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I have been writing a column for the French magazine Café Racer for over a decade. When I remember, I post some of them on this blog. I changed the format a while ago, to Love & Hate. I cover something I love and something I hate in motorcycling. In truth, I don't hate much, but 'Love & Mildly Irritated By' isn't a snappy title. GI (Photo: Triumph)



I watched a man being tattooed the other day, just for a few seconds, it’s not a new hobby of mine. The tattoo was on the inside of his left bicep, a tender area, from the look on his face. The tattoo was of a motorcycle. The artist was skilled enough that in the brief moments I was gawking I could recognise the make and model of the bike in an instant – a Triumph Bonneville Bobber from Hinckley’s current range.

I don’t have any tattoos, but I get the gist of the transaction. Bear with me if you’re carrying your own permanent illustrations and know the process inside out. As I understand it, the client either chooses art that the tattooist has designed, or arrives with a specific design or idea. Right? Unless they are freestyling it, the tattoo artist often makes a drawing of the tattoo on a paper-like material that they use to deposit an outline on the client’s skin to help guarantee some kind of accuracy. Right? Then they trace the design with gun and indelible ink.

I mention this because there are a few steps when the man I witnessed being tattooed could have said, ‘You know the EU-mandated rear light and number plate hanger that everyone, from the bike’s designers down, absolutely hates? Yeah, leave that off the tattoo, please. Let’s give it a neat tail tidy, the kind that positions the license plate right under the tail light, like it was supposed to.’

Yes, he could have said that. But he didn’t, so forever more (or until he goes through the apocalyptically painful process of tattoo removal) that number plate hanger remains. And that leads us to the point of this column. The Triumph Bobber is, I’m told by journalists who test hundreds of bikes every year, a great-handling machine. Triumph don’t build bad or unreliable motorcycles, so it will do the job it was designed to do for decades. No doubt. But the Bobber is a nothing bike. It’s a range filler. A fashionable box ticker. It wisely uses an existing engine in a new chassis, to tot up a few more sales.

It’s the kind of bike that stays on the roster for a few years, until sales diminish to the point it is dropped from the range and no one really notices, or at that point, cares. Not every bike has to be beautiful, era-defining or unique, and there is nothing original or groundbreaking about the Bobber. Even its name. In fact, especially its name. Yet, this man loves it so much he chose to have a side profile of it tattooed across the length of his upper arm. I, for one, love that commitment.

People get all sorts of the weirdest art tattooed on them nowadays, but this guy didn’t choose the 2022 Bobber for laughs. He has a huge sense of devotion and emotion linked to the bike. He could have chosen any production, custom or even imaginary bike from the last 120 years. And he chose the Bobber! I honestly wouldn’t make room in my garage for one if I was given it for free. Perhaps he thinks the same of the bikes I own and love. No, of course he doesn’t. He’d give his left testicle for any of my arsenal of custom-framed specials.

What I’m celebrating here is the feeling of love and commitment that a mass-produced two-wheeler, created by a marketing department (the majority of whom are probably working for another company in another industry by now) can instil in a man. I didn’t know Bobber Tattoo Man, or particularly feel I wanted to, but surely he’s going to trade that bike in for a newer model in two or three years. It’s just that kind of bike. And he’ll be left with that tattoo. Thirty years from now he’ll be blind to it, just another tattoo on his sagging 70-year-old body, but one day, when he’s combing what’s left of his hair, he’ll glance at it in the mirror and remember the time he rode to that nice café on it. And the other time he went to the local bike night on it. And that time his sister put her baby on it for the photo. And… Then he’ll wonder why the fuck he got a Triumph Bonneville Bobber tattooed on his arm.

Motorcycles, we love them so much that they make us do dumb things.



Moto Guzzi has just launched their first liquid-cooled V-twin, the V100 Mandello, and it looks great. It’s a sports tourer with a very high waistline, its sharp body panels all above the jutting cylinders. It looks like a Guzzi, possessing a strong lineage to previous models while also being very contemporary. The architecture of the engine has been revolutionised without losing the Guzzi look. The cylinder barrels are liquid cooled, but don’t look it. They have also been rotated 90 degrees, so the exhaust ports are no longer at the front, but come out the side, and the intakes face each other in the centre of the bike. The Mandello’s single-sided rear wheel looks like it was taken from a Ducati MotoGP bike or a Lamborghini, and the S model has semi-active Öhlins suspension. The source of my chagrin, is also the area Moto Guzzi are leading their marketing spiel with: the Mandello is the first production bike to be fitted with ‘adaptive aerodynamics’.

There are two wings, where the fairing meets the petrol tank, directly below the handlebars. The ‘wings’ are 20cm or so long. At certain speeds, the wings move out from the body of the bike to deflect wind from the rider’s stomach. Along with an adjustable windshield (nothing new there) Guzzi claim the rider will benefit from ‘a potential reduction in air pressure of up to 22%.’ Reports from the launch tell us that Guzzi say the majority of the 22% reduction in pressure is around the rider’s middle. It took 200 hours of wind tunnel optimisation to reach this result.

A 22% improvement in most things is hard to find and usually gratefully received, but who has ever been out on a ride and thought, ‘I wish my stomach wasn’t under such wind pressure.’? This is just more feature creep bullshit we don’t need, the answer to a question no one asked.

Further Reading: Inman Columns


Updated: 2 days ago

It's time to sign up for that Sahara trip you promised yourself. 2-8 March 2024, open to all. We have no plans for any women-only Sahara KTM trips, but women are welcome on this tour, of course.

There are just ten places available. Here are the details:

Open to all tour: 2-8 March 2024

With five riding days the tour enables the groups to get to the amazing dunes at Erg Chebbi, the highest in Morocco. One of the tour's many highlights is the night in our desert bivouac, far from tarmac and light pollution. This is where you will get your first experience of riding sand and dunes, and in the late afternoon we will ride to the top of the highest dune, a healthy 100 metres, to watch the sunset while having a well-earned drink.

The next day we have a half-day of riding that ends at a friendly auberge with a pool set in the shadow of the famous cathedral dunes. Have lunch, relax by the pool in the afternoon, then, if you want, back on the bikes to ride the many dunes that are Erg Chebbi including attempting to conquer the 'big one', before basking in another African sunset.

Sideburn partners with Moto Aventures, a specialist company who has been running Morocco trips for over 25 years. By joining the Sideburn trip you benefit from being in a group of likeminded individuals all on the same wavelength, so even if you sign up on your own, you’re going to be in a group of new friends from day one. How do we know? It’s just how it happens on the Sideburn collab trips. We’ve done ten in Morocco, three in the Himalayas and another in Nepal, and strong, global friendships have formed on every one of them. The trip is operated and run by Moto Aventures, but a Sideburn rep will be liaising with you to co-ordinate things and answer questions, and will then be on the tour with you all.


You fly into Marrakech no later than 1pm on Saturday 2nd March 2024, though most people fly in the day before and enjoy a night in Marrakech, and this is our recommendation. You can extend your trip at either end at your own expense and we can recommend gorgeous riads to stay in if you want more time away. Just let us know. A great riad was just €60 for a room, two-people sharing, with breakfast, so €30 each person if you have a friend to share with.

We organise a transfer from Marrakech to Ouarzazate by minibus. We’ll either pick you up at your hotel in Marrakech or at the airport. Once at the hotel in Ouarzazate you’ll meet the Moto Aventures crew and guide team, get introduced to your KTM, have a group meal and get to know your fellow riders better. The next day you ride, and it's a long one.

The accommodation is a mixture, ranging from a 200-year-old converted Kasbah, top tourist hotels built in a Kasbah style and the exclusive night in our traditional Berber camp in the shadow of another area of dunes (with proper showers and toilet blocks). After five days of riding, you will have one more night in Ouarzazate before transferring back to Marrakech to fly home in the late-afternoon/evening of Friday 8th March or continue your holiday in Morocco if you wish.

Return flights should be after 15:30 to allow for the transfer time from Ouarzazate to Marrakech on the 8th of March.


This tour is aimed only at those with off-road riding experience. Specific desert experience is not necessary, but good trail riding experience. We cover 1000km in five days, that's 620 miles. You ride nearly half of that in the first two days. The vast majority is off-road, and on varied and often very challenging trails. There is not much the locals can't cover on a 125cc road bike, but they're not doing 160 miles of it in one day, like you will be expected to. You have to be confident and committed, and be able to keep up a good pace on a KTM 450. This trip can/does hurt people if they're not up to it, or get it wrong.


€2400 based on two sharing a room. Single supplement is €200. We have ten spots only. We are able to offer three lowered KTM 450s, but they must be reserved in advance.

This trip is marketed by Sideburn, but operated solely by Moto Aventures Europe SL. To book/reserve a place email us, giving us details of your off-road riding experience.

Email: sideburnmag at gmail dot com

INCLUDED: Six nights accommodation; KTM rental; fuel; back-up truck with mechanic; transfer to and from Marrakesh hotel/airport; three meals a day on riding days; evening meal on arrival day at Ouarzazate; Garmin satnav, Sideburn rep riding with you.

NOT INCLUDED: Flights; visas (if required); bike damage (€700 cash deposit required on arrival. No damage, no fee); alcohol; travel insurance (must cover off-road motorcycling and include repatriation cover); any nights accommodation in Marrakech; snacks & drinks at fuel stops; food and drink on the transfers; anything not listed above. You must bring your own riding kit.


Your spot on the trip is not fully reserved until Moto Aventures receive your 30% non-refundable deposit payment. The balance of the payment is required a minimum of two months before the trip starts. The final day for payment is 13 January 2024. You will receive a reminder. If your payment is not paid in full within the timescale we will offer your place for sale and not offer a refund.

Read what Ryan Roadkill thought about the 2022 Sideburn Sahara Trip

Photos: Moto Aventures/ Leah Tokelove /Julia Henry

#SideburnSahara #Morocco #adv #Africa #KTM

1989 Honda FTR250 Not to be confused with the FTR223 this is the 249.6cc, 27 hp, XLR engine, 4 Valve RFVC head version with totally different engine, frame etc. It has a 6-speed gearbox, electric start and Supertrapp silencer ~ Bike has been stored for a couple of yeasrs but have just fitted a new battery and it runs fine.

Please Note: Bike comes with ALL parts to make it into a road bike again.


Phone Geoff 07896 142624. Bike is located near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire.

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