David Minton, one of RC’s original contributors, sadly died in the autumn of 2022. Many of his friends and followers have since shared their recollections of Dave’s life in motorcycling. Here are a few of their tributes to a writer and rider extraordinaire…
Riding high with Roger Slater
I enjoyed many long trips with David, and this was one of them. I’d asked Massimo Laverda to let me know when the first 1000 triple would be ready to collect from the factory in Italy. A fortnight later I was advised that the bike was ready for collection and that there would be a triple and a 750 twin for David and I to ride back to England. Invoice, engine and frame numbers were telexed to us. Both bikes were registered and plates obtained.
David and I then flew down to Milan where a mechanic kindly fitted the plates to both bikes while we received final instructions from Massimo. The front number plate in those days had to be the old ‘pedestrian slicer’ slicer. Massimo asked if it was really necessary as it upset the bikes’ aesthetics in his opinion.
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Off we go, Dave on the triple, me on the twin.
As we joined the autostrada we thought ourselves blessed by a very strong tailwind. This helped us maintain a really good pace on little throttle while not stressing the new engines. Heading north to Switzerland that strong wind became a considerable hazard, hitting us hard, side-on. I was following Dave and found it amusing that he was riding with a monster 45-degree lean to the right.
However, as we approached over-pass bridges, Dave’s long experience came into play. On the approach to the bridges he moved over to the left lane. Once under the bridge the wind was blocked which caused his leaning over bike to dart to the right. The precautionary approach on the left lane was exactly enough for him to get the bike upright in the middle of our right lane. I copied his approach, following ‘The Master’.
In the Alps we were struck by a blinding snow storm. We weren’t equipped for Artic conditions, and all we wanted was a hotel and a hot meal. Through the blizzard we could just about read an illuminated ‘hotel’ sign, but how to get there? We did it one bike at a time, one person straddling the bike and the other pushing it, uphill all the way. We got the second bike up there and went in. We looked like a pair of snowmen but to their credit the staff took it all in their stride.
The next morning the storm had passed, sun was out and the sky was blue. With Swiss efficiency the steep road down the pass was ploughed but the surface was a slick-looking snow layer. Dave set off first, both feet down as outriggers. After about a mile Dave’s left foot very slowly came up to the footrest. After another couple of miles his right foot came up and second gear was selected and then third. We continued down at 25mph, still on the slick, snow-covered surface.
As we dropped altitude we finally reached wet tarmac and finally fine dry roads. It was a fine, sunny, spring day and we were on lovely, twisty, two-lane roads passing lakes and postcard Swiss scenery. Both of us were enjoying ourselves, really scratching as we scrubbed the shoulders off our tyres. After a couple of hours we arrived at Fritz Egli’s house. I vividly remember we both had big wide grins as we put the bikes’ stands down. David exclaimed ‘now that was real bend-swinging!’
We enjoyed a marvellous evening with Fritz, telling tall stories which got taller as the Schnapps lubricated our throats. A great adventure and we still had several more hundred miles to go to the ferry and home.
Bendswingin’, of course, became David’s monthly column which ran for many years in RealClassic.
From PUB, a fellow contributor
I read DLM’s work since the original Motorcycle Sport days, where I know the editor held his road-testing abilities in high regard. In fact his work in all the magazines was held in high regard. I was fortunate enough to know him in latter days, although only slightly. He was good with words, and used proper English. He was even complimentary about my own amateur efforts, so a generous person too. Yes, he is missed.
A Personal Perspective
In 1975 I knew I wanted a Ducati but when I got one I found myself the occasionally proud owner of the most unreliable bike I have ever owned. In something like despair I wrote to Dave Minton, c/o Motorcyclist Illustrated, a journal late and lamented as David himself is now. David had established himself in my estimation as one of the very best motorcycle journalists at a time when all were good and many were excellent. David was my favourite in an excellent field, and it was largely on the strength of his enthusiasm I’d decided a Ducati was the bike for me.
I hoped to get, perhaps, a brief reply, referring me to people I’d already approached. Weeks later, the postman delivered a veritable tome: an envelope containing three single-spaced typed foolscap pages. David apologised for the delay in replying (my letter had not been forwarded) and went through all my problems in detail, offering advice and encouraging me to stick with the wonderful bike which the Ducati could be. He concluded with a list of people who might help me, and told me he had forwarded my letter, with a copy of his, to all of them, with the request that they give me every assistance.
Well! All that effort for someone he had never met, and never expected to. So not just a knowledgeable motorcyclist and a damn good writer, but a nice guy!
It’s said that to meet your heroes is to risk disappointment, but David and I found instant rapport, and became firm friends. He and his wife Eileen visited, and I enjoyed my trips to their home. David was always a great conversationalist, a man with a well-stocked mind on many things apart from motorcycles—a wonderful companion.
Eileen once remarked that her husband was ‘a man to whom things happen’. David led an interesting and often exciting life—with occasionally terrifying moments. Those of a certain vintage may recall his ride to the North Cape of Norway just ahead of road-closure as snow and ice made travel perilous-to-impossible; or his ride from Alaska to Mexico on the then-new Morini 500.
But some of the most interesting details didn’t pass the word-count, and David recounted them so well. Like the frostbite that just about didn’t take his fingers off, and the bandits he just about didn’t fail to outrun. Or the suckling pig he ate on the train from Switzerland, which broke into two on the move (the train; not the pig) while he was sleeping off his meal, so he woke up in Copenhagen, rather than in Amsterdam, as planned…
David was a man of courage, intelligence and mental resilience, as well as of practical experience. Possibly my favourite of his many stories was of how he repaired a seized Velocette and rode it from Yorkshire to Essex, on a 1960s Sunday when everything was closed. How he broke the friction-welded rings from the bore, patched a fractured oil-pipe with solder whittled from the windings of the dynamo, and literally wedged a broken engine together (the seizure-thrust had pulled the barrel-studs out of the crankcase), would take far too long to tell, and I could never do it justice anyway.
David was from an earlier time but he made a good transition. After the decline of the British industry David moved on to Italian and later Japanese bikes, while never losing his affection for A10s or parting with his pre-war Triumph.
He moved on again, on 27 November 2022, after a lengthy decline. I was not surprised but the finality of death retains its power to shock when it snatches away someone you love. To have had David as a friend was a privilege. My sympathies to Eileen and their family, who have lost so much more than I.
If you’d like to add your own memories of Dave Minton you can comment on our Facebook feed. More recollections of his remarkable life will appear here in future…