Famous Last Words

Old face returns

Life never stands still. Prolonged active life is good for puppies, budgies and ancient motorcyclists. Frank Westworth reflects upon being older than he was when he was younger. He is certainly no wiser... FRANK WESTWORTH

With wisdom, so they say, comes age. Or is it the other way around? Do we all learn with experience or do we instead continue to make and re-make the same mistakes, sometimes with impressive creativity, dedication and application?

Our 'steemed Editor is a gentleman with an interesting sense of humour. If this were not the case, you would not be reading these words. He wondered whether I might ponder upon how things have changed in the gritty world of the classic biker since the last time my words appeared regularly in the glittering pages of CBG. Which was ... pause ... a long time ago. Eight, maybe nine years? It's hard to remember, but I will try.

Back in 1990 or so, I felt that there was a need -nay, a demand! - for a down-to-earth old bike magazine to sit alongside the existing old bike magazines. The existing titles, or so I reasoned, were great if you could already distinguish between a Panther Model 100 and a Model 120 of the same year parked side-by-side, and if you could recite the lineage of the Norton single engine in all its forms from the morning Pa Norton first choked over his bowl of Victorian Corn Flakes and decided that he was going to build motorcycles.

It may have been Mrs Norton who choked, of course. Only Noted Experts know this kind of thing and the shiny old bike magazines all appeared to assume that their readers had that knowledge. I didn't - and neither did anyone I knew, although we all rode horrid old motorcycles.

I felt that the world needed - nay, demanded! - a magazine which would share with its trembling readers the mysterious secrets of how a chap could find, check out, buy, break, rebuild, break again, rebuild again, learn to loathe and finally hide in a damp place while he rode a new Honda ... exactly 'our' kind of motorcycle.

Wonderfully, my strange view found support in the elegant and lofty form of one Mark Williams, he who originally found fame by launching BIKE magazine, of which you may have heard. He published an unrecognisable version of this odd notion and promptly sold the whole business, rushing off into a strange world of high-flyers and dirt bikes in Wales. Each to their own.

The next several versions of CBG were produced by the equally lofty and possibly equally elegant Steven Myatt, he who originally found fame by launching Back Street Heroes magazine, of which you may have heard. That is quite enough of that historical nonsense. CBG is a bike magazine, not a guide to the idiocies and vanities of the publishing world.

When I penned my very first piece for that very first CBG I was preoccupied with one big question (apart from whether anyone would actually punt out a few pennies to buy the thing). Would Norton get around to selling me a new motorcycle? Nortons were plainly the best machines ever and I wanted a new one. The new rotary models were better than the best and I deserved a new one. I bought one.

In a fine twist of irony, my preoccupation throughout the whole of 2010 was the same. Would Norton get around to selling me a new motorcycle? The new pushrod twins were plainly the best machines ever and I deserved a new one. I bought one.

So. What has changed? Nothing and everything. We all look older. None of us feel older. We all intend to ride our ancient leaky clattering antiquated motorbicycles everywhere everyday and at top speed. We fail to do this. Nothing new there then. The shiny old bike magazines now assume that we can all tell a GPz750 from a GPZ750 at a thousand paces and in the dark. I still cannot do this. However, in the past couple of decades since that original blotchy copy of CBG failed to stun an indifferent world, I have apparently somehow become a Noted Expert. I apparently know lots about lots. The learning process has been - and remains - a lot of fun. Editor permitting, I shall share some of it with you in the months to come.

Famous last words, of course...


Frank Westworth was the original editor of this very magazine. Before that he produced another magazine, and before that he enjoyed a real job. He has also produced all sorts of other publications, occasionally successfully, and was briefly a faintly serious publishing person. No more. These days he claims to edit RealClassic magazine, and rides a lot of strange motorcycles, usually Nortons, often with strange Wankel engines. Not to be trusted...


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