It was a Puch VZ50 in bright yellow, which could manage 38mph flat out. After a decade of pedal power it seemed blindingly fast. No CBT or compulsory training, of course – the examiner had stood on a Dorchester street corner and watched me wobble round the block. I remember braking on gravel on the Puch, and repenting at leisure, but I was never seriously hurt. For that I probably have to thank the RAC/ACU training scheme, in which a bunch of unpaid volunteers attempted to instil some road sense into wobbly novices. They did it to keep new riders safe and motorcycling thriving, and I’ve never said thank you. So, thank you.
My employment at Haynes Publishing offered the opportunity to waste larger amounts of cash, and I did so on an ex-police Norton Interpol, the rotary-engined bike that a few forces bought in the 1980s. Actually ‘waste’ is unfair, because the Norton was a unique experience that I wouldn’t have missed for anything, though it had some odd habits. All this time, cars came and went in the background. An Austin Maxi for a while, and at least two Imps – my brother and I wrote The Inside Story of the Hillman Imp, published in 1987 – but I was never without a bike.
Redundancy led to a job with Diesel Car magazine. I’d never intended to become a journalist, but it all worked out alright. The salary was rock bottom, but I began writing books with photographer Andrew Morland, mostly about bikes or tractors. Best of all, my company transport was an Enfield Robin diesel, which I bought when I left the magazine and still own today. It cruises at 50-55mph (hitting 65-ish on the proverbial downhill), will plonk away happily all day, and gives 170-200mpg. Owning the Enfield came with an increasing awareness that we live on a planet of finite resources, and our profligate habits have got to change – the diesel is fun at 50mph and 200mpg.
I’d been an on-off reader of the old Motorcycle Sport magazine for a while, so the chance to take over as editor in 1996 was too good an opportunity to turn down. They were great days, commuting down to Cornwall every week, and riding everything from scooters to Goldwings. I went through a bit of a feet-forward scooter phase before buying an ex-road test Honda Transalp, and finally the Suzuki Gladius that’s in the garage as I write this, now approaching 50,000 miles on the clock and still going strong.
My involvement in the ill-fated Motorcycle Voyager magazine lasted until its collapse, and I’ve since learnt as a freelance writer not to put all my eggs in one basket, instead tapping out articles for magazines at home and abroad for a range of publishers. Meanwhile, the book list keeps growing, and last time I counted it was up to 50, with a good proportion of them published by Veloce. Keep buying them, and I’ll keep writing them.
Click here to view all Veloce books by Peter Henshaw.