Without putting too fine a rose tinted point on it, the 70s were the greatest. No decade comes close. When they started I was five, didn't rate girls (because they were rubbish), and was obsessed with bikes. By the time they ended I was 16, and obsessed with bikes and girls. Starry-eyed codgers like me love to bang on about how everything ruled OK, but it's true. If it was cool then, it'll still be cool today. Magic.
I'd carefully selected my heroes and had every intention of idolising my own Fantastic Four forever. But by the end of its first year in office, the 80s had already taken Lennon and McQueen away from me. With their precarious chosen employment I remained ever anxious for the well being of the remaining two: Sheene and Knievel thankfully failed to destroy themselves in the pursuit of their daredevil dreams.
As part of his legacy Steve McQueen left us with On Any Sunday. I saw the movie and was instantly inspired to ride off-road. Driven by the need to emulate my hero, and maddened by scurvy - brought on by a failed attempt to consume my own body weight in sherbert fountains - I banged on doors and washed enough cars to buy my very own McQueen/Husqvarna replica, though being a C90 this particular model had not seen much sand action. Anyway, my mum had just bought me my first pair of long trousers so I was fully equipped to face Surrey's awesome sand dunes. My dunes were probably flatter and muddier than McQueen's, but that's not how it seemed then. I was a legend in the making.
"Fook me, we'll never get this fooking thing over there." Whitham's wake up call was neatly timed. My flashback is over, it's 30-odd years later and it's very, very cold. The 'thing' he refers to is the Triumph Scrambler and 'there' is the beach. We're huddled in a car park at Camber Sands, here to emulate the stars of the film. This a bit like the famous Mint 400, which used to run around Las Vegas and was covered by such enthusiastic journalists as Hunter S Thompson. Except Camber is smaller than Vegas, and colder, more deserted, derelict and depressing. We're also looking at a section of sand about 400 yards across, as opposed to 400 miles, but the On Any Sunday spirit is with us. We're chomping at the bit, but to get to our destination we have to cross 60 yards of deep soft sand, followed by another 60 of quicksand. By the time we're all ready for the off, Whitham has already buried the Triumph. We're in hysterics, and it's not even 10 o'clock.
Also on the casting couch are Jon and Daryll, both sentimental enough to appreciate this bygone era and collection of quirky bikes. One of my neighbours had a collection of off-roaders, among them a DOT, a Greeves, a couple of Bultacos , a Royal Enfield and a Triumph, much the same ours. It was 1974, and that rich kid at the end of the road had a monkey bike that he never used, like a tiny version of Suzuki's Van Van. The silly arse who drove the mobile fruit'n'veg van and winked at my mum had a trail bike just like the Kawasaki TR250, although it was painted a heavy metal-flake silver and covered in amusing stickers.
Click here to read On Any Sunday page two