) and lots of subsequent posts. It's a great little Honda C90 Cub and is amazing fun!

Honda C90 Cub

This lovely Moto Guzzi Griso 1200cc 8V V twin has replaced the Bonnie. A full description is on the blog, but it has amazing performance and sounds better than a super car. It even crackles and pops on the over-run like a throttled-back Merlin!

So here is the fleet at that time; Griso, Freewind, C90 Cub

The Griso with a few extras, including engine bars  and fly screen

In January 2015 this Honda Innova 125 was added to the fleet to replace the C90. The Innova is the ultimate development of the Honda Cub and is basically a C90 enlarged to 125cc, fuel injected, 4 speeds instead of 3, and a reliable electric start as well as the kick start. In March 2015 the C90 was reluctantly sold as it wasn't getting used since the arrival of the Innova.

In June 2015 this Kawasaki W800 was added to the fleet in place of the Freewind. I had always fancied a 1979 Triumph Bonneville in cherry red and cream but not only do such bike fetch very high prices, they carry a high maintenance overhead, are basically unreliable, require kick starting (not good for my arthritic knee) and drip oil onto the garage floor. This W800 is a modern Japanese bike but still a parallel twin, albeit fuel injected. It is lovely to ride, having lots of torque from its flexible engine, an upright riding position just like the Bonnie, and that same 'thrum' of a parallel twin. And it's in the correct colour which just happened to be Kawasaki's colours for the 2015 bike.

With the arrival of the W800 the Lovely 'Italian Job' (the 1,200cc Griso) was seeing even less use than it had, so in October 2015 I decided to sell it as I needed the space. I had, by then, acquired a 3.5" gauge live steam locomotive so space in the garage was once more at a premium and the Griso drew the short straw as the bike out of my three (Innova, Griso, W800) to go.

All of the above is reported in more detail in the blog.