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.