Opinion: riding classic bikes

We’re all looking forward to getting back in the saddle as the weather warms up and restrictions are lifted. Here’s a timely reminder from Reg Eyre about current road and traffic conditions – some drivers have become used to the roads being empty, while others won’t have had much practice recently…

While living under isolation rules, I undertook ‘essential travel’ for medication and food aboard two wheels. There is only so much medication a chap can take but fortunately I have a liking for both coffee and cake, which my local café is happy to supply on a take-away basis. I devised several routes to ride to the café. One of these is ideal for using my ‘modern’ BMW, an ancient R650LS. It means riding a section of A4, followed by the A360, followed by wonderful B-roads.

Sadly, other road users appear to have forgotten their road manners during the lockdown. On a recent ride, after the roundabout on the A4, I joined a convoy of two vans and a car for the relatively straight A360. This convoy was travelling at about 60mph and I slotted in at the rear, with no one behind me.

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The convoy steadily travelled a bit faster, so looking behind became essential and I noticed a car coming up fast. It went past me at about 100mph and cut across my front wheel. If you react to this behaviour by wagging a finger or flashing a light, the offending driver is likely to stamp on the brakes and cause more grief…

He proceeded to do the same to the car ahead of me, hardly allowing enough room for the manoeuvre, then cutting across the overtaken car. Fortunately, I was approaching a roundabout and proceeded to turn off the A360 and continue along my merry way.

I am fortunate in having different machines to use, and enjoy riding different machines in the manner that their makers intended. Hence a slow ride would be the order of the day when using a 1913 Motosacoche, a faster ride invoking technical thought would be using my 1927 sidevalve AJS with its three speeds and carburettor hand-controls, and an excellent fast ride with the 1929 Model 80 Sunbeam 350.

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My problem is that I feel nervous when there are idiots around who think they are driving well, or bravely, when they are making the rest of the world get anxious or angry. I have even started to use an exercise bike rather than an electric bike on the roads. Although I use my mirror to adjust my road positioning, I notice that the following driver will pass too close and sometimes cut-in. At least with an exercise bike I cannot be overtaken!

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Words and photos by Reg Eyre

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