Tuesday, 28 December 2010

First blood

Visiting Dr Girlie Nice-Smile in Aylesbury one weekend, her on-call commitments left me at a loose end - covering the special care baby-unit AND Stoke Mandeville (which explains her dislike of motorcycles) left her busy and me bored. I finished up at On yer Bike (now Ducati Aylesbury) and buying a blood-red Paso 750.

Even then (1990) Paso's had gone from rave-reviews to ridicule, but I'd had enough of worrying about what magazines thought, so one February Saturday saw me explore the Paso's infamous carb-icing on a packed Aylesbury roundabout. I lived long enough to relish the way the Duke was just about a sports bike, but would cover 200 miles without a twinge: far comfier a seat than the preceding VFR.
The only prob was a broken gearchange return spring, leaving me to limp home in second - something of a Ducati weakness, and ridiculously expensive to fix, because it's buried on the "wrong" side of the engine. If you ever have an engine in bits change the return spring while you can.

The thing that really got me about the Paso was non-biker's reaction - everyone loved it, and Ducati was just starting to be a brand recognised outside motorcycling. So while most bikers poo-poo'd it (even other Ducati owners did the "it's not a real Ducati" thing) women would ask to be photographed sitting on it. This was something new to me...

Spotting an immaculate Superlight in Three Cross motorcycles saw the Paso part-ex'd: one of the few SL's that didn't sport the #1 badge on the seat hump (because Ducati hadn't won the Superbike championship the preceding year) and lacking the original SL's Marvic wheels it was still an under-rated bike that's only just starting to be appreciated - a nice SL will easily fetch twice the equivalent SS's price, which is odd when in essence it's just a solo seat and carbon mudguard that make the difference. And the famous "limited edition" plaque on the headstock - ah, collectors: don't you just love them?

Monday, 27 December 2010

The final fling

Offered a GSX-R1100 cheap by a dealer because it had a scratch on the swingarm, I entered Nirvana. Even for a rider of my mediocre talent the Gixxer crushed all comers - you could sweep up behind anything (GPz900's especially) and pass it before an impossible turn: next time you looked in the mirrors they were gone. Checking the speedo before a turn usually involved around 150mph - this was always going to end badly. Getting home late one night I left in on the front path, rather than ride to the lock up and risk the ridicule of pub homecomers pointing at the dolt on a bicycle in full leathers. Next morning the 1100 was was gone.

The insurance money went on another magazine reviewer's must-have - a Honda VFR750L, the first of the single-sided swing-armers. By now I'd met Dr. Girlie Nice-Smile, and endless commutes to see her in various hospitals and homesteads meant the Honda racked up the miles including a track day organised by the RICS a few days before our wedding. But I didn't get the Honda, and it languished in the back garden all winter because (a) I couldn't be bothered to ride it 500 yards to the lock-up and (b) the scrotes who lifted the Gixxer felt the same way. One ad in MCN proved that I'm the only person on the planet who feels ambivalent about Sochiro's V4: inundated by calls I sold it to some Tynesiders who rode on to Cornwall (200 miles away) because "it seemed a shame to come so far south and miss it."

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Kawasaki years

Funny how you switch loyalties - happy with my Kat, but being a consumerist tart, when Kawasaki debuted the GPZ1100 I had the have one - fuel injection, Unitrack suspension and a proper fairing that let you go as far and as fast as you liked. I loved that bike, but when the GPz900 appeared (complete with small z!) the press reaction meant I had to swop.

And I was strangely underwhelmed - a riding position that wasn't one thing or the other and a much revvier character than the 1100 and big Suzy's I'd known and loved. Maybe because most miles were done with a pillion it seemed a step backwards, or maybe it was just that I'd got so used to wrestling the big old bruisers. Whatever, a test ride on a VF1000 made me think I wanted one of them 'till it overheated and poured coolant everywhere. So in a fit of maturity (I was now 25) I was again fell for the press hype and bought a BM K100. Horrid, hateful thing that lasted a week. My last Japanese bikes were on the way

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The Suzuki years

Determined to buy a Ducati GTS860, I finished up with Suzuki 750s (and bored girlfriend in the background - hi Julia)...after a go on a mate's Duke I loved the idea but hated the bottom end failures that seemed to plague the era's Ducati twins. Never mind, the Suzook handled better than any other Jap bike (how Classic Bike can compare it to the "where's the hedgerow?" GT kettle escapes me) and had a lovely glow-in-the-dark pink instrument panel (though I hated the gear position indicator - what? Do you think I can't count?)

The inevitable rise to a GSX1100 followed, but it handled like a wheelbarrow full of wet cement. But better than baby brother's 750 version, which he binned in front of the local Brit-bike fan club's weekly meet, grinding the alternator and his leather jacket to atoms. How the hell did we survive this?

All set to buy a Hailwood Rep just like mate Kenny Robert's (yes, really - and RIP, Kenny) the new Katanas turned my head - my Katana 1000 was a beaut, and kept me on the Suzuki trail longer than intended

Friday, 24 December 2010

The 400/4 years

How I loved these - never got the two-stroke thing, and as a teenager you just want to thrash the living daylights out of a rev-happy Honda. First one was bought privately in London, having taken the train up. No other means of getting home meant I had to buy it, but luckily it was fine, except as he took my cheque the seller casually mentioned "It needed a rebore, so I put a Yoshi 460 kit in." Lovely: hit my first ton shortly after joining the M4 slip road.

Unfortunately a car on the wrong side of the road meant it was written off in Cardiff - my pillion passenger surfed to safety on my back, wearing through my helmet visor and jacket. Never mind, my local dealer was keen to buy the wreckage for the 460 kit and engine to prep Richard Stevens bike for the F3 TT. It blew up...

But by then I had the F2 with Dunstall fairing pictured - Dunstall exhaust soon followed, and I must have done 20,000+ miles on that bike in all weathers: the regular commute to Cardiff during winter 1978 every Sunday night usually involved riding in darkness across the Severn Bridge footpath to save paying the toll. God, I got cold

Eventually it went for a GS750, but setting up home with my brother meant trading down to another 400/4. Oh, dear...after a 750 (never mind a bevel twin) it felt gutless as hell, but as in a blog passim Dixon Racing and Pops Yoshimura eventually sorted that out

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The L plate year

Ah, the irony of riding Pat Slinn's perfect C15 for Classic Bike when my C15 was built the same year: but there the similarities end. Mine was registered the day I was born, so was nearly 17 years old when I paid £60 for it. The combination of dubious parentage (the bike's) and doubtful mechanical talent(mine) was always going to end badly. Still, I loved the torque after a moped, and having mastered kick-starting it was fun to watch others try and fail. Often painfully.

But duff reliability meant missed bike tests and school, so my parents generously bought a second-hand Honda 125S for my 18th birthday. Non-original tank was courtesy of the previous owners crashes, but I soon added twisted bars and crooked front mudguard after overtaking a friend on an unknown road, and finishing up in a disgruntled (but nicely spoken) chap's front garden.

Test passed, I could barely afford to keep the 125 in petrol, but took it everywhere - including weekly commutes to Cardiff and Southampton. I holed the piston when an article in Motorcycle Mechanics told how to adjust the points, surely something that would allow an indicated 70mph (at the far side of the red line, ahem) but instead I buggered the timing and holed a piston. When I joined the merchant navy I sold it to my brother, who not appreciating the little Honda's taste for oil soon blew it up. Never mind, the 400/4 years beckoned

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

12 days of Christmas

In the words of David Byrne how did I get here? Christmas shopping done in an afternoon, I don't understand why folk say some people are hard to buy for. But then my obsession with obscure old motorcycles means that, like most old bikers, unless you know the path that brought them to their current condition, I guess you'll never get what they really want for Christmas. Sure, less miles on the clock and a bit less grey hair would be good but research proves reliving your past makes for a happier and healthier present. So over Christmas I'll post all the bikes I've had, and think about whether I'd like to own them again

First up's the ubiquitous 1970s peds from Puch. My step-mum can't drive, so experimented briefly with an old Puch Maxi. I was 15 and not really into bikes, but endless cycling to get around and a village full of bikers made me think...

Spring 75 saw me persuading my parents that if I moved into the caravan in the garden, I'd be better able to study for the looming O-levels: this of course was a cunning plan to allow me to spend the hours of darkness whizzing around the countryside on petrol "borrowed" from the lawnmower, before pushing the silent auto-ped back to the garage. No-one ever suspected a thing.

So when a 2-speed (hand change!) yellow peril Puch M2 was bought in a local auction for £35 I persuaded Dad to lend me the money ready for my 16th Birthday. I was working evenings and weekends in a garage for 50p an hour, so you do the maths. Spare time was spent polishing EAM135L (still the only numberplatre I can remember), listening to Elton John and Kiki Dee on the DLT show and waiting for summer.

Would I have it back? Oh yes, if kid brother hadn't bought it to trash on home-made jumps in the garden. Although the Puch could trace its roots back to a 1962 half-ped, half scooter thing Puch were first on the sports moped bandwagon and dressed up their pressed steel framed fifties into ever more convincing mini-bikes. Problem was by the time their "proper" sports mopeds arrived with a foot gear-shift the FS1-E had arrived, and brushed Puch aside.

But the summer of 1975 was fabulous, and as I buzzed along wearing just jeans and a red tee (like our Ride tees) despite wondering where mates with proper sports mopeds had gone, life seemed absolutely perfect.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Man, that's Rollie Free

Nothing to do with John Otway's bonkers hit That's really free, but the infamous swim-trunks run at Bonneville by Roland "Rollie" Free in the days before fitted leathers and aero ski-suits, mimicked by Adrian Palmer for his excellent new blog - Ducatista.

Cars vs. Bikes

This was big in the eighties - car vs. bike pieces, usually run (a)by magazines struggling with sales so trying to broaden the readership base and (b)by publishers who had car and bike titles so got a buy-one-get-one-free deal from hard working journos.

But what did they tell us? Bikes faster than cars? When the family go down to the in-laws I usually follow on a bike, but reality bites when their prep consists of closing the car door, while I spend ten minutes kitting up and fiddling with U-locks. And sure, traffic jams don't slow a bike much but then car drivers don't stop under bridges to put on waterproofs if it rains.

Truth is bikes - especially old, Italian bikes - are great fun, but comparing them to cars is pointless. In fact comparing them to each other seems dubious, because most of us are old enough to think for ourselves: this comparison malarkey just seems to be an obsession with auto-publishers. After all, have you ever seen a food magazine boasting "Pear tart or Cornish pasties? Read our 10 page special investigation."

Thought not.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Copy Kat

Ah, I knew it would turn up...an old photo album discovered while retrieving Christmas kit from the attic has led to a full on scanning session. Sadly negatives seem long gone and faded little Truprints aren't the ideal starting point, but needs must.
My brothers and I were Kat crazy - I was all set to buy a Hailwood Rep til Suzuki launched this icon: if the vino rosso hasn't destroyed my memory Kat's were the first Jap bikes with fairings and clip-ons - most folk hated them, because the look was still fringed black leather and sit-up-and-beg. But my lust was driven by the Street Racer look personified by the Italian superbikes, and riding as fast as I could (faster, occasionally, than I could...)

I had the 1000 slide-carb'd version bought at a £1000 discount - weird to think now that nobody wanted them. This is my brother's 1100, which got written off just south of Salisbury when his talent ran out over adverse camber. He's a police officer now, and married to the girl who was on the pillion when he crashed...

Monday, 13 December 2010

Fame Acadamy

Huge thanks to Ian Brambley for scanning these pics he took at pre-season practice at Hullavington (north west Wiltshire) back in '84. Two questions spring to mind - who is it? And what class might a roundcase 750SS be competitive in way back then (although the GSX-R and FZ750 were still a year away)? I don't think Battle of the Twins ever came down our way, and even by 1984 the roundcase SS was (dreaded word) collectable. Anyway, whoever it is he was clearly a hero of immaculate taste and style.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Space Cadet

This Ducati 100 just popped up on eBay, and the seller posts for info on what it might be...as someone obsessed enough with classic Italian bike to publish benzina here goes...

It's a 100 Cadet - a 7bhp stroker built from 1967 to '69: four speed, 52x46, chrome bore, 98cc, 55 mph. Had been preceded by a fan cooled three speed engine, succeeded by the pushrod 4-stroke Cadet 125 (which was the last ever pushrod Ducati) and the 100cc stroker Scrambler which was the last mass-produced 2-stroke Ducati (although the limited edition Six Day and Regolarita were a smidge later)

Tragic that I know, but then I still think the Cadet Scrambler (below) was a funkier thing that the mainstream Scrambler...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Pedal power

New years' resolutions start here - you'll want to loose the Turkey Tummy, and maybe you fancy a retro racing bicycle to help you

Vespamore photography took these fine photographs for Retrospective cycles, a classic scooter dealership that's just started importing period Italian racing cycles: prices seem fair, and you can see what you're getting - a huge improvement over the pot luck I took buying my old Bianchi

Monday, 6 December 2010

My type of Christmas present

Steve Jobs of Apple (hell, Steve Jobs IS Apple) was a college drop-out spellbound by calligraphy, and when he came up with the Mac and Ipod fonts were still as important to him as the technology. Nowadays, thanks to Jobs, every computer offers dozens of fonts yet we still hunger for more.

This is all courtesy of Simon Garfield's excellent new book Just my Type which is breezy yet factual, and even has jokes (Comic Sans walks into a bar - barman says "Sorry, we don't serve your type") - for a limited time you can read the first two chapters here

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Last chance Playboys

Can't believe I missed one of the best bits of petrolhead TV broadcast in years - well, I can because it was tucked away late on a Monday night, and padded a bit with the dreaded Max Clifford. But otherwise When Playboys Ruled the World surely deserved a prime-time slot or even DVD release. Featuring the parallel universes of Barry Sheene and James Hunt, their friendship, and uniquely paired 1976 Wold Championships (the only year Brits have won the top car and bike classes) there was also a feel for the revelry in the new cult of celebrity and the lack of concern for what the masses thought. Stirling Moss offers the insight that post race "We were chasing girls, today they're thanking Vodaphone", and Murray Walker's "it was a time when sex was safe and racing was dangerous" - during the Sheene/Hunt era over 20 F1 divers died, and 40 plus bike racers. Perfect TV, available until 15 December here

(or buy the B+W pic here)

Friday, 3 December 2010

The older we get, the faster we were

This is me, c1979. Moved into a flat, started an evening course, needed money. Sold a GS750, bought another Honda 400/4 and realised I was never going to keep up with home-boy mates still on 750s. So every spare penny went into the 400/4, because insuring it cost a third of a 750's premium, and tyres lasted twice as long.

This was its final incarnation. Built in a second floor flat, getting it back down the stairs was challenging...but worth it. 458cc Yoshimura pistons, R/T cam, 4-1 Yoshi pipe, lowered gearing, S+W fork springs, the list went on. Would ride round bigger bikes in corners, just about hang onto their coat tails in a straight line. Seem to remember the brakes were a bit iffy.

The Dixon racing catalogue recommended ignoring Soichiro's 8,500 redline and waiting until 11k+ for max power. Had a hell of an appetite for oil pressure switches, which I could change on the dealers forecourt in 10 minutes.

College done, I got a proper job and was back on a GS750 in no time. But I'd been cured of keeping bikes stock for good.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Christmas lists

Assuming Wikileaks haven't passed on your Christmas list already, it's time to make sure you get the stuff you want, especially if (like me) nobody else in the family has the slightest notion about bike stuff.

I've bemoaned the lack of decent bike boots before (and in Benzina #3) and ace lensman Ben Part was kind enough to recommend Bates Leathers who make these retro-raceboots, surely a snip at $250. Definitely on the list, and maybe even in red; what an old tart...

And I love Alpinestars ladies' boot. Even though my wife never goes near a bike. Just look at those laces - not too-tight, Josephine...

Monday, 29 November 2010

Congratulations - it's (V) twins

Say hello to Michael as he crosses the line at the end of the 1978 TT F1's race - and rebuilds his legend for a new generation

The CX500 propped up in the background is perhaps almost as significant. Honda provided these new V-twins for the TT Marshals, despite their racers in every class being inline fours. Back then Ducati, Guzzi and Morini were the lone V-twins in a decade that had seen the rise and rise of the multi. The CBX-6 and Z1300 were the cutting edge bikes. And then up pops the CX...

These days an inline multi's seen as the vanilla option; we want something a bit more interesting. The CX500 was a tacit admission by Honda that we're right; despite teething troubles the CX became a best-seller - if it had bombed, would Honda have built their V4s?

Friday, 26 November 2010

Rocket Man

Raymond Ainscoe is well known for his handy range of (mainly) self published books on Italian bikes, especially Gileras. I've just enjoyed the excellent Gilera and MV rivalry, but also got the Vostok racers volume. What an eye opener - bevel drive DOHC 125 racers in 1954, and a 500/4 that almost beat Ago and his MV. All from the people who gave me the Airfix kit I built so many years ago...

Best deal is to buy them from Raymond direct - they're UK post-free at £15 each (UK cheque payable to him) from 3 Mendip House Gardens, Curley Hill, Ilkley LS29 0DD.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Brass Monkey weather

While the UK freezes, the usual tosh on the origins of "It's cold enough to freeze the ball off a brass monkey" gets repeated again and again. But anyone with a passing interest in engineering will know the tale must be an urban myth.

(A recap if you've never heard this - the myth goes that the Royal Navy stored iron cannonballs in pyramids, retained by a brass triangle, called a monkey. In cold weather the brass contracts, and the cannonballs are squeezed out and roll away. This ignores the foolishness of storing cannonballs in a pyramid on the heaving deck of a ship - they were actually stored in holes in planks - and the fact that the coefficient of expansion of brass and iron are about the same)

In fact it seems the aiming handle on a cannon was often brass, and nicknamed a monkey, and the original phrase was probably "cold enough to freeze the tail off a brass monkey." The reference to balls appeared in the US around 1930. Damn uncouth, some of these Colonials

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

MV Triumph

Here's the new MV Agusta F3, the long overdue (and Harley Davidson funded!) middleweight from the Castiglionis. They say the three-cylinder, 675cc format is perfect for a sporting middleweight: Triumph must be flattered. Or something.
No specs or price, but I'd guess fast and expensive - which is how we like them...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


James Lee Burke Never give up. I believe that talent comes from a hand outside us and that it is given to us for a reason. Never let the naysayers get you down. Write one day at a time and write for one reason only, to make the world in some fashion a better place. Eventually every artist learns the following lesson: Take pride in rejection and excoriation. The boos always come from the cheap seats. You stay on that oldtime rock and roll and grin and walk the cannon smoke and let go of the world. It will drive your critics insane.

(I admit it - ex Simon Mayo's radio show - but still inspirational

Targa Florio truths

It took some time, but finally the truth's out about motorcycles and the
Targa Florio - with many thanks to Raymond Ainscoe and Gualtiero Repossi

It seems there was indeed a motorcycle race, run as a prelude to the Targa Florio's more famous Sicilian car race. But the Targa's founder, Vincenzo Florio, wasn't a huge bike fan  and so it didn't get pushed the way the car event did. The Italian factories didn't complain, because with most races and factories in the North of Italy getting to Sicily was a major undertaking. This could explain why BMW's flat twins had such success at the Florio in the late twenties - Germans were being encouraged to compete abroad, Mercedes were entering the Targa Florio, and BMW had just launched their first car. Turning up a week early made for handy extra practice laps in the cars, and the chance to show off BMW's bikes and engineering.

The bikes mostly ran the shorter Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie road course, that was gradually adopted by the cars. As the clouds of war gathered bikes and cars moved to a much-truncated track-based version of the Florio, the last event being held in 1940. The new  Gilera Saturno won the bike race, and Masserati took every single place in the car event.

The car race got going again in 1948, but bikes were never to return to the Targa Florio. That's a big shame, because while road-racing was banned in mainland Italy in 1957, the Sicilians refused to play ball and carried on until 1977 - racing GT40s, Alfa 33s and Ferrari 312s on mountain roads. Imagine an NCR Ducati or Laverda V6(!) in that mix...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Racing Blues

Bianchi’s trademark turquoise paintwork, celeste (pronounced chay-lay-stay), has as many myths surrounding it as any of the firm’s products. Celeste can mean “heavenly” in Italian (it’s the source of the English word celestial), but it can also mean sky-blue. Edoardo Bianchi claimed he chose the colour for his racers while “Teaching Queen Margherita the art of cycling,” to match the colour of her eyes.” If her peepers really were that bright a shade of blue-green, he’d certainly have noticed them.

Others say its colour of a Milanese sky, and the early racers were closer to a pale blue than the more recent, greenier, shade. The story runs that only one person was trusted to mix it, and as his eyesight faded, so the colour changed. Celeste was always reserved for the racers, including the post war Giro Tonales and the 500 grand prix twin - and of course Fausto Coppi’s all conquering bicycles. Not everyone likes the colour, and even Bianchi toyed with going over to red (as Ducati did) in the 1980s. But most Bianchi fans love celeste, even if some heretics say it's the colour of toothpaste.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Guzzi Cool

Love this, spotted at Fiction Fred. Might be just the thing now my knackered right knee and ancient bones makes the clip-ons and rear-sets thing ever harder to enjoy. Far cooler than a Harley, and being a Guz you know it will go on forever (as well as leak oil from the bell housing. And change gear very s-l-o-w-l-y...)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

End of an era

Thanks to one of TB's excellent photographers CJ for putting me right on France's love of speed - it's now illegal for French advertisers to associate a product with motorsport; so no ads with Sebastien Loeb for Citroën, no ads for Peugeot's sporty 908 concept, no ads with F1 for Renault.

Far cry from the days of the Joe Bar team

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Gentleman's Jota

Continuing IB's Laverda themed blogging: (this time from July 1984)

I was rather taken by the style of this RGA rider I snapped as he was departing our local pub.

Never underestimate the protective qualities of a well tailored English check shirt & a silk scarf. However, a note of caution to anyone thinking of emulating this look - sleeves should always be rolled up to reduce flappage & please absolutely no gloves. It would just look wrong.

(Hmmm, not sure about the gloves remark - they'd make an excellent Chr..oops, nealy said it.)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembrance Sunday

High flight, by John Gillespie Magee, Jr
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Cross dressing thug

I snapped this labour of love over at the TT races in 1983. Even back then the metal flake finish, white suede seat & chromed everything looked slightly, well slightly camp to be perfectly honest. But don't be fooled, this bike was like a cross-dressing thug with its turbocharged 1200 Mirage engine housed in a special (Harris?) frame. Love it or hate it you certainly couldn't ignore it on Mad Sunday!

Now my idea of a radical alteration for a Laverda would be limited to an ally tank & single seat so this is not really my tazza di tè, but I do like it. There, I've said it! Should I now expect a visit from the Benzina style polizia? Probably, but I don’t care I’m off out now to buy a set of Grab On grips for the Ducati..

(Welcome TB newbie IB)

Friday, 12 November 2010

Excess baggage

The In-laws are just back from a couple of weeks touring the Italian Lakes (hey, what about the grandkids' inheritance?) but didn't care for Lake Como. "Full of Germans," complain the generation who might have, um, issues, "And bikes," although they missed the Guzzi Museum (in fairness most do, with its random opening hours), they photo'd one of their fellow guests transport especially for me. The efforts of Bordi and Terblanche to make the SS a svelte and agile sportsbike are clearly lost on its owner; you can just imagine how the packing went ("pass that duvet, dear - there's still plenty of room in the left pannier.") Or is this first use of a motorcycle for human trafficking?

Teased by the dark side

This is what we want - a bit of teasing; as they say, a glimpse of stocking is something shocking, pumping blood much harder than the more obvious stuff. Taken by Vespamore photography it's a great example of what can be achieved by someone with a bit of imagination (and a love of film). I really like the way the pics use the background to add impact, as with the MV below

My mind's been focused by the endless trawl for pics for Benzina #4 , and again I've been struck by how few of us can't photograph a bike, me included. Bikes not quite in focus (but the rubbish behind pin-sharp of course) is often a digital camera being too clever for its own good, but just standing over a bike and snapping away produces work that is dull, dull, dull.

Vicki Smith's another great photographer, and what's really impressive is that most of it's shot on the run - at last year's Giro she was press-ganged into being the official snapper when the booked guy had to back out; Vicki still rode the event, and took photos good enough for Classic Bike to use. Damn, I wish I could take decent photos...