As a lad growing up in post-war England, motorcycles were about both function and fun for Lionel Reeve.
It’s a combination that still holds sway for Lionel, who like most of his peers, owned a motorbike well before his first car.
“When I was 16 I had a BSA 250, which I used to race around the English countryside. All my mates had motorbikes – most didn’t get their first car until they were married – it was just the way it was.”
While Lionel says motorbikes were appealing because of their affordability, he also loved the sense of freedom and fun that came with riding – something that still has a strong hold over the long-standing Tauranga Classic Motorcycle Club member.
“Once you’ve done it, it’s in your blood. I just love riding – it’s difficult to explain to people who haven’t done it – it’s just a real buzz.”
From cutting his teeth on the BSA 250, Lionel then went through a parade of other bikes including a few AJS bikes and a Matchless CSR 650 twin.
“Back in those [early] days they were obviously important for transport, but it was also about fun. In those days we used to head off to rallies; and I was a bit of a steam engine enthusiast, so I would head off to events with my girlfriend Dot.”
Lionel and Dot have long since been married, and have continued to share their passion for motorbikes ever since – owning and restoring a series of bikes during the years (apart from a gap after arriving in New Zealand in 1965).
It is Lionel’s love for bikes that prompted him to start a career in the Ministry of Transport as a motorcycle traffic officer.
“It was great, except for the riding in all sorts of weather. That wasn’t so much fun.”
Friends were soon encouraging him to join the newly formed classic club, pursuing a shared love of great bikes at events. Plus, with helpful advice from fellow members, he’s since completed a series of restorations.
Lionel’s first restoration was a 1968 Triumph Tiger 100, a 500cc bike named for its capacity to reach 100 miles per hour. Starting from a box of “bits and pieces”, he recalls the rebuild was relatively easy with parts for the classic bike still readily available to buy, rather than having to engineer them yourself (as many enthusiasts now have to).
These days his garage houses a handful of bikes, which he regularly takes out, including a 1958 BSA Golden Flash, a 1957 Triumph Tiger 110, late model BMW and Triumph Boneve. But his latest pride and joy is a 1982 Suzuki GS 850cc. While, as a traditionalist, he admits to long having reservations about Japanese bikes, Lionel says you can’t argue with the Suzuki’s
But it’s not just Lionel who is a fan of his Suzuki, which he finished restoring in May. The bike has since collected Tauranga Classic Motorcycle Club’s top award for a Japanese restoration and shares top spot as rider’s choice – honours it earned at last month’s Hawke’s Bay classic rally.
While Lionel says it is great to win awards, nothing quite beats the satisfaction of getting the bikes out on the road for a rally. Next month, Lionel and Dot are heading off for some “brilliant bike riding” when they journey to Invercargill on the Suzuki for the Burt Munro Challenge rally.