Meet the Member – John Ottaway

Hello Everybody! My name is John Ottaway. Both my wife Wendy and I have been members of the BMW Club Oxford Section for several years now.

We both ride our OWN bikes in the main as opposed to rider/pillion. (Wendy will give her own perspective on that in the Spring 2020 Newsletter). We live near Oxford and are both still working and additionally add our support to family and grandchildren. The biking is MY main hobby with the mix of travel, adventure, and camping thrown in! Best of all I like to ride new and untried routes and if you have ever joined me on a club ride out you will know the mix of terrain, views and accommodation(s) you would end up with!

I have been riding since I was seventeen (with a small break when the family came along) That’s when the bike test examiner sent me off around the block, watching me as I went, and then I did the ‘emergency stop’ in front of him when I returned. Different now eh?

Gradually increased my skill set through time/experience on the bikes. In those early years I did fall off a bit.

My first bike was Triumph Tiger Cub. As a learner this meant I had to take my dad (full bike licence holder) on the back. Crazy when you think about it now. Every Sunday for practise I had to take him to the pub, where he could have a pint, and then back home again for a roast dinner. Still, I did pass my test and at eighteen graduated to a Triumph Bonneville T140V with Daytona handlebars and short megaphone exhaust. What a noisy, dirty, oily beast. I loved it!  …and my dad, for being guarantor on the HP agreement!! I was pretty useless at mechanics in those days (still am in truth) but I did get a good knowledge of working with Red Hermetite gasket sealant. Wendy was also a willing pillion, having to jump off the back with a screwdriver in hand  to make adjustments to  a ‘creeping clutch’ on that particular bike. Wouldn’t happen now!

I had some other dual-purpose bikes etc before my first NEW bike in 1999.

The alloy framed Honda CBR 600 black/yellow/silver. I had read all the reviews. Great compromise on everything. Looks, speed, comfort etc. A do-it-all bike. That’s when as a couple we had this conversation:

Wendy      ”I’m not really that comfortable on the back!”

John.         “WHAT … I’ve just spent out now … you’re going to have to pass your test and get your own bike!”

Sure enough before long her big bike stood next to mine in the garage.

If asked “What bike have you got Wendy?” The reply would be “A red one!”.   I did have to work on her bike etiquette to say “Red … Suzuki … Bandit … 600” etc, ha-ha.  We’ve had our own bikes ever since.

I went bigger and faster. Namely 1000cc Sports bikes.  Criss crossing Europe on Yamaha R1’s. Until….. I fell into the Ewan and Charley trap. Confirmed by trying a GS on the BMW off road course. What a revelation. I had to have one.

A yellow GS followed, which I ‘adventurised’ too much with bigger screen, metal panniers, crash bars etc. I was also a bit much for me for real off-road use.  Though I did try it around Morocco etc before changing up to a GSA. Nothing else could match it. It’s still my dream machine.

I took this GSA from the Scottish Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Isles, through Europe and the USA etc. With a group my bike was shipped to San Francisco, where we then flew out six weeks later to pick them up and ride the Pacific Coast Highway and on toward Canada and Alaska to the top at Prudhoe Bay and return again. A wonderful memory. I have done some other bike trips on my current GSA. Around Europe. This time as a SOLO rider.  To the top of Norway back via Eastern Europe to the bottom of Greece, returning via Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Spain etc. Without real problems I have to say. (I did post a number of times on the Oxford BMW Club face book page if you want to search.)

With Wendy I have also done some fly drive holidays. The Himalayas on Royal Enfield’s.

South Africa and Swaziland on BMW GS 800 ‘s. With any of the trips I go on it’s about meeting the people, eating the food, and remaining humble.

For me the downsides in biking are: (1) being wet and cold. So, after several years I have kitted myself out in Rukka gear and Daytona Gore-Tex boots etc, lovely! Particularly as I commute on my little Honda CRF250L all year round, (2) accidents, Injuries and death. We can all relate to these in some way, but I trust in my OWN ability and problem-solving capabilities. Wendy likes cruises as well now …I don’t.

The upsides are: (1) future riding possibilities. (2) The BMW Club socially. I am Looking forward to the Oxford Section Black Forest trip in June 2020. (I have also recently been on trips with Yorkshire and Irish Sections.) I own a great bike, as I want it. GSers are also great people. I don’t need to spend more money on stickers as my panniers are covered in full now!! I have planned a fly ride to do the ‘Ho Chi Minh trail’ in Vietnam in Nov 2020.

Other interests: Could be anything really. I’ll give it a go, I recently tried stand up paddle boarding in October – drunk to much lake water, probably why I’m writing this!

Originally posted 2019-12-10 20:50:04.


Author: John Ottaway

GSA rider.