The Habit of a lifetime
Collecting and restoring vintage italian bikes; a hobby that quickly becomes a lifestyle.
A proper collection takes time to acquire. It takes patience, consideration and decisions lead by the heart. Les’ affiliation with Italian bikes began in 1973. He’d spent time with the British makes, but something was missing.
So now we arrive at Les walking into Mr Barrett’s showroom in 1973 with the knowledge that the next bike had to be shaft driven. Back then it was either Moto Guzzi or MV Augusta. He has never looked back.
If you clock up a lot of miles it counts to ride a bike you know well. The relationship between Les and the motorcycle goes back years. It would be hard to imagine him without one. His purpose-built garage says more about his obsession than anything else: random parts accumulated from bikes of all types. There’s a Benelli, a couple of 125s, a 50cc Moto Guzzi, a 50s MV, but our personal favourite was the military spec Moto Guzzi built from 1945-1956. “Any British soldier coming across one in the Libyan desert would probably ditch his Norton and ride this because it actually had suspension."
There’s also a police bike with working blues and twos, but the workhorse, the jewel in the fleet has to be the California. A big comfortable cruiser that adopted its name after it's use by the Californian police. This one has done many miles including trips through Poland, traveling at a constant 80/90 mph on motorways “it could do it, but you had to spend a bit of time checking the oil every night”.
A few parts have been upgraded - mainly the brakes, a modification which happened after trying to stop for tea and sailing straight on past the cafe. It's been re-chromed, there are stainless silencers, new main bearings, pistons, barrels and a repaint of the black body. This bike has been in Les’ care for about 16 years but it’s got so much more to give.
So yes, when you own this many bikes it does rather consume you, there's no point denying that it's more of a life choice than a pastime. It's about taking the obsession of the two-wheeled world to another level. And for that Les - we salute you.