Sideburn has a learner rider on its staff. Andy Garside is our art editor. He lives in a Mercedes Sprinter, with his partner and their two dogs (full-time for the last three years). Now he's added a tow hitch and trailer to their home. Andy takes up the story.
It’s a drawn out old process obtaining your bike licence in the UK these days. CBT (Compulsory Basic Training - riding around cones in compound); theory test; Module 1 and 2 tests… Add to that the current situation of Covid slowing pretty much every aspect of the country to a snail's pace and you’ll be waiting quite a while until you’re legally up on two wheels.
Anyway, I gained my CBT certificate and passed my theory test, which is a good job considering the years I’ve been a car driver. I have the two Module tests booked and I’m raring to go.
There was just one piece missing from the jigsaw… An actual real-life motorcycle. I was on the lookout for a late-'70s, early-'80s 125 trail bike to buzz about on until I passed my test. An XL/XR/TL type thing. Not too many about. Not many that were affordable and/or roadworthy, anyway. I had started to give up on the idea of L-plates riding and skipping straight to post-test-bike-ownership when Gary came up with the idea of getting in touch with a motorcycle manufacturer to see about a bike for me to ride/test/blog about and help me on my journey to becoming a legal motorcyclist.
There were a couple of options, and I approached Mutt Motorcycles first. A couple of emails later I’m on my way down Birmingham for a chat to Will and get a tour of their new HQ. When you think of a ‘bike factory’ you maybe imagine an industrial estate grey box? Mutt HQ couldn’t be any further from that. Based in an old paper mill the building has been beautifully redesigned to accommodate everything they need on one site. The showcase is a boutique style shop housing their full range of bikes and lifestyle accessories. In true Mr Benn style you walk through a door at the back of the shop and enter a super clean workshop and storage unit where the bikes are assembled and shipped out from. Also tucked away is ‘Benny’s Secret Design Lab’. Benny being Mutt's found (read Sideburn's recent interview with Mutt's Benny Thomas). I can’t tell you what I saw in there as I’d have to kill you. All of you. And I simply don’t have the spare time for that. But, it’s safe to say that Mutt are constantly working on evolving their bikes and brand.
As you may, or may not, be aware I spent my youth riding trials and trail bikes, so when Will suggests he sorts me out with a Razorback 125 for a loaner I’m over the moon. The Mutt Razorback 125 is the newest edition to the Mutt roster, and a little different to the rest of their line-up as it’s the only one that uses a monoshock rear end and sits tall and upright in a dirt bike style. It's £3495 on the road, and currently just available as a 125.
I drive away a happy bunny after arranging to call back to Birmingham a couple of weeks later to attend the Mutt HQ Opening Party and tie it in with collecting the Razorback.
The big day arrives. Mutt HQ is buzzing with a crowd of people to help me celebrate collecting the bike. What? They were there for the grand opening of the new Mutt HQ? OK, whatever. Food stalls, a bar and DJs keep everyone entertained throughout the day as well as a great array of visiting bikes and cars. Well deserved big smiles all round for everyone involved.
The time arrives for the great unveil. I get to see the Razorback I’ll be taking home with me. I follow Benny through to the back of the shop and into the warehouse. There, sat among the shelves of frames and bike parts, is a beauty of a bike. The roller shutter doors open and the late afternoon sun glints off the bright red paintwork of the tank. This is it, I’ll soon be riding on the road without an instructor, on a real bike! After a quick run through I’m off to get my bike gear on and start the 100+ mile journey back to North Wales. I arrive back cold, but happy with a dozen flies embedded in the stupid big grin on my face.
Several things happened on the journey home that made me realise I’m still very much an amateur.
Firstly, navigational skills. Once I saw signs for towns I knew I was OK and trundled along nicely, but it took nearly an hour to ride the first few miles, trying to navigate unfamiliar roads without a sat nav on the dash guiding my idiot brain home. Lesson one: relearn my map skills.
Secondly, clothing. It was a beautifully sunny all day, but also September in the UK and it gets cold when the sun goes down. The base layer of a T-shirt under my bike jacket, the summer gloves, the single layer (white) riding trousers all contributed to me feeling like I was about to ride into the Arctic Circle by the time I was on the last 80% of the journey. Lesson two: layer up!
But you know what, I didn’t care at all. I was riding a real bike on the open road and it felt great!