Gary Clarke

'May the Forza be with you'

Gary in 'normal' mode

On Burns Night

At our Xmas Meal

There's more to Gary Clarke than meets the eye.

He introduces himself modestly saying 'Despite having half a dozen bikes I don’t think I’ve ever I’ve had the right to call myself a “Proper biker”. However being inspired by Ian’s story                                                                  I thought I’d take a look back at the bikes I’ve had over the years and loved'. 

Read on to find out why Obi-Wan Kenobi's famous mantra is particularly appropriate to Gary

Gary continues...'In 1976 I was part way through my apprenticeship when mum & dad sold our home in Horsham & moved to Plymouth. I moved into digs in Partridge Green (about 10 miles south of Horsham) I had to have transport to commute to Horsham . So in August of that year I went to (the long since disappeared) Hyde’s in Park St. Horsham and brought a brand new Yamaha V75 scooter, similar to this one but with a top box.

This is not Gary's  usual Biking gear 😄

In 1976 Yamaha V75  insurance cost just £6.00

'This was long before CBTs, all I needed was an L plate. The bike cost £210.00 and the insurance was £6 p/a ! This little scooter did the job admirably, however it did used to struggle on the hills. I remember one time when I was easily overtaken by a FS1E, he even slowed down just to overtake me again. (I hope it wasn’t Ian, although I don’t think he’s that old?). I later found out that here was a baffle in the tailpipe which could be take out, clean then replaced. This process would add nearly 8mph to the top speed!'

A Honda XL 125 came next                       pic courtesy of VJMC

'About 18 months later I was married, living back in Horsham and with mortgage and a car, albeit an old banger. So the scooter had to go. Almost 20 years passed before I was tempted back to the dark side. Someone offered me a Honda XL 125. That was such a fun bike. I felt I could go anywhere with it, do anything with it. It seemed almost indestructible. I took my test on it in the late 90s and by sheer fluke I passed! Thank goodness I passed in those days and not these days'

Next came something much bigger... a Kawasaki Z750

'I wish I’d kept the XL 125 and treasured it but stupidly, just like most guys, as soon as we pass the test we want a bigger bike. So I brought this, it seemed like a monster at the time. An Ex-courier bike. I had some fun on it and remember riding it down to Plymouth with my then 13-year-old son on the back to see my Dad and the total solar eclipse*. Great journey down there but on the way home I could feel the chain drying out and wearing out the sprockets (again). Sadly it was quite an old bike even when I brought it and I eventually became too expensive to maintain.'

Do you remember these?

*Jon's ramblings: In August 1999 there was a total solar eclipse of the sun. The only part of mainland Britain to witness totality - the full blacking out of the Sun by the Moon - was Cornwall in south-west England. 

HOWL members went down to witness this eerie and literally chilling event as darkness swept across the land below our vantage point.

Lunar eclipse sunglasses were sold in their thousands

The UK’s next total solar eclipse won’t happen until 2090. 

After another break in biking, Gary was back on two wheels again, and this time things were going to last-

 'May the Forza be with you'

'Quite a long break again before I was back on two wheels but in early 2019, I inherited enough money from my Dad to buy this 2 year old Forza 300. I often wondered what Dad would have thought about me spending his money on a bike, but then a very odd thing happened. I parked the bike up by some shops in Crawley and I was approached by a complete stranger, a very pleasant elderly gentleman who really just wanted to admire and chat about the bike. He went on to tell me that he’d had lots of bike and that he’d been in the army when he rode BSAs (exactly as my Dad did in the Army). In fact it seemed just as though it was my dad talking to me through him and giving me his seal of approval. He finished off by saying enjoy motorcycling but be careful out there & assume every car driver is a f’#king idiot. I won’t forget that in a hurry'

Cindy tries out the Forza 300

'Much as I loved the Forza 300 after 18 months, I couldn’t resist trading it in for a new Forza 350. To me this is ultimate urban bike, I loved it so much'. 

'Only thing was is that I was longing (and still am) to do some touring and on the motor ways with Cindy on the back a bit more power would not have gone amiss. As luck would have it, what with being so busy I’d quite forgotten that I was a pensioner! Then I realised that the government owed a year’s worth of pension money. Well that was enough to trade up to its big sister, the Forza 750. This happened just last March. 

I told my local Honda dealer to make sure that the 750 would be the same colour as the 350 in the hope that Cindy wouldn’t notice the difference. It worked ! (well for a couple of months anyway)

 I traded in the 350, I felt like I was dumping a beautiful girlfriend for a younger model, but right now I wouldn’t change the 750 even if I won the lottery. Although I might buy some extra bikes.

In fact since March 2023 Gary and Cindy have been out and about joining lots of HOWL events as you can see below and are joining us on the branch holiday in Wales in May and a few weeks later riding to Normandy with us for the D Day commemorations

Arriving at The Sammy Miller Classic Show in the New Forest

On our New Year's Day run to Billy's on the Road

At Rykas 

And before we conclude, I can't resist sharing some of Gary's brilliant and original photoshop skills 😉

A Cake creation for Jude's Birthday

Cindy - the Roman Empress on our club run to Rome 😅

...and thanks for sharing your bikes with us!