Si & Dave answer your questions on their favourite subject... motorbikes of course!
In the lead up to the release of the Bikers' autobiography Blood, Sweat and Tyres, Si & Dave look back at their shared passion of motorbikes.
Q: What are your first memories of motorbikes? Was it a family thing?
Si: My Uncle lived on a crossroads where a lot of accidents seemed to happen, so in the back garden there were always bits of bikes or scooters waiting for a little lad to get on and let his imagination run riot. Bikes have always been part of my family history; all my older relatives and my father had bikes. My father was a dispatch rider during WW2 when he had a short sabbatical from the Russian convoys.
Bikes are in my blood.
Dave: My first memories of bikes go back to my father’s BSA Bantam. I used to meet him at the bottom of the backstreet when I knew he was coming home from work, and he used to sit me on the tank and let me steer the bike up the street. He got rid of the Bantam and bought a Norton Dominator. He had it a week and was kicking it up in his slippers in the backyard, it kicked back, threw him over the wall and ruptured his Achilles tendon. We had to sell the bike to live. When he recovered he bought an electric start scooter, and we spent years tooling around the lakes and after school trips to the beach. Bikes are in my blood.
Q: What was the first bike you bought?
Si: An Yamaha XS 650 US Custom; it was slightly customized, had a hard tail and was brush painted black. I absolutely loved it.
Dave: The first bike I bought was when I went to Art School. I bought a Cossack Ural Mars MK 3, a Russian wartime motorbike and sidecar built to the same pattern as the German World War II ones that had a machine gun on the sidecar. It was a 650cc bike and I got it with the sidecar as in those days it was a way you could ride a big bike on a provisional licence. It was great but very unreliable with tyres kinda made from Russian treacle toffee, but big cred in the golden age of punk. Cost £350
Q: We have some great stills of you on what looks like a pair of Harleys - Scotland? Tell us about that trip.
Si: The North coast of Scotland was always a regular haunt for Dave and I. Our main aim was to go fishing for trout at the beautiful Loch Drumbeg. We met up with a ghillie called Calum, a man of few words with a shock of thick ginger hair, a penchant for good malt whisky and a demeanor that Beelzebub would have been proud of; however, a finer man you could not wish to meet. There is simply nothing better than cooking the fish you’ve caught bobbing about in a boat on a Scottish Loch.
We had just bought two Harley Davidsons. Dave had a Heritage Springer Softail and I rode a Springer Softail with 6 inch risers and ten inch apes, a bit of a chopper vibe. The bikes were great and I look back with fond memories of that particular bike because my wife bought it for me from the proceeds of a job she had secured – could a man wish for anything more?
Dave: We took the Harleys from my home in Huntly, Aberdeenshire north to Inverness then via Ullapool up to Loch Assynt, a trip I am going to do again in the first week of March. Incredible biking country. Then we went further north to Lochinver staying at the Culag Hotel, a big gothic pile next to the fish processing plant. In those days it was full of Spanish trawlermen and weirdly you could pay at the bar in Pesos; we would then go over the road for the best breakfast ever at the Fisherman's mission. From there we went North to Cape Wrath, the North-western most tip of Britain, and finally made it to Loch Drumbeg. A great trip. One morning in Drumbeg I woke up to a snorting sound from outside my bedroom to find an Aberdeen Angus trying to mount my Harley. It was the smell of my leather saddle bags....ooh it made a mess.
Si: Needless to say we tried to fend the offending cattle off, but only dressed in underpants and t-shirts it wasn’t the easiest of tasks trying to get a randy cow off the bike.
Q: What was the best road trip you did together, and on what bikes?
Si: India, without a doubt. We hired two Royal Enfield Bullets in Goa and set off over the western Ghat mountains towards Hampi.
Dave: It’s a great Hindu shrine in the middle of Karnatika State. Wonderful vegetarian food and great people. The bikes cost £5 per day and would run on anything; no brakes though… kept wearing out my flipflops.
Q: You've used a variety of bikes on the HBC. Any pros or cons?
Si: As a biker you get to know your ride very well and it becomes a bit of a pain in the butt riding different machines. Even the same models have differing characteristics, so lack of continuity was a bit of a con. However we were keen to ride what was available and appropriate to the countries we visited, so really no cons. I enjoyed all the bikes I rode during our trips; there is no such thing as a bad motorcycle.
Dave: The variety of bikes we have are determined more by chance and circumstance rather than design. The big BMW's are great all round tools and can cope with anything. The Triumphs are full of character and you get to fall in love with them but they’re not as well built as the BMWs. In Vietnam we were on Russian 125 Minsks, little two stroke trials bikes; we had to have small bikes because of the Vietnamese laws. The little bikes were such a laugh and very reliable. In Mexico I was on a Harley Davidson Road King. It could be a bit of a tart’s handbag in the UK, but in Mexico with the colours and the sunshine it was wonderful; all your childhood biking dreams rolled into one. Awesome fun. There is no such thing as a bad bike, they’re all great. We are immensely lucky to have access to tons of different bikes.
Q: What are you riding at the moment?
Si: I own a Aprilia Caponord. I haven’t owned an Italian bike before and I love it; the v twin delivers the power to the final drive with all the finesse you would expect from an Italian stable. It handles very well and is precise through the bends, and I’ve found it good in the wet – you know it goes where you point it , always a bit of a bonus that.
Dave: At the moment I have four bikes. I have a BMWR1200 GS a great workhorse to get around the world. I have a Bennelli Tornado, possibly the sexiest bike on the planet. Goes like stink, an Italian triple that reminds me of a Laverda Jota but very lean and modern. Love it
I have a Aprilla Falco, a great 1000 cc twin sports tourer, big grin-factor bike.
Lastly I have Hesketh V1000. A dream bike and I managed to buy Hesketh’s Prototype from 1982. Handmade Cosworth/ Weslake engine. It’s like riding a Spitfire. A bit of history.
Q: Do you have a dream bike?
Si: I would like to buy the Harley Springer back from the lad that I sold it to , just for old times sake.
Dave: My dream bike would be a Vincent Black Shadow, for over 30 years it was the fastest production bike, and practical too. A monster that could be ridden on a daily basis....Ah well, maybe series seven!
This article was first published in 2011. The Hairy Bikers Blood, Sweat and Tyres: The Autobiography is available at Amazon, Waterstones and WH Smith.