It's the time of the year when many moto bloggers traditionally review the previous 12 months. For me, it was a significant time for several reasons - stopping motorcycling and meeting some people for the first time that I'd corresponded with for well over a decade to name but a couple of things. I've noted some items which had the greatest personal impact, accompanied by previously unpublished photos where appropriate.
Retirement as an Examiner with the Institute of Advanced Motorists was on 1st January 2022 after joining in early 2011. My standard of riding when first joining fell woefully short of the UK Police Roadcraft standard which was used to assess my skills at that time. The Chief Examiner called them "Opportunities for Improvement". He was right, but he could have said that I was crap and put myself at risk - I wouldn't have been offended as that's what joining was for. Passing my Advanced Test, then the Observer (mentor/instructor) Test and finally becoming an Examiner over those years were all something I didn't think I was capable of. Awarded Life Membership of IAM in 2021 which still doesn't sit particularly comfortably. Being able to pass those skills on to others gave enormous satisfaction and has also enabled me to safely extend my driving as I age - all part of the plan. No downside at all. I still find myself assessing other road users which is a useful way of staying safe. Unless of course, it's a loved one. In that case, better to keep one's mouth shut or risk death.
Near as dammit to 58 years since riding my first motorcycle. During that time, I'd done tons of road riding, successfully campaigned a drag bike, enjoyed some track days, done some trail riding and raised my personal riding competence. Still loved riding but there was nothing new I wanted to achieve. For some years, I'd had highly productive discussions with Australian moto blogger Jules Pearce of Tarsnakes fame and eminent American motorcycle safety author David Hough about the ageing motorcyclist and appropriate strategies. Approaching 75, I decided to retire from motorcycling whilst near the top of my game, rather than being forced to by declining health or competence. All the planning over the previous decade made the decision surprisingly easy. It might have been different if motorcycling was the only passion but I had some strong fallback interests to build on plus a new one in the wings, so to speak.
In early March, the KTM was advertised for sale and I was amazed at the considerable positive demand. The first caller was the owner of a motorcycle business I'd used to service my bikes for decades. International supply chain issues were impacting on their ability to procure bikes for sale. He offered what I was asking and the deal was done. That last ride to the dealer was unsentimental, probably because of all the preparatory thinking and planning for retirement over multiple years. All done and onto the next stage of life. Well, I still have my riding gear, helmet, comms units and so on to get rid of but no urgency!
With the bike gone, it was time to put some effort into the maintenance of our 1972 MGB GT. Overall, it was in superb condition but the twin SU carbs were showing their age. They were sent to an Auckland classic car specialist for a full rebuild.
The rebuild was a tad over NZ$1000 - would it be value for money? The difference was like night and day! Much easier to start and heaps more bottom end and mid-range power - great result!
A nice photo opportunity also presented itself. My mate Paul had successfully bid on a 1971 Seeley G50 Matchless ultra lightweight racebike being auctioned online by Bonhams in the UK during the pandemic. It had been raced by well-known UK rider Dave Croxford. Shipping delays and then having it restored in NZ meant that he had only recently taken delivery of the finished bike. Here's a photo of Paul's 51 year old Seeley Matchless alongside our 50 year old MGB GT.
Good weather offered Jennie and I the chance for some fishing from our runabout and we were able to re-stock the freezer with some nice snapper. Honours were even for a change, even though she traditionally catches more. Gracious about it? No way!
I'd procrastinated for decades about having a couple of watches restored which sat at the bottom of a drawer. One was an Omega wristwatch owned since I was 21. The other was a pocket watch and chain given to me by my maternal grandfather. Time to spring into action as we'd recently discovered an elderly watchmaker who was prepared to restore them. There was quite an international search to find parts which were no longer manufactured but finally, they were both ready. Collection was surprisingly emotional because of the memories associated with them. Wonderful how inanimate objects trigger forgotten memories eh? An unexpected surprise was the valuation which the watchmaker put on them. Quite a shock actually and they'll be heirloom items for our adult kids. Hopefully, not for a good many years!
In March, I ordered an e-mountain bike which was delayed due to international supply chain issues. Ordinary cycling (at least to this old geezer) is a challenge on the Coromandel Peninsula as there's stuff-all flat land near us. Getting an e-mountain bike would give access to the many off-road trails and help to maintain my fitness. Not everything went to plan though. Although fairly proficient on the dirt, I displayed stunning incompetence on our property. Returning from a ride and catching a shoelace on a serrated pedal right outside our garage saw me hit the deck and break a rib - bugger! No sympathy from Jennie, ego damage for me and no riding for a few weeks.
July saw both high and low achievements. The high was very high - our Golden (50th) wedding anniversary. Still can't believe what a lucky guy I am, not least for Jennie's tolerance and our 3 wonderful adult kids who have clearly inherited their mother's brains and looks.
The day after our anniversary celebration lunch with friends and neighbours, I tested positive for Covid and Jennie tested positive the following day. Apparently, we'd picked it up at a pub quiz a few days beforehand. Embarrassingly, about half the people attending the lunch became infected but fortunately, none of us were seriously affected. We had to cancel celebrations with our family scheduled for the following weekend but were able to hold them shortly afterwards. Much of August was spent taking it fairly easy, recovering from Covid and my damaged rib before tackling anything too strenuous.
It is 60 years since the MGB was first manufactured and there were international celebrations to mark the occasion. We drove to Auckland to take part in a gathering of around 100 cars, representing virtually every year and model type. A great day.
I also belong to an international MG internet forum and was told that a photo of our car had been selected for their 2023 MGB calendar, October to be precise. An unexpected and humbling result. This is the photo they chose.
Three notable events this month. The first was that I turned 75 - eek... 3/4 of a century! I guess you're as young as you feel. Jennie once said that it was like living with a 5 year old but I don't think she was referring to youthful looks! I'm just glad that we both enjoy pretty good health and are still active. Also associated with my birthday was a present from my closest friend, Rick in the UK. We'd grown up on motorcycles and Rick is also a classic car owner. He'd managed to find a genuine service and repair manual issued to dealerships for our MGB. So much better than the Haynes manuals in every respect and I was extremely moved to receive such a rare and useful gift.
The other noteworthy event was meeting someone from the UK for the first time whom I'd corresponded with for over a decade. A keen motorcyclist, Roy Blunt had been a spectator at drag race meetings back in the 60's which I'd competed in. After coming across the blog, he got in touch and we'd corresponded ever since. Roy and his wife Dawn are classic car enthusiasts, owning a Hillman Imp and a Triumph Spitfire. Covid disrupted their plans to tour NZ but this year, they finally managed an organised tour of Australia and NZ. There was a narrow window in their schedule which allowed us to get together for a few hours mid-point between Coromandel and Auckland, thanks to a member of the NZ Hillman Car Club, Brian Baylis. Brian drove them to the meeting point in his classic Sunbeam Rapier and we all hit it off together with much laughter and irreverence. Wonderful that we'd finally been able to meet and get along so well.
A while back, Roy sent me a photo of him sitting on a supercharged Hillman Imp-engined drag bike called Impulse. I knew the original owner from competing at the same meetings. Impulse held a number of records back in the 60's and has recently been restored to its former glory by new owners. Here it is:
Cycling on the e-mountain bike has been a lot of fun, giving access to a lot of out of the way places and keeping me fit, progressively using less power assistance. Despite the enforced layoff due to a broken rib, Covid and a horrendously wet winter; I racked up over 1000 km since the purchase in June. Farkle purchase has been limited to higher quality pedals and a carbon fibre drink holder (just 'cos it looks cool) but need some better cycling shoes for longer rides over summer.
Everything seems to have happened in December! We celebrated Jennie's 75th birthday which has stopped her calling me "Old Man" since my 75th in October. Whilst on the classic car theme, here's a photo taken in 1971 with her first car, a Morris Minor. Wonder if it's still about? Probably not, given winter salt on the roads in the UK.
We spent the Christmas period in Australia with our daughter and her husband. Video calls excluded, we hadn't seen them for 18 months so it was a special reunion. Visiting a wildlife sanctuary north east of Melbourne, I had a close encounter with a wedge-tailed eagle. These are seriously big birds with a wingspan of up to 2.8 metres. Trying to take a photo whilst it was approaching a tree perch right behind me, it actually brushed my hat. Seeing huge talons and a large beak at that range is something best avoided but got a cool shot!
One of the "must do" summer events is to attend the Boxing Day international cricket test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, aka the MCG or "The G". Australia was playing South Africa and with nearly 69,000 spectators, it was quite an occasion. On the downside, the heat was brutal and despite all normal precautions, I felt rather seedy that night. However, a spectacle not to be missed.
One genuine privilege of our visit to Australia was meeting another moto-blogger in person for the first time. Jules Pearce writes the Tarsnakes blog and rides a wicked Kawasaki ZX (ZZR)1400. We've corresponded for well over a decade and as mentioned earlier, we had some very productive sessions with US motorcycle safety author David Hough on strategies for the ageing rider. Jules has also done some motorcycle trips in NZ but we've never met in person......... until now.
The day before flying back to NZ, Jennie, daughter Victoria and I booked a ferry trip across Port Phillip Bay to Jules' home city of Geelong. What a wonderful day it turned out to be. Spectacular weather, a great ferry trip and finally meeting Jules. A lovely lunch all together, then Jules and I sat under a palm tree and set the world to rights whilst the girls went into town. It was like we'd known each other forever, with relaxed, delightful conversation and was over far too quickly in order to return to Melbourne. Jules, thanks for a very special day mate and there will be good food, a comfy bed and dodgy company whenever you cross the Ditch!
So that concludes the year. Fifty eight years of motorcycling now over, no regrets and lots of other interests to look forward to over the coming years. Meeting old friends in person for the first time, celebrating a special anniversary, catching up with family and more besides. Hasn't been a bad year, despite all the international doom and gloom.
Looking over what I've written and despite the deeply unpleasant things which are happening in the world, it's still possible to have a positive spin on life and try to pay it forward and help others. I wish everyone who reads this blog a wonderful and safe 2023. May it be the light at the end of the tunnel!