Mark Richardson remembers vividly the moment his motorcycle infatuation started, as he lay upside down in a ditch beneath a battered old Triumph Bonneville.
Seconds earlier, the six-year-old, who would later go on to become one quarter of rock band Skunk Anansie, had jumped on his pal’s bike in a field, opened up the throttle and headed off.
“I had no idea what I was doing and the thing just got faster and faster until eventually I ended up in a ditch. I just lay there laughing my head off, but the seed had been sown,” he says.
Trial Bikes and Motocross
Initially, prompted by his brother-in-law and that first runaway experience, he dabbled with trial bikes before being entranced by the adrenaline rush of motocross. When the band turned professional and began touring, and his drummer’s hands and arms became a more valuable commodity, riding took a back seat. But Triumph has always been there in the background of his life.
“We were on tour all the time and when we weren’t, we were in the studio or doing promotional work. I didn’t even know where I’d be half the time, so having a bike was a bit of a non-starter,” says the Triumph ambassador.
“It was weird though because during that time I was mixing with a lot of famous musicians and they all wore Triumph T-shirts, so the brand was never far away. It’s testament to Triumph’s heritage and diversity that everyone from Elvis Presley to Lemmy from Motörhead wanted to be associated with this British company.”
“Don’t fear dying. Fear not living”
Following on from the ‘I don’t want to live forever’ line from Motörhead’s Ace of Spades, Mark has a simple motto when it comes to his love affair with riding: “Don’t fear dying. Fear not living”.
“That’s it in a nutshell for me. I spent a lot of time travelling the world, but it’s a misconception that you see its beauty. I was in hotels, venues and dressing rooms and on our days off, we were in no state to sightsee. Now I’m making up for lost time.”
From LA to San Fran
Mark, who worked closely with Dutch and the Bike Shed team on the recent show at London’s Tobacco Dock, realised exactly what he’d been missing when he rode from Los Angeles to San Francisco on a Bonneville T120 with wife Erika.
“That was the most incredible ride I’ve ever been on. We were pootling along in no rush through Big Sur, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise from the Pacific Ocean, with just the bare essentials we needed. It was a dream come true. The scenery was the most stunning thing but to do the trip on such a cool bike was even better.”
Mark is currently planning an August ride up the rugged west coast of Scotland on his Tiger XCA but hasn’t ruled out something a little more ambitious: “I’d like to lap the world before I die and there’s a part of me that knows that one day I’ll just jump on my Explorer and go.”
‘Don’t waste time on other bikes’
He adds: “I’m 46 now, so everything I do is geared towards making memories. I wish I’d been more like that when I was younger, but back then I was playing in a rock band and being impetuous. I guess that’s the folly of youth.”
The passing of time is something Mark refers to occasionally, not just in terms of age but in terms of wisdom. “There are lots of things I’d do differently and one of them would be not messing around and wasting time and money on other motorcycles. Instead, I’d have gone straight to a Triumph.
“Their bikes have evolved so that as well as retaining the cool classic image they’ve always had, they also have real technical quality and attention to detail. Everything is done for a reason and the reason is the ride. No one else does it at the level they do.”
The band reformed in 2008, after a seven-year gap in the late 90s, released their eighth album and went on a European tour last year, with plans to get back in the studio later this year. This time Mark insists they won’t make the same mistakes again: “When we used to disagree, we’d have massive rows. Now we are older and we talk things through, so there will definitely be time for me to get out on my Tiger because that balance in life is, as I’ve discovered, very important.”
* Missed their sell out gig at Manchester and show at Guimaraes in Portugal earlier this year? Then check on Skunk Anansie’s tour dates and catch up on sounds old, new and remastered, at www.skunkanansie.com