Bikesure’s customers are as diverse as the glorious machines they insure, and 96 year-old Ronald Lee and 16 year-old Samuel Salt are the perfect illustration of this.
Ron has been a biker for 80 years in which time he has ridden everything from roaring Harley-Davidsons to nippy Vespas, while young Sam is a newbie getting his first bike and Bikesure insurance policy after turning 16 on 3rd August.
We interviewed Ron and Sam as part of Bikesure’s ‘Ride On’ campaign, which aims to get people on the road and celebrating their freedom, whether they’re getting back into biking after a break or taking up two wheels for the first time.
Bikesure’s oldest rider, Ronald Lee, 96, and his ‘incurable addiction’
Ron takes up the story for the team at Bikesure: “My first ever ride on a motorcycle could have ended badly, thankfully it didn’t. Instead it was the beginning of a fascination that has lasted 80 years and continues to this day, albeit now, less hands on.
“The motorcycle restoration salesman in Perth, Western Australia, said ‘take it round the block’ as I gazed enthusiastically at the 1926 Harley-Davidson 350.
“He offered no instruction but fortunately the gate gears on the side of the petrol tank were familiar as I’d driven my father’s ancient Chevrolet up and down our drive in Borneo from the age of 12.
“Getting speed up was no problem, stopping was more difficult. Perhaps the restoration hadn’t included the brakes. I handed over 25 Australian dollars (around £10), bought a bike that was one year younger than me and unwittingly succumbed to total and incurable bike addiction.
“I took the test for my Australian bike licence at the local police station. It consisted of two continuous U-turns on a very narrow road without putting a foot down, and an eyesight test. The Harley was my constant companion through college and university.
“I used my (not so) considerable electrical skills to fit a replacement headlamp, the original having the power of a glow worm, the resulting beam was bright but spasmodic. When riding after dark in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia the Kalgoorlie Express train stopped — the driver thought our intermittent flashing headlight was signaling distress.”
Ron has a self-confessed “total and incurable bike addiction”.
Ron invested in a sophisticated imported US Indian
As Ron’s experience grew he bought an Indian 500, an imported ex US army bike which was very sophisticated at the time. It had the throttle on the left, an elongated gear stick on the right, foot clutch and foot brakes, making it feel similar to an American car. It also had the luxury of foot boards.
Ron went on: “When the time came for me to leave Australia and return home to England to find a job, the Indian was sold. Fortunately I quickly found employment with accommodation in London. A visit to Pride & Clarke resulted in the purchase of another Indian, identical to the one I’d left in Australia.
“I took my British motorcycle test in London, the woman tester passed me even though I took a different route to the one she’d indicated, and where she had been waiting to jump out for my emergency stop.
“The Indian was superseded by a Triumph 250, I promptly replaced it’s engine with that of a Triumph 500. Work required me to move to Cheshire where the company provided accommodation for trainees in a former country manor house.
“Most of the occupants had motorcycles in various states of repair and reliability. It was not uncommon for me to ride from Chester to London in the depths of winter, wearing a greatcoat, no hat, and to stop off at a pub halfway for a warming tot of whisky.
The four friends set out for the South of France but things didn’t go according to plan. Ron is second from the right.
South of France road trip ended in disaster
Ron explained to Bikesure: “Four of us ventured on a road trip heading for the south of France, one Australian, two Englishmen and a Welshman.
“The Australian had an ex army Ariel 350, the chain of which constantly came off, the Welshman a very unreliable New Imperial, my English colleague and I both had reliable machines.
“We left Chester heading for Dover. As expected, the chain came off the Ariel and we arrived at the port too late to find accommodation so we curled up in our sleeping bags in a field.
“The trip was not a great success, the Welshman’s engine seized and I ran into him. I managed to acquire parts to get my bike going. Sadly the Welshman’s bike was a write off and he returned home as my pillion.
“My next bike was a Triumph 350 Twin which I stripped down and tuned. Test driving it on the local dual carriageway it reached amazing speeds but as I throttled down at the roundabout the bike developed a terrifying wheel wobble, an experience so frightening I sold the bike and bought a Norton ES2, an excellently designed bike in spite of its sloppy gearbox.
“Inevitably, one by one our bikes were replaced by cars in various states of disrepair. The cellar of the old house was perfect for overhauling our cars’ engines, lugged in by several young men, for stripping down, reboring cylinders, grinding valves, remetalling the bearings, etc.… we knew our engines intimately.
“As life changed, work became more demanding, I got married and motorbikes didn’t feature until, when living in Little Bookham, I acquired an old Vespa to ride the three and a half miles to Leatherhead station, which provided a much more frequent service to London than the local station. It was never stolen, even though the kick start bike was parked on the roadside every day.
‘Next I bought a BMW and shipped it Down Under’
“Working in Holland with a move planned to Australia, the urge to ride in wide open spaces again was irresistible, I bought a BMW R60 in Holland and shipped it to Australia. The bike was a disappointment, it had the wrong carburetors which couldn’t be changed.
“Similar models were excellent machines, used typically by the police. I brought the bike back to Holland and had to go through a convoluted import exercise to have it approved for use in Holland, even though it had been purchased there.
“The BMW was sold and some time later I bought a Cagiva Roadster 125, a very light bike that was easy to handle and could go anywhere, particularly suited to the narrow congested streets in Holland.
“I retired in 1985, Lymington in the New Forest seemed a good choice to live with a berth for my boat and an attractive area for motorcycling.
“Sadly my wife became ill and after her death, life was bleak. I bought a Harley-Davidson 1250 Soft-tail to try to fill some of the empty hours.
“A beautiful but heavy bike, totally unsuited to the winding roads of the New Forest, it sported so much chrome, I never took it out in the rain. I bought a Suzuki GS500, a lighter, more manoeuvrable companion for the Harley and much easier to clean.
Ron just couldn’t resist tinkering with motorbikes.
Touring Belgium on a Sym 125
“Some years later, having remarried, I saw a glimmer of possibility to tempt my wife onto two powered wheels. I bought a Sym 125 scooter, strapped it into our Mercedes Sprinter van and we did a brief tour of Belgium to kindle her interest.
“She subsequently bought a Peugeot Speedfight 100, passed her motorcycle test and a new chapter on two wheels began.
“The Sym and the Speedfight were superseded by a pair of Peugeot Satelis 250s and we toured in Ireland, France and Spain.
“Lacking power for motorway travelling, they were replaced with two Satelis 500s, very comfortable to ride but heavy when handling. I missed having a traditional bike and bought a Triumph Bonneville T100 to complement the scooter.
“My wife had passed her test on an automatic, and wanted to learn to ride a manual bike. We bought two Sachs Madass 125s, trendy looking bikes, awful to ride, and soon gone.
“A pair of Honda 250s replaced the Peugeot 500s, they were very attractive bikes, easy to handle but again lacked the power for the autoroute travel we were doing.
Vespa GTS 300 caught the eye on M27
Doing 70 in our car on the M27 one day, we followed a scooter traveling at the same speed. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a Vespa GTS 300. Two sparkling new Vespas soon replaced the Hondas and proved excellent in every respect, eating up the miles effortlessly on motorway and autoroute. I bought a Hanway Cafe Racer 125 as a companion bike.
“In the last couple of years, I have ceased to ride, though my interest in bikes has remained as strong as ever.
“I replaced the Hanway with a Lexmoto Milano 125, to tinker with and ride around the garden. Together with the Lexmoto, the Vespas sit in the garage, collected annually for a service and MOT, but otherwise in retirement. I had my 96th birthday in May this year, and now look back on my eighty years of bikes with pride and affection.
“Now I’m on three wheels rather than two as I have acquired a Trekinetic GTE powered wheelchair with off road capability. It has a top speed of 6kph, which is pretty fast in our local Waitrose.”
Ron’s 6kph chair is pretty fast whizzing around the aisles at Waitrose!
Sam Salt: new to the road and Bikesure’s youngest policyholder at 16
While Ron has eight decades of biking under his belt, Bikesure’s youngest customer, Sam Salt, is at the very beginning of his biking journey having acquired and insured his first bike just as he turned 16.
The youngster told Bikesure: “My dad is into bikes and I have always wanted to get riding as soon as I was old enough.”
Like Ron, motorcycling DIY should be no problem for Sam as he is doing an engineering course at college and his skills and confidence are improving week by week.
He has already passed his CBT test and he can’t wait to take his full test when he is 19 so he can upgrade his 2019 Yamaha Aerox 4 for a bigger bike and perhaps one day his dream machine, a Ducati Panigale.
He uses his bike on a daily basis but has only clocked up a few hundred miles so far. The thrill of riding is still something very, very special to him: “It’s the freedom! No buses any more, I can go anywhere and enjoy the wind in my face and the open roads.”
Sam’s dad, James, added: “It’s hardly surprising that Sam was so keen to get on the road. Bikes are part of our family, and I have ridden for years. Sam’s sister Sophia also rides. I have a number of bikes but my favourite is my Ducati Xdiavel S.”
Did dad have any qualms about his young son and daughter following him into the world of motorcycling? “On the contrary, I had no worries at all. I believe with the correct training and safety equipment bikers can stay safe and become better road users.”
Dreaming big: Sam Salt hopes one day to own a Ducati Panigale.
Where are you on your Bikesure journey?
Wherever you are on your biking journey, whether you’re looking for young motorcycle rider insurance or cover for someone like Ron who has a few more years and miles under their belt, Bikesure will have the perfect policy to match your age and experience. Call 0330 123 1028 for a speedy and free no obligation Bikesure insurance quote.Ride On