My motoring profile is nothing unusual. As I have always lived on a farm. I passed my car test, third time lucky in 1983 as I had got too cocky and picked up bad habits with the tractors and Land Rovers around the fields. Change of instructor after 2nd failure soon remedied that. Thoughts on motorbikes were virtually zero other than Dad had had a Royal Enfield Model G for commuting to college and grandfather an early Norton, four wheel Quads were part of the farm outfit but treated with caution as they really don't turn as you would hope when on a wet grassy slope (as in turn over!).
James Seller - Buyer Aware
Southern Section diary
Southern Section diary
Motorcycling was in the genes with grandfather on his 1926 Norton and father on his Enfield
Now my wife, Helen, was a different matter. She started on a Honda C70 and was happy until she was nearly taken out by a purple Ford Escort. Next day there was an Austin 1100 on the drive as her Dad was in the Motor trade. So that was the end of bikes.
For some reason in her 40's however, the words ‘Harley Davidson’ started occurring in conversation. Now, this foolishness was quashed by all who knew better. However, some magazine or other had been perused and the words BMW F800GT were now being uttered instead. A little more determination then ensued and a trip to Chandlers BMW at Portslade was organised to which, deciding I wasn't going to be left at home, I enquired pillion or side car? "Get your own licence!" was the reply.
So, CBT booked, off we went to Chandlers and the first visit to Andrew Steele's office. " Come into my office" has since been recorded as the warning of another expensive visit and not taken lightly.
The deal was done and an F800GT was purchased in metallic orange. Since then Helen has suffered from the handle ‘Tango’. I also bought an ex demo F800ST in black. On reflection, I preferred the BMW blue, so when I next saw my bike, the plastic off another, demo bike, had been swapped over.
As far as Chandlers were concerned, colour was not going to lose the deal! There was still a problem though, no licence, no insurance, even for it to sit in the garage. So, the bike sat in Chandlers store from March till July instead.
I passed my test on one of hottest days of the year down at Lee-On-Solent. Over 90F and wearing what had been correctly bought, winter biking gear. Just as a warning to anyone else thinking of taking their test in this area, next door is the Coastguard helicopter base and the Navy helicopter service contractor is located at the other end of the base. So, you’ll need to be prepared to have a Navy Sea King helicopter doing its hover test within a couple hundred feet of your own Riding Test, because they share fire crews. I have to say though, taking a driving test, 30 years after the first one, was one of best things I have ever done.
My success lead to two BMW bikes nervously following each other around Sussex and Hampshire, me mainly in the front, as I can read maps. You do end up where you have never been before you started biking and this is how we discovered so many places to have breakfast. Sunday morning is now our "Me and the Bike Time".
At this stage we were caravaners, because of the flexibility it gave us. In 2014 we found a quiet campsite at Lytchett Maltravers, near Poole, where we could store the caravan during the summer. For two years we had a wonderful time discovering Dorset and beyond, biking down on a Saturday afternoon/evening and staying for the rest of the weekend.
The F800ST was a fantastic bike for me to gain confidence, used most days to check out-lying cattle fields. I must have been an odd sight ambling around fields in biker kit! However, I am 6ft 2 and rather big for an 800. Wind on my helmet was a bother even with an after-market screen So, November 2013 saw us off to the NEC to look at the future for me in biking.
The BMW R1200R classic caught my eye, even though at that stage I hadn't even finally decided on which brand I wanted. After all I had talked to Helen about Harleys and I quite fancied trying an Indian but Helen wasn't having it. I did also try one or two sportier bikes, like the Honda VFR, but hell, my back. I am just not made for them. On our tour, we bumped into the BMW Club stand manned by members of the Irish Section. What a great bunch and we joined up there and then.
So that was it. I was on the hunt for a sensibly priced R1200R classic having had a test ride at Vines. I mentioned my thoughts to Martin at Chandlers while my 800 was being serviced. Andrew then appeared and took me out to the bike store upstairs. There it was. An immaculate, 2 owner, 1200R classic with all the extras, that had never been collected by its Welsh buyer and was now back for sale. "Come into my office " said Andrew....Deal done.
BMW F800GT - in blue!
James with the R1200RLC
"Come into my office...." R1200R
What a good-looking bike in its German two-tone black and white livery with wire wheels, and the gentle power. Just right for my first Big bike. It was on this bike I got to know the Southern Section on ride outs, trips down to Chandlers Ford natter nights, and our first National at Sparsholt College.
Both Helen and I, by 2015, felt that our riding development was starting to stall and we were not getting the best out of our bikes. So we were back to Chandlers where WSAM advanced motorcycle group also met up. Both of us passed our advanced test by the end of the year, our 2015 project. Oh my, biking just gets so much better when you really know how to use your bike safely on the road.
Spring 2016, and Chandlers had their bike launch with Charlie Boorman. What a nice man to meet and what a showman. The water cooled R1200R was being launched, a totally new bike but keeping faithful to the old girl. ‘Wouldn't harm having a test ride as it was on offer’, I thought. What an improvement, Wow! "Come into my office " said Andrew. He just makes it feel so painless opening your wallet.
By now, because of the BMW Club, our biking was extending way beyond our Sunday mornings and, especially, after a superb weekend organised by ex-Southern Section members the Williamsons in Abergavenny, a problem that I had been trying to ignore just would not go away. Anything over 1 ½ hours and I got terrible cramp behind my knees because of my long legs and the position of the pegs. This was increasingly becoming a problem while enjoying what the club had to offer. Helen had moved up to a S1000R which was a bit more nifty than the Boxer, as well. So I bit the bullet and tried the S1000XR. Oh! my again! Riding in comfort without buying an armchair. No cramp or rarely even a sore bum. I had finally found my bike. Again "Come into my office" and BMW had made another sale.
Chandlers's favourite customers!
My biking journey has been short and steep, but as an all-consuming hobby worth every expensive penny. The Southern Section has reinforced the joy of the brand and given us a great bunch of new friends. Like any other club, you get out of it relative to what you put in. So organising ride outs and weekends has added to the fun and we have swapped the caravan for an eight year old motorhome which means we can tow the bikes around with us.