Saturday, 29 June 2013

My sort of traffic jam - Kawasaki Z1, Triton and Spitfire

Tried to get down to the  Chalke Valley history festival, especially as Saturday included the warbirds as part of the Chalke Valley air show . Sadly the long queue for the festival meant we didn't get in, but instead watched the Spitfires, Hurricane, Sopwith Triplane and more from a field, high above the show. So the traffic jam actually meant we had a better view than the show-goers. Perfect.

The approach lane was so narrow that bikes couldn't filter past the cars for much of the way in, which meant chatting to the owners of the Kawasaki Z900 and wideline/Thunderbird Triton below; if only all traffic jams were as entertaining.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Issue 11 is here, and just back from posting the first copies to the early-bird orders; thank you all. You can buy a copy by clicking here.

But that it has appeared at all might come as a surprise to those who were told issue 10 would be the final copy: Benzina had simply become too much work for a one man band. And then there was a wave of support, specifically from one subscriber: a graphic designer called Shaun Power.

Benzina #11 is a very different – and we think greatly improved – magazine. It’s now 100 pages of beautifully crafted matt paper in a unique 21x26cm (8.3×10 inches) size and, although the focus is still Italian motorcycles, we’ve introduced a little promiscuity, Like there’s a Honda in there. But when Gerald Davison (who ran Honda’s NR500 race team) started telling me the true story of the project (backed up by Ivar de Gier’s interview with the Japanese project leader) it was too good to let go. Basically most of what you thought you knew was wild guesses by journalists frustrated at Honda’s secrecy. The need to hide the truth might have been in part to hide the incompetence of the young aeronautical engineers drafted into the project. The policy was not to let anyone near the NR if they knew anything about motorcycles, in the hope of a blue-sky revolution. One example of this foolishness was a late night call from Japan telling the British mechanics to remove oil from the NR500 Ron Haslam as due to race – they’d discovered an extra 3bhp could be produced if the crank didn’t have so much oil to spin through at 23,000 rpm. What they hadn’t thought about was what would happen when Ron leaned the bike over; the feed was now above the oil level, and the NR blew up. Again.

Other issue 11 exclusives include the true stories of the Targa Florio Motociclista : plus – Laverda SCF750: Axel Budde on his Kaffeemaschines: Phil Schilling’s Ducati F3: Final part of the Ducati 860GTS project: The Moto Guzzi Le Mans that gave Yamaha the finger, plus the MGS-01: Mark Williams’ Running Out of Road: The art of posters, literature and poetry; and more. Buy it – you’ll love it

Friday, 21 June 2013

Taking tea with Bruce Springsteen

Snapped this couple, on the Ricoh Arena pitch, as Bruce Springsteen sang his heart out. They unfolded the picnic chairs, got out the Tupperware, and had supper as the other 40,000 people in the room watched the Boss. Surreal.

I never really enjoy Christmas, but last year it really was the longest day: Dr Girlie Nice-Smile bought tickets to see The Boss at the Ricoh on the Solstice. Plus a stay at a nice hotel nearby, full of middle aged couples squeezing into tee shirts and jeans to see if Bruce Springsteen has still got it at 63. And boy, has he. Looks like he still knows it and loves performing to boot. Pulled a request card from the audience with “Play anything” on it and held it aloft with a “I love you people!” Then spotting that the author had written “I’d look good playing your guitar” on the back, pulled her up to prove it.

Best bit for this fan (I fell, aged 15, for Born to Run: still play it – on vinyl – regularly, nearly 40 years after I bought the album) was when Mr S kicked into the title track and the reserved, middle class British audience finally got to their feet. A madman who’d been miming to the stands from the pitch finally hit overdrive - and then fell over. Then came 10th Avenue, then – unbelievably – She’s the One (at which point everyone seemed to check their smartphones; shame on them). And then the rest of Born to Run; every track. Over seven minutes of Thunder Road, and as Jungleland played out, I seemed to have something in my eye. Nothing from my second-favourite Springsteen album, Tunnel of Love, but then that’s about his breakup with the previous Mrs S, and maybe the lovely Patti Scialfa being on stage (the current Mrs S) had something to do with it; anyway, never mind. We all helped out with Hungry Heart, the quality of Springsteen’s passion carried clearly in Wrecking Ball, and the quality of his voice shone throughout. What a show, what a man. Three hours with nary a break. We went hope elated, and even after two hours queuing for a taxi, no-one complained. We could all die happy now, we’d seen The Boss at his best.

PS - Issue 11 of Benzina out this week; more soon

Monday, 3 June 2013

Kawasaki Z1A, Laverda Jota and the Air Ambulance

Don't Panic - it's not what you think. Saturday's
Teas and Cakes was overflow by the Wiltshire Air Ambulance - spooky; after all we only raised £33, so it can't have been the money. Truth is, it passes by regularly on the way south avoiding the military fly-zone of Salisbury Plain. Should have pooped in - Neil's lovely Z1A had even the Italophile's admiring it, and parked next to Jack's Jota it really did highlight two approaches to selling big, fast motorcycles. And once again the Morinis outnumbered everything: Chris's Sport was lovely, but frankly even Dr Girlie Nice-Smile liked Howard's Ducat 750GT best. Ridden a round trip of nearly 400 miles just to drop by and see us, it is a thing of beauty. Only wish I'd bought one when they were three grand. And if you need spares or extras Howard doesn't just ride Ducatis - he's also behind Disco Volante and Widecase, the eponymous Ducati singles’ site .

Enjoy the pix - next event is 6 July, just a £3 donation to the Air Ambulance getting you homemade tea and cakes, a chance to natter with like minded souls and a fine ride through Wiltshire countryside.