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Bikes and Blogging

by Richard Backus


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Alison-BMWs-Small 

Alison Green and a pair of BMW GS80s, a favorite of the Canadian rider. 

Counter-Steering: Bikes and BloggingBefore we started this whole blogging/e-newsletter business, we figured it’d be fun and easy. Fun it is, and assuming you don’t have a gazillion other things to do, sure, it’s easy. Ahh, but there’s the kicker, because with everything else going on around here, it seems I can barely stay one step ahead of our publishing deadline, let alone stay on top of a blog. I needed relief: Enter the newest member of the Motorcycle Classics blogging family, Alison Green.

I love serendipity, and getting Alison on board has been pure serendipity at its best. Associate editor Hall and I had been discussing how we wanted to wrangle some guest bloggers for the site, but we wanted to start out with somebody who’d feed into the discussion on a regular basis, someone who’d maybe inspire other blogger/writer wannabes with their brilliant prose and insightful comments on the state of motorcycling in general and classic motorcycling in particular.

A general slacker mentality on my part had kept me from getting anywhere on the matter when an email came in from a certain Alison Green, expressing her undying love for Motorcycle Classics (okay, so she only admitted to “enjoying” it). A member of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group with a passion for old BMWs and restoration, she was interested in sharing her thoughts on riding, wrenching and restoring. Were we interested? In a word, yes, and starting now, Alison is penning a new series of blogs for Motorcycle Classics, Counter-Steering.

A Canadian by birth and a geologist by profession, Alison’s also an instructor with the Canada Safety Council motorcycle course. A self-taught tinkerer who’s interests run to complete restorations, she’s also a BMW fanatic and bought her first, an R60/6, brand new in 1975. If you’re a motorcyclist, you’ll learn those basic points within a few moments of meeting Alison. But as with anyone, there’s so much more to her story, so we put the question to her: Who is Alison Green?

“This is a tricky question for me to address,” Alison says, “as I have never wholly determined that myself. The usual stuff about home, childhood, schooling, work, etc., just doesn’t seem to add up to the person that I feel or the person that others tell me they see. I have never felt like a very adventurous person, but I know others view my life as a series of exotic expeditions. I enjoy new places and new experiences, but I also really like being at home, walking the dog and pottering in the garden.”

Alison’s Story“I was born and raised in northern Ontario, Canada, the only child of loving parents who opened every door they could for me and encouraged me to explore the natural world around me. I always was a great collector of all things – inanimate or living, and in this was cheerfully encouraged and assisted. Eventually the rock collection won, and I ended up with a career in geology. I have always enjoyed my work and I have been able to live and explore every corner of Canada, and a few rather exotic foreign locations (Brazil, Turkey, Alaska, Mexico). I have always enjoyed travel, camping, the new environments, the challenges, and the people. The past four years I have been working on contract at the northern tip of the Ungava Peninsula in Quebec for the exploration season from April to October. This is seriously bleak, Arctic barren-land and not very hospitable.(no roads – not motorcycle country!). I work a two week rotating schedule, which almost allows me enough time to enjoy the summer.

“Where motorcycles came from in my life, I do not know. At 16 I broached the subject with my mother, receiving the ‘not while you living under this roof’ response. I still wanted one, but it had to wait. In the spring of 1974, I purchased a new Honda 350-4 having never even been on the pillion seat of a bike before that day! I got the cursory clutch, throttle and brake lesson in the parking lot, and headed home. I think it stalled at least a dozen times in four miles. Four months later, I decided that the 350 wasn’t ‘me’ after all, but at least I could ride without embarrassing myself. I had done a pile of research and decided that a BMW was the ultimate machine for real traveling. September saw me on a bus to Toronto – the nearest dealer at 400 miles away from my home – to collect my brand new 1975 BMW R60/6. Northbound, I had to stop for the night after 230 miles as I literally could no longer pull in the clutch! That bike had the most ferocious clutch spring that I have ever encountered. Two years and about 10,000 miles later, I finally did my official test and became a licensed rider – not much smarter, but licensed.

“240,000 miles and 33 years later, I am still riding the same bike. Somehow, ever since 1981 when I sprang for a new R100RT, I have always had at least two bikes – but the 600 endures. In 1982-1983, the 600 and I spent 11 months and many miles in Australia. It has been into Mexico, briefly, to the West Coast many times, East Coast and the Yukon. I have also enjoyed touring in New Zealand (rented bike) and a very brief trip in Greece. My last long trip in Canada was Sudbury/West Coast/return with a 1981RT and sidecar rig, and my camping gear and my dog. We took five weeks and had a wonderful, leisurely tour.

“There have been very few occasions when I have had the luxury of living close to a BMW dealer, so I learned the basics of maintenance by necessity. Besides, I am a tinkerer at heart and really do enjoy working on mechanical things. It is really astonishing how much abuse the boxer will tolerate in the way of inexpert attention.

“In late 1997, work brought me to the Sudbury area and I purchased a house with a real garage. I also met and married a wonderfully easy-going man who tolerates and even encourages my eccentricities. (He says he only married me because I had two motorcycles and I can do drywall!) In December 2000 when I saw a lovely 1973 /5 BMW languishing in a garage under a pile of stuff, I felt confident that it could be resurrected to running condition. When it started after 17 years in a corner and some TLC from me, it was quite a thrill. This has lead to a succession of neglected, abandoned and abused bikes (always BMWs) following me home. Tinkering with bikes keeps me occupied during the winter, and amused during the riding season – what more could one ask of a hobby? My other main winter hobby is quilting. I am also an avid canoeist and kayaker, although I didn’t wet a paddle this past summer (no time).

“I have also been involved with teaching the CSC (Canada Safety Council) motorcycle course for the past seven years. Although I am officially one of the instructors, I think that I have learned more along the way than any of the students. My co-workers are experienced and enthusiastic, and an amazing source of knowledge.

“At present, the garage (motorcycles only, thank you) houses my venerable R60/6 – now sporting a Velorex 562 sidecar for the dog – and my main ride, a 1981 R80G/S. There is also now a bright turquoise R100R (1992) just waiting for some road time. I bought this bike in South Carolina this past spring and rode it home from there – but that is another story, for another time.” – Alison Green 

Go here to read Alison’s first blog. The subject? Her first restoration. The bike? A BMW, of course.