Thanks for agreeing to the interview Steve. Can you give our readers some background into what you do when you’re not out riding?
It might not be popular, but someone has to do it. I’m a Police Officer in London, which in the current climate means I have very little spare time. But when I do have those rare days off I’m almost always out on the bike, whether it be a short run out for breakfast or packing the bike up and disappearing for a couple of days.
How long have you been into motorbikes?
Pretty much as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved bikes, from watching CHiPs as a youngster. When I was about 8 years old I managed to persuade my uncle to take me pillion on his Honda Silver Wing, and after that I was hooked. Me and a couple of mates built a bike from bits in our early teens and used to ride it cross country around local woods and fields. Mind you, it certainly wasn’t road legal or comfortable. It had no seat, no brakes and no exhaust, and I wonder why my hearing is on its way out. Then, I was on a 50cc as soon as I could legally get on the road, and my love for bikes has grown from there.
Do you currently ride a motorbike and if so what kind of model is it?
My bike at the moment is a Harley Davidson Electra Glide. I suppose it’s my dream bike, and perfectly suits what I use a bike for these days. It was always my retirement plan, but I lost a few mates to illness and it was the wakeup call that I may never retire, so I decided to live life for today.
What kind of motorbike have you owned in the past?
I’ve had a really eclectic bunch of bikes over the years. I had a little 50’s as a teenager and then moved up to 125’s and 350’s, which were mainly naked street bikes. Then, I moved onto fully faired 600 sports bikes, which were closely followed by 1000cc supersports.
As I got older, I wanted to ride further on the bike, so I bought my first ever brand new bike, a Honda CBR1100 Super Blackbird. Unfortunately, a few years later I had a really bad accident, which saw me being put back together. Not being put off though, I took another step up and bought a Yamaha FJR 1300 tourer. This was the turning point where me and Mrs P started covering some proper touring miles, and I stopped commuting on the bike. The current bike came a few years after the FJR. And to be honest, I’ve done more miles on the Harley than any other bike, easily averaging 12000 a year.
With the proposed ban of diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040, how do you think that will affect the motorbike industry?
I have to be honest, this was probably one of the most ridiculous statements I’d ever heard from a politician. In my opinion, there is no way that this country would be ready to have the infrastructure or the technology to make this a viable law, even in 23 years.
That being said, from what I have read in the press, it’s already starting to have an effect, with some manufacturers already looking to pull out of the UK as they feel there is no market for bikes and I’m inclined to agree with them. Even if this law is delayed, just the mention of it is enough to do some severe damage to the motorcycle industry in the UK. It’s an awful idea to have a full ban, and I think only bad things will come of it.
Do you think commuting to work on a motorbike is easier than driving a car?
Definitely! For ten years I commuted 100 miles a day on the bike, rain/shine/snow and ice. It wasn’t always comfortable, but it was certainly quicker. I work in London and live 50 miles outside, so you can imagine the traffic at certain times of the day.
I very quickly learned the skills needed to stay safe around London on a bike. However, I no longer commute on the bike unless I really have to, and the main reason for that is the standard of driving in central London is now so bad, it’s really dangerous for bikers. I was knocked off three times in six months whilst riding in central London. Two of those I was stationary, which proves how vulnerable you are when drivers stop looking for or seeing bikes.
What was the best road trip you’ve been on with your bike?
There have been so many over the years, but last year I rode down to Florence in Italy with Mrs P and a few mates. It was a two week trip taking in France, Germany, the Black Forest, Austria, the Alps, the Italian lakes and Florence before heading back through Belgium and back to Blighty. It was an absolutely fantastic trip that I wrote a mini article on which is published in the Inside Bikes Magazine. There have been so many, and I have to admit, I’ve visited so many places and seen so many things that would never have happened if I hadn’t have been on two wheels.
What do you think of the rising number of motorbike thefts in the UK?
Bike thefts have always been an issue, but I think at the moment they are being stolen by gangs to commit more crime. The worst part is, and I speak from experience, the police have their hands tied by politicians as what they can do with criminals on bikes.
There aren’t many ways to stop a sports bike other than to knock the rider off. However, as the law stands, if the criminal on the bike gets injured as a result of being knocked off, it’s the police officer who risks going to prison and not the criminal. The gangs carrying out these bike thefts are all too aware of this and use it to their advantage. Even getting to a call of a bike being stolen is difficult for police. Without getting too political, there are less police out there than there were in the 70s and a population 10 times larger in the UK than the 70s.
In essence, more police and backing from the government will help curb this trend, especially as bolting your ride to the floor with a huge lock won’t deter the thieves. Locks and alarms all help, but will never stop it, only deter it.
Do you have any crucial safety tips for new motorbike riders?
Wear some decent gear for starters. Trainers or flip flops and shorts don’t provide much protection. Decent gloves and boots along with leather or good Kevlar denim are your best bet. Also listen to more experienced riders, as they will have made a lot of mistakes and learned from them. Take their experience on board and it might just help to keep you upright and in one piece.
I would also recommend some further training. A minimum of BikeSafe, as this will point out mistakes you might be making (we all make them), but something with the Institute of Advanced Motorists will seriously improve your riding. You will be able to go faster and be safer doing so. Reading bends and limit points is a skill that will make your riding smoother as well. A tip I gave my son when he first started riding was “Assume everyone else on the road is a bad driver and hasn’t seen you.” So far the advice seems to have worked for him.
Do you believe there was ever a ‘golden era’ for motorbikes and if so, when do you think it was?
Not necessarily a golden era. I think every generation makes bikes their own, and does something different with them. Biking seems to be more popular than ever at the moment. But looking back before my time, I love the old classic Brit bikes as they had great lines and fantastic engineering. But like I said, enjoy this era, get out and ride whatever you choose to ride.