For Cyril, the Gold Wing’s anniversary brings painful memories from 1975 flooding back
From Cyril's memoirs dated 14 July 2005
Has there ever been a better time for touring on a motorcycle? I’m very impressed by recent sports tourers such as Triumph’s Sprint ST and the BMW R1200RT. But the most famous out-and-out tourer must be Honda’s Gold Wing, now in its 30th year, and I was lucky (or rather, unlucky) to be involved in its 1975 UK launch.
Although now huge, with all the bells and whistles, back then it was far simpler, unfaired and considered quite sporty. The term ‘sports tourer’ could have been applied to that first Gold Wing and we at Honda UK decided to plan a high-speed route through France on which to send journalists for the launch. It could have been a magnificent showcase for this most wonderful machine. Sadly, the event never made it past the reconnaissance trip, which I’m afraid descended into a humiliating farce.
A team on three pre-launch Gold Wings were to plot the route and find suitable hotels. The embarrassingly-named Ooh La La Tours were charged with the task and I, as UK sales executive, went along to oversee proceedings. And as we were keen to test how she handled two-up, my wife Teresa also came along. Ooh La La’s owners, Australian brothers Craig and Stewart Jenkins, took a bike each as they flatly refused to share one. How ironic that turned out to be.
The first day’s brisk ride down to Cramouille, just south of Limoges, went smoothly, leaving us very impressed with the Gold Wing. I was glad to see Teresa getting on well with Craig and Stewart as I was keen she wouldn’t feel out of place. I’d married Teresa only a year previously (after my first wife absconded with a mechanic, and I’ve heard all the ‘bigger tool’ jokes, thank you). Many of my friends were openly jealous that I’d married a woman who, at only 28, was ten years my junior. She certainly was an ‘athletic’ and rather demanding girl and I very much enjoyed losing more than a stone in weight in our first year together.
That evening, what with the day’s ride and a large dinner, I was exhausted. By 11 o’clock my eyes were so sandy I left the others ordering brandies and chatting about Mott the Hoople or whatever. Despite Teresa’s raucous laugh breaching two floors, I fell asleep quickly, images of the French countryside playing on the inside of my eyelids as I drifted off. (Which reminds me, I had a similar experience many years later when overseeing the Yamaha YZF-R1 launch. Flashing white lines and rushing tarmac played across my closed eyelids as I gently fell asleep. Unfortunately, I was still riding and very lucky that the picnicking family were so understanding).
The next day we began scouting locations for the press photographers. I was keen to get started but neither the Jenkins brothers nor Teresa surfaced before 10am. By the time we left I was rather wound up, which probably contributed to the following ‘incident’. In my defence, controlling a 1000cc motorcycle on a tightening, gravel-strewn mountain bend is hardly enhanced by a woman screeching, ‘I need a f***ing p**s you b*****d’. Although I finally lost control when, clutching my helmet, she shook my head from side to side like a bladder on a stick.
It was hardly an accident at all. I’d almost brought the Wing to a halt when we toppled over, but it was the noise the goat made as the Dunlop Gold Seal thumped its midriff that upset Teresa. I can only liken it to the honk I imagine would be made if one were to jump off a five-foot wall onto a fully-inflated bagpipe. Teresa refused to ride with me from that point, foisting herself instead on Craig.
Later, we split up to explore separate areas and I enjoyed several hours’ peaceful cruising. If I’d noticed that the prang had cracked the crankcase I wouldn’t have ended up stranded with a seized engine in the middle of nowhere. Mobile phone? Ha! This was 1975. It took me six hours to walk and hitch back to the hotel, by which time it was gone midnight.
There was no sign of the others so, clutching a sandwich kindly made by the porter, I went up to my room. Teresa wasn’t there either. Then, from Craig and Stewart’s room next door, where I assumed they’d been chatting, came the distinctive gasping of Teresa in the throes of one of her asthma attacks. These could be life-threatening, but I knew the procedure well and speed was of the essence. I knocked on the door but all fell silent. Fearing the worst I put my Lewis Leather boots to the test and kicked open the flimsy lock.
This is not the place to describe the carnal act that confronted me, suffice to say it was not invented by Premiership footballers. It was a regrettable (and prior to witnessing it for myself I'd have argued physically unfeasible) incident that not only scuppered plans for the launch but also our brief marriage. I’m glad to say that Teresa received nothing in the split, so she was certainly left with egg on her face! And to think that those boys said they’d never share a bike. You live and learn.