Today I’m taking a ride down memory lane, as I look back over my history of motorcycling to review 17 motorcycles over a period of 44 years. It all started when I was 16 years old (1975) and I’m still going strong at 60 years of age. Hopefully I still have many years of riding ahead of me.
The early years (1975 – 1979)
My first bike was a red Honda P50 moped (1968 model I believe). Costing only 13.5 UK pounds, it was certainly the cheapest bike I have ever bought – and probably the quirkiest! It was an unusual little bike with the engine mounted on the rear wheel and the fuel tank incorporated into the rear carrying rack. However, it was my first bike so it holds a soft spot in my heart.
My next bike was a brand new Motobecane (Mobylette). It was a double seater, red with white leg guards. I was in my final year of high school and bought the bike on a hire-purchase agreement. I paid for it using money that I earned working as a window cleaner on weekends. Whilst riding that bike year-round, I learned the hard way how slippery ice can be on corners! I have to say that I laid that bike down a few times due to ice and snow but it gave me a basic grounding in riding skills.
When I was 18 years old, I purchased my first true motorcycle (non-moped). It was a blue 1975 Suzuki GT250 – the ‘Ram-Air” version with an air intake on top of the cylinders. I really loved that bike! It was my year-round transportation, as well as a source of fun and excitement. I had my first real motorcycle accident (and hopefully my last) whilst riding the Suzuki. A van side-swiped me and sent me sliding across the ground. I had a broken toe and road rash but all I could think about was my precious bike, laying broken on the ground.
During the time that I owned the Suzuki, I also began to attend a number of motorcycle rallies throughout England. Due to the distances involved, I went to the rallies as a passenger on my buddy’s Honda CB750. Getting a larger bike for myself was always at the back of my mind from the time I bought the Suzuki, but I would have to pass a motorcycle test to progress beyond 250cc.
The Suzuki continued to be my daily transportation until about 1979 when I learned to drive a car. In order to buy my first car, I had to sell the bike. I moved from car to car for a few years and there was no bike in my life (only because I couldn’t afford to run a car and a bike).
I don’t have any photographs of my first three bikes, but these images show what they looked like.
The Bermuda years (1984 – 2017)
In 1984, I moved to Bermuda where I was destined to be reunited with two-wheeled vehicles, albeit small ones! Throughout my 33 years on the island, I always owned at least one motorcycle. However, due to Bermuda law restricting the size of motorcycle engines on the island, all but one of the bikes was 150cc or smaller.
My first bike in Bermuda was a brand new red Honda C90 Cub. I ran that for a few years and then replaced it with another C90 – another red one but with an updated design. When that bike began rusting out, I replaced it with a red Piaggio Sfera scooter. Those three bikes were my primary transportation between 1984 and early 2004. They served their purpose but they weren’t particularly fun or enjoyable.
In the absence of actual photos, here are examples of the Cubs and Sfera
Whilst I had been riding bikes daily for my first 20 years in Bermuda, my motorcycling renaissance began in 2004. Bikes were going to become fun and enjoyable again, not simply a form of transportation.
Prior to 2003, motorcycles in Bermuda were restricted to 100cc in engine size, which significantly limited the range of available models. But 2003 saw changes in the law that sought to replace two-stroke bikes with more environmentally-friendly four-strokes. To facilitate this, the maximum permitted engine capacity was increased to 150cc. Whilst still small by international standards, this amendment allowed the importation of bikes that at least resembled their larger brethren. The new imports looked like real motorcycles and riding them seemed closer to riding ‘the real thing’.
In January 2004 I purchased a new black Honda VT125 Shadow. Riding the Shadow brought back the feelings I had enjoyed as a teenager riding my Suzuki. Riding the bike to work each day was suddenly enjoyable again. My love of motorcycles was rekindled. The sudden influx of these cruiser-style bikes fuelled the formation of a motorcycle club and owners began congregating for group rides on weekends.
The itch to buy a larger bike was back with a vengeance and in June 2005, I bought a 1980 Honda CB900 Custom from a seller in the USA. I would own that bike for 12 years during which I was able to ride it a few days each year, whenever a permit could be obtained. A post about my CB900 can be found here.
Later in 2007, with an increasing interest in classic bikes, I purchased a 1973 Honda CB125 K5 that had not been started in 10 years. That bike caused me a fair amount of frustration, which you can read about here.
In December 2007 I sold my Honda Shadow and subsequently bought a used (2004) MZ RT125 as my daily rider.
In April 2009 I bought a 1961 Triumph Tiger Cub T20SL. The bike had been unlicensed and sitting in a shed for five years but was soon cleaned up and licensed. The Triumph was the oldest bike I have owned. It is covered in its own post here.
In August 2009 I bought a 2007 Honda Titan CG150, to replace the 2004 MZ RT125 as my daily rider. For a short time, I owned five bikes at the same time. The MZ was sold in September, taking me back to a total of four bikes. The Titan had already been partially customised when I bought it, having an aftermarket exhaust, suspension, rear rack and handlebars. I took it to the next level by having the tank and side panels customised.
After some thought, I opted for a Witchy Woman theme based on the song by the Eagles. The theme utilises some of the lyrics from Witchy Woman: “Raven hair and ruby lips, sparks fly from her fingertips” and “Woo hoo Witchy Woman, she got the moon in her eye.” Those lyrics were captured in the upper panels of the gas tank, whilst the side panels of the tank feature an image of what the Witchy Woman might look like. She has black (raven) hair, ruby lips and has sparks (lightning) flying from her fingertips. There was also the reflection of a full moon in her eye. The Eagles logo of an eagle skull, as featured on their Greatest Hits album, dominated the top of the gas tank. The name ‘Witchy Woman’ was also carried on the side panels.
Whilst I conceived the design, the actual work of putting it together was done by Steven Flood of Bermuda Blueprinting. Steven pulled the design together on a computer and printed it onto vinyl transfers. Once the transfers were on the gas tank and side panels, Kevin Busby laid down over ten coats of clear-coat so that the edges of the vinyl couldn’t be seen and it had the appearance of being a very intricate paint-job.
The customised Titan was my daily rider and I also had the three classic bikes – Triumph, CB125 and CB900. But, by 2012, the collection began to shrink. I was in the process of buying and customising a Land Rover Defender, in preparation for my 6-months overland adventure in 2014. The Triumph and CB125 were sold to help pay for the Land Rover.
However, in December 2014, after completing the big trip, I was tempted to buy another bike. A Honda Varadero 125 caught my eye and I had to have it. It had been customised with a matt black paint job, custom seat, and a Scorpion exhaust. It looked and sounded great. I didn’t make any changes to it – just rode and enjoyed it. It was only a 125cc bike, but it felt bigger and was a pleasure to ride.
As 2017 approached, and retirement to Europe, all of the bikes were gradually sold off. We moved to Europe in July 2017 and, for a few months, I didn’t own a bike as we had no place to call home.
Portugal (2018 – 2019)
Once we had settled in Porto, Portugal, as our retirement destination, I immediately began looking for another bike. It didn’t take long to find a bike! By February 2018, I had bought a 2014 BMW F800GS. But I was getting ahead of myself, as I needed to upgrade my driving licence before I could insure or ride the bike!
My Bermuda licence is not recognised in Portugal, and my UK licence didn’t include a motorcycle class. So I popped over to the UK in March, where I completed all of the sections of the motorcycle qualification process (theory and practical tests) so that my UK licence could be upgraded to include motorcycles. The upgraded UK licence has now been traded in for a Portuguese driving licence.
With my new licence, I was able to get the BMW out on the roads and I was soon using it to explore different locations around Portugal. It was so refreshing to have the ability to ride a large motorcycle for hundreds of kilometres, after being restricted on a small island for so long.
Bev wanted to participate in my sightseeing rides, but she didn’t like the height of the seat on the BMW. Having ridden the Honda CBF600 at the driving school in the UK, I thought that it would make a nice middleweight bike for the two of us to explore on. In May 2018, I found one that I liked and added it to the stable. The CBF was a very capable bike and I enjoyed some lovely rides on it, when riding solo, but Bev couldn’t manage more than an hour on the seat without it becoming painful.
I realized that I needed to find a more comfortable touring bike that Bev would be happy with. I took her to a local Honda dealer and she sat on the back of a Honda Goldwing. That was it. She didn’t want to try any of the other bikes. She wanted a Goldwing!
In December 2018, I bought a 2007 Honda Goldwing GL1800 from the UK and had it shipped to Portugal. We both love it and it has really opened up opportunities for distance touring for us. Bev can happily sit on the back for hours without a problem. Being a member of the Goldwing Clube de Portugal opened up more riding opportunities, as the club organises about six weekend events throughout the year. We bought a trailer for our multi-day trips so that we can take more ‘stuff’ with us. During 2019 we took many trips on the bike, including into Spain a few times, culminating in a two-week tour through the Pyrenees in September. Many of those trips are documented in this blog. The Goldwing is a lovely touring machine and I’m sure that we’ll be undertaking more trips in 2020.
Once we had the Goldwing, the CBF600 was superfluous, so I promptly sold it. The BMW couldn’t compete with the Goldwing for touring and I found it to be too heavy for me for riding off-road trails. I decided that I’d be better served by a lighter off-road bike, so the BMW was also sold.
After a lot of research and looking at several bikes that were available, I finally bought a 2001 Honda XR400R in June 2019. Unfortunately, the bike needed some engine work so it has spent more time at the workshop than in my garage. I haven’t been able to ride it much but I’m looking forward to getting out some more on the trails.
At the moment, I am content with the two bikes I currently have. The Goldwing takes care of all of our touring needs and the XR400 should provide me with some off-road enjoyment. But who knows what other bikes may be lurking around the corner.