Interview: David Edwards

David Edwards of Cycle World
For a quarter of a century, David Edwards wrote for and edited Cycle World magazine. But now he puts his remarkable knowledge of the motorcycling world to work for the Bonhams auction house. David is on the right in the shot above: the fellow in the chair is his English cocker, Ned.

David, what was the first motorcycle you bought with your own money? When I was 15, a used $400 Honda CB175 [below] purchased from a Navy man who was shipping off to Vietnam. He was kind enough to let me put $200 down and pay the rest to his wife over four months with money from my newspaper route.

David Edwards of Cycle World
What do you think is the most beautiful production motorcycle ever built? Maybe it’s because I’m writing an article on one, but the first-year 1957 Harley-Davidson Sportster [below] really appeals to me. It’s modern and Art Deco, dainty and muscular, all at the same time.

1957 Harley sportster

What motorcycle do you despise? I don’t “despise” anything with two wheels and a motor, but nor would I care to spend any more time aboard a certain 1985 Moto Guzzi Quota 350 dual-purpose bike.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? For purposes of this discussion, third gear, pulling hard, on a Norton Commando will do just fine.

Electric motorcycles: Yes or No? A big yes. Not as a replacement for internal-combustion but as a supplement. Why each of the major manufacturers doesn’t already have an electric (or hybrid, or fuel cell) commuter special in the catalog ready for the next big gas crisis is beyond me. They all pay lip service with concept bikes but nothing’s hit showrooms. Somebody will be selling the two-wheeled equivalent of a Toyota Prius and reaping all those benefits, but probably not one of the established players.

What is your favorite journey? It’s hard to beat the Alps or the Dolomites or the Pyrenees for sheer riding excitement. New Zealand is a great motorcycle country, too. But my most memorable journey is a scouting trip I did in Mongolia with Burt Richmond’s Lotus Tours, just because it was so remote, so different and such an adventure. When you break down in the Gobi Desert, that is broken down!

Which ‘everyday’ modern bikes do you think will become future classics? The equivalent of the Honda CB750 or Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, if you like? Difficult question without the benefit of time’s buffer but I think you have to look at the ‘firsts’ of a bike type. When it comes to modern sportbikes, models like the 1983 Honda Interceptor 750, the 1984 Ninja 900 or the 1986 Suzuki GSX-R750 [below] all come to mind. The fact that most were ridden or raced into the ground, or got modded to the gills, puts a premium on well-kept stockers—if you can find ‘em.

1986 Suzuki GSX-R750
Who are your real-life motorcycling heroes? Not really into heroes, but as an all-around rider, BMW’s Ernst Henne [below] is someone I greatly admired. Likewise in the U.S., super-versatile Dick Mann [second below] was the first rider to score an AMA ‘Grand Slam’—wins in mile, half-mile, TT, short-track and road races. He also helped pioneer motocross in America, and was good enough off-road to take a bronze medal in IDST competition.

Ernst Henne, BMW rider
Dick Mann

Are you optimistic for the future of motorcycling? Motorcycling is going through tough times right now in a depressed economy, but if history shows us anything it’s that there will always be motorcycles and people passionate about riding them. Thank God.

What is your current state of mind? Restless probably best describes it. It’s been almost a year since I was unceremoniously sacked at Cycle World magazine, my professional home for 25 years. While I’ve enjoyed the time off and not having a deadline hanging over my head for the first time in a quarter-century, I am feeling like it’s time to get back in harness. I do miss the challenge and satisfaction that comes with being part of a team of talented people turning 100-plus blank pages of white paper into a memorable magazine each month. My work as a consultant and consigner for the Bonhams auction house calls on a whole new set of skills and I’m enjoying that learning experience. I’m hitting the keyboard on a regular basis turning out freelance stories, and I’m in development on my own website, which is fun. As a wrap-up, if I can just say thank you to all my friends, known and unknown, in the motorcycle and publishing industries, and in the private sector, who took the time to send me encouragement via phone calls, voice messages, emails and forum posts after I left the magazine. It meant a lot to me at the time and still does today.

  • http://www.jonathanrundle.com Jonathan

    I’m constantly searching for even better motorcycle blogs than this one – and constantly coming up short. Thanks for pushing the blog past pretty pictures (even though those are always fantastic and necessary for a blog with exif in its name) and bringing us great content like this series. Looking forward to reading more!

  • http://fraserart.com Doug

    Now there’s a class act, and a hard one to follow. The man is one of motorcycling’s great ambassadors.

  • T-Bone Bloss

    Amazing. David Edwards and Erik Buell relived of their commands in the same year? Shows that the economic downturn made the suits lose what was left of their common sense. Idiots.
    I will be forever grateful to Mr. David Edwards for keeping Cycle World the last bastion of an “all round” magazine (not unlike Bike EXIF, come to think of it). I may not actively participate in creating custom bikes, or ride dirt, or race, but I love reading about all forms of motorcycling. Thank you for turning metal, rubber, leather, oil and gas into great literature. Please let us know where we can read more of your great writing!

  • kim of Copenhagen

    T-Bone Bloss said it all….

  • Harry Farquhar

    Mr Edwards It is good to see you back in the saddle again. I just hope the photo with your dog is not already on PETA’s website. Clearly this is not the first time you two have engaged in this type of antics. Evidenced by the fact that he is thoroughly unruffled by these exploits and plainly knows exactly where he needs to be in order to keep the shinny side up. Jolly good. Cheers.

  • BRG

    A lifetime of motorcycling is experience money cannot buy, its not something you can learn from books either. Cycle world’s loss our gain. I look forward to more free lance writings from Mr Edwards.

  • Mule

    For many, many years, Cycle World had the highest Worldwide circulation of any bike mag. And David Edwards was at the helm. To me that says he was just about the most respected, most influential man in the world of motorcycles! How do you top that? David will most likely find a way. Kudos to Alan Girdler for hiring him!

  • JEK

    I have bought Cycle World every month for the past thirty years, but the way David Edwards left the magazine and the lack of compassion by the publishers called my subscription seriously into doubt. Quite frankly it was ‘shabby’ and they should be ashamed of their actions. It is fair to say Cycle World no longer hits the high spots it once did – particularly the editor’s monthly section. Nevertheless, it is still the best hard-copy publication out there. I know Edwards’ will never be invited back, but, maybe BikeExif gives him the new platform he requires and let us hope he will contribute on a regular basis.

  • RocketRobinHood

    David: Thanks for a whole lot of good reading over the years, and those first 2 photos (dog and 1971) are great. Who’s that on the back? Looks like when I took my mum for a highway ride on my KZ400 at 16 years old.

  • Leo

    Diggin’ the interview series. Very inspirational.
    Thanks,

  • craigj

    Long time CW readers will remember that pic from a eulogy column from Editor Edwards after the death of his Grandmother, who apparently showed no fear in life.

  • Roostabunny

    Very inspriring, and since this is my first comment on Bike Exif I’ll add that this is by far the most beautiful and addictive moto blog out here.

  • Dave Howe

    From the interview:
    What is your idea of perfect happiness? “For purposes of this discussion, third gear, pulling hard, on a Norton Commando will do just fine.”

    Man, do I know what you mean by that! That is one of the most thrilling, sublime moments in motorcycling.
    Think climbing hard at full military power in a perfect Stearman biplane.
    I only wish my old Norton had gone to you rather than where it did end up. My biggest mistake! Oh, well…

    I can only echo what the other guys said, CW will never be the same, never as good. And I love the Erick Buell analogy.

    Best of luck with the new gig!

  • http://craftsmansholiday@blogspot.com BentGrill

    I have developed a nervous twitch refreshing your page. take your time and do it right. thanks for the sweet bikes and now for the great quick interviews. spot on.

  • Steve Honda919Rider

    Dave Edwards will always be remembered as one of the greats in motorcycling. I’ve made my mistakes over the years on the forum of that place he used to work, that I admit. I know he is bigger than those errors in judgement and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.
    God Bless Dave Edwards!

  • Greybeard

    Make sure we know when that web site is up & running Dave.
    For whatever it’s worth we’ll follow you there like a tail.

  • Barry Brown

    I would definitely say that Mr. Edwards has dropped a few pegs to be working for a company like Bonhams who in my opinion engage in all manner of unethical practices. Maybe he will learn and write an expose of them and all the other slimy auction companies about today.

  • David Edwards

    Thanks, all, for the very nice comments. Craigj is exactly right: The lady behind me on the CB175 (was I ever that skinny?!) is my grandmother, Rene. She lived to be 102; last went for a ride with me when she was 94 and insisted that I squire her around on my BSA Gold Star.

    Far as where you’ll see me in print next, I’ve done a couple of small stories for Mitch Boehm’s “Moto Retro.” Should have some larger pieces in “Classic Bike” in the coming months. Got a few other things in the works, too.

    Dave, no worries on the wrongly placed Commando; I’ve got more than enough Nortons to keep me busy. Besides, cool bikes have a way of finding me eventually… Say hi to the rest of the Peckerheads for me.

    Mr. Brown, you’ve obviously had a bad experience at auction. That runs counter to my dealings with Bonhams (I bought and sold for years before joining up as a consultant), as well as the many repeat clients who list bikes–and cars and artwork and furniture and firearms, etc.–with Bonhams year after year and are obviously happy with the results. No expose forthcoming but if you’ll contact me at david.edwards@bonhams.com, maybe we can clear up any misunderstandings.

    Again, thanks to all for the notes. Seeya in person, print or pixel soon.

    Best,
    David

  • http://blackshipdesign.com Chris

    I have to agree with the first comment here, I really have never encountered a better blog than this. Just when I think I haven’t seen a cooler bike I usually do. Being based in Europe what excites me the most is the customization of Japanese and European bikes. There is a treasure trove of such bikes over here. I’m just about to get my teeth stuck into cafe racer project, I’ve located a 74 honda 500/4 and can’t wait to get going.

  • Sidecar Denny

    Always liked Dave’s slant on things. Beers on me when we meet!

    Sidecar Denny

  • Dave Fagar

    For most of my riding life, the past 31 years, I enjoyed David Edwards style of writing and publishing. He is one of the true greats in our field of interest. Needless to say, when Cycle world sacked him, I sacked them, and havent looked back. Good luck Dave, but I doubt you’ll need it. Talent and knowledge will get you there just fine………….

  • Gary Heard

    David,

    Wow, it’s amazing to read all the great things people have to say about you and your accomplishments. You sure have come a long way since the days of two knuckleheads riding their bikes year round to Thomas Stone, And yes, you were that skinny once. If you ever make it back to the east coast give me a shout and we’ll take a ride together.

    Take care,
    Gary

  • Botlhale Maseloane

    This webside is a learning turf for me about motorbikes…Mcwaa!!!

  • jim

    Three cheers for every bit of this. Thanks.

  • Mike Cecchini

    You shared a lot of motorcycling experiences with us and I thank you from the heart for them.

    I hope to see you doing something near and dear to your heart.

    God’s Speed David Edwards

    My very best……. Mike Cecchini

  • Steve White

    Dave,

    Nice picture of your first Honda CB175… did I take the photo? I remember that bike well. You taught me to ride on it and we rode it most days to our summer job as gophers on a construction crew. Those were the days, my friend. I am still a little embarassed about the time in your garage when I accidentally dropped a hammer and put a small dent in the new chrome pipes you had just installed on that bike. Yikes, sorry again and thanks for being cool about that. Hey, what ever happened to the Honda CB500 (or was it a 750?) you latter bought, your first Yahama motocross bike, and your Dad’s old Norton?

    All the best in whatever you do next. Catch you at a high school reunion, or maybe sooner.

    - Steve White