From Cyril's memoirs dated 28 June 2007
The smell of warm rubber always brings back such powerful memories. The thrilling, acrid whiff from the snot-bobbled edge of a Dragon Supercorsa after a wild ride in Umbria’s Testa di Cazzo hills. The pungent, all-enveloping scent on entering a tyre fitter’s workshop – and look, there’s the man himself, hands glistening with rim lube. Then there are the thrashings I received from my father, wielding a 19in Avon ‘Ne’r-Breach’ inner tube (deflated, I’m sad to say, else beatings could have been quite comical). The faint smell of rubber on my mother’s lips as she kissed me goodbye before I set off for school (I’d always assumed it was from her Marigolds, though thinking back, she never used them). And the vaguely fishy pong from the air let out of a police Triumph T110’s tyres round the back of an Okell’s pub on the Isle of Man one year. Yes, tyres. Perhaps the most all-round sensorially stimulating part of a motorcycle.
I recall, back in the mid-Seventies, my then-wife Teresa (oh, you remember, the asthmatic one with a penchant for spit roasts and swearing) had a real thing for tyres. I discovered this by accident after spending an increasingly desperate afternoon in the garden trying to seat the bead on a Dunlop Gold Seal. It was a hot day and eventually I returned to the house, defeated, and flopped down on a kitchen chair like a wet rag doll. Teresa brought me over a cold tin of Double Diamond and the next thing I knew her hot-pants were hanging from the cooker hood and she was riding me like a Maico 250 over the Hawkstone Park whoops – fine with adequate damping and a fat knobbly, but I was merely a passenger holding on for dear life.
Then there was that time in Germany in 1994. A few of us were at a trade show in Berlin and one evening, after a few beers in the bar at the show, a chap called Terry Fletcher, the sales manager for an aftermarket spares firm that must remain nameless, decided it would be great fun to steal one of those huge Michelin Man costumes from behind one of the stands. He somehow sneaked it out via the goods entrance and we met him around the back. This costume was so cumbersome that Terry had to be helped into it and once in, couldn’t get out again on his own. After ten minutes of messing about, the taxi arrived to take us into town for the evening. We’d all had a bit to drink so we jumped into the cab and sped off laughing, leaving Terry lumbering around the deserted carpark.
About five minutes later we saw sense and turned back to get him, but we couldn’t find Terry anywhere. Only one of us had a mobile phone back then, so there was no way of contacting him and eventually we gave up and went into the city, assuming he’d gone off on his own. What we didn’t realise was that as we stuffed our faces with smoked sausage washed down with weissbier, Terry was stumbling around like an obese albino freak in the thick rubber suit, vision severely restricted, and eventually tumbled down a steep grass bank at the back of the main hall, becoming wedged between the spars of a stout wooden fence. He was there for five days and was in a bit of a state when they rescued him. I’ve since seen him attack a cuddly Michelin Man toy with the ferocity of a drugged and taunted pit bull. The scars are deep.
Finally, when riding hard I always bear in mind the advice given to me by Pietro Ficabagnata, chief tester at Pirelli in the late Eighties. ‘Cyril,’ he told me, ‘the tyre is a fickle mistress, with a full, rounded body and a powerful grip. Treat her with respect and she will bring you untold joy, but ignore her warnings and she will tear off your manhood and throw it over the hedge of uncertainty for the wild boar of skidding to feast upon.’ Wise words indeed.