It's probably one of the most versatile bikes yet made. It's also practical, sensible, economical and if you can't have fun on it then you must be dead.Just for a flavour of the times, the issue also contained test of the Russian-built Ural 650 (complete with pictures of Roland Brown in a trenchcoat and a fur hat with pretend machine-gun), and the new hotshot race-replicas, the Suzuki RG500 Gamma and the Honda NS400R. There are also adverts for Allspeed exhausts, Koni Dial-A-Ride shocks and Tommaselli controls. Remember them?
But the article that interested me most was an interview with the Rt Hon Henry Bellingham, MP. At the time, Bellingham had been an MP for just two years and was yet to make his mark. But he had an interest in setting up an all-party group of MPs to represent motorcycling interests, and this is what interested the good hippies of Bike. Bellingham (Eton and The Guards, Magdalene, Inner Temple) was MP for North West Norfolk. He lost his seat in the Labour landslide of 1997, but regained the seat in 2002, retained it in 2005, and again with an increased majority in 2010. The peak of his career seems to have been Shadow Minister for Trade and Industry, back in 2002.
I can't find a contemporary image of Bellingham from 1985, but the above recent pic is remarkable, in that the guy has hardly changed at all in 26 years. Colour the hair black, and you have the pic from Bike. The tilt of the head, the hairstyle, the facial expression - all identical. The only real difference is in the clothes: Bellingham 2011 wears a decent suit, whereas the man from 1985 is dressed in a huge, long, double-breasted pinstriped jacket that hangs on him like an overcoat. He really looks like one of Monty Python's Upper-Class Twits. Bike was run at the time by a bunch of anti-establishment ex-hippies; Mark Williams was long gone, but Roger Willis was in the editor's chair, and the tone of the magazine was still slightly in the Oz/International Times mood, full of "zorsts" and "Crazy Crankin' Capers" and "Hot-poop Stories". So it was quite a surprise that the interview with Bellingham was positive and sympathetic.
There isn't a single fleck of foam on his lapel and there's not even anything weird about his handshake. He doesn't own a British motorcycle - there's only one Trident in his life - and never has. Yet he does support MAG, albeit with 'common sense' reservations, and is the prime mover in MAG's declared ambition of setting up an all-party group of MPs to represent the interests of motorcyclists. Why this is a Good Thing we'll come to in a minute, but why should a non-biking MP from the party of Law'n'Order concern himself with the interests of motorcyclists who have often enjoyed a less than, er, orderly or law-abiding public reputation? Bellingham says he was approached by riders within his own constituency of Norwich who simply didn't conform to the stereotype: "I was impressed by their intelligence, enthusiasm and manifestly reasonable and sensible attitude, and was persuaded that motorcyclists have not had a very fair deal over the years. Conservatives also stand for the freedom of the individual and there is an increasing lobby of conservationists, road safety groups and environmentalists - mostly older people - who threaten that freedom for motorcyclists, who by and large are a much younger group."Nothing changes, really - except for the ages. Nowadays, it's the motorcyclists who are the older group, and the enviro-loonies are the youngsters. But the battle lines haven't really altered. Personal freedom versus those who wish us to live an approved lifestyle. Their approved lifestyle.
And I don't think anyone could say "Conservatives also stand for the freedom of the individual" these days without bursting out laughing. That was then; this is now.
Convinve me I am wrong. Tell me that all the CCTV cameras and body scanners have been mothballed; that the drinking and smoking and diet quangos and advisers and champions have been wound up; that the dole queues are full of diversity co-ordinators and LGBT issues officers; that BT no longer keeps records of my emails and browsing habits and will no longer let the Government have a sneaky look if it asks nicely; that my personal details held by DVLA are not for sale to every bandit 'parking enforcement' company in the land; that my Parliament is supreme once again and that we can make our own laws to suit ourselves and our priorities.
Thanks to commenter Brian for unmuddling my dates. Now corrected.