When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I had no real interest in classic anything, least of all classic motorcycles. Why would anyone want to own, let alone ride, a bike that looks like it should either be in a museum or a scrapyard? I just didn’t get it. But now I do. And I think this is why…
Classic motorcycles don’t tend to be as ‘good’ as modern ones. What do I mean by that? Well they don’t do any of the things that most of us want motorcycles to do, anywhere near as well as new ones. They’re not as fast, not as reliable, don’t handle as well, are more difficult to use, the list goes on.
As far as I could see, classic motorcycles didn’t have anything going for them at all. To me, they were just ‘old’ motorcycles. I know some people might think classic bikes look good, but I’ve never subscribed to that school of thought.
All I was interested in was the latest and greatest superbikes. Until I was about 30. It was when a friend of mine let me have a go on his 1998 R1. It was an old bike, but probably not old enough to be called a classic bike.
The Yamaha R1 was a bike that I’d grown up drooling over. I can remember the poster on my bedroom wall, and I can remember saying to myself that I was going to have one. Over the years I’ve ridden a few R1’s but never had the opportunity to ride the original, from back in 1998; the exact bike that I had on my bedroom wall. So when I swung a leg over this one, I was like a dog with two dicks.
They say you should never Meet your heroes, but I absolutely loved every second of the ride on that bike. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. For the entire ride, I was transported back to a time when things were more simple; I was ten years old again without a care in the world, and I’d finally realised my dream; my dream of riding the bike I’d spend so long staring at as a nipper.
It was a transformative moment. I realised there and then that there’s more to life than super-fast, ultra-modern-motorbikes. Granted there’s not a lot more, but there is more. All you need is a soupçon of nostalgia, and all of a sudden, bikes from yesteryear can be just as exciting to ride as the bikes of today.
Not long ago, I rode an original 1985 GSX-R750F ‘Slabside’ (video below), and again, was transported back in time. Back to a time way before traction control, ABS and fuel injection. A time before social media, smartphones and celebrity big brother. A better time.
But bikes can’t really be called classic motorcycles, just because they are old. I think a true classic bike has to be important; has to represent something. The R1, for example, is the beginning of a dynasty that’s lasted almost 25 years. And the ‘Slabby’ was one of the first ‘proper’ sportsbikes (by modern day standards).
When you understand a little bit about the history of motorcycles (I don’t purport to be an expert), you realise there are hundreds of bikes that could fall into the classic motorcycles category. And now I’m a bit older, I’m desperate to learn more about them all, and ride as many of them as I can.
So if you’re not interested in classic bikes, I understand. I never used to be. But give it time. One day, you might not be able to get enough of them.