Niall Mackenzie Column - Jan 10

Niall Mackenzie is a 500cc Grand Prix God. Let us not forget or overlook his profound magnificence. He and Whitham also run the meanest chat show at the bike show.

F or many bikers, this is a frightening time of the year. For a start 4pm is now 5pm so the commute home from work is dark and therefore more treacherous. Temperatures are also dropping (I just found out when you can see your breath the ambient temperature is below 7°C) so all things beneath your wheels can be incredibly skiddy. But worst of all, we’re in racing limbo with a four month wait until the new season starts. Difficult times indeed but James Whitham and myself have another reason to be concerned when November arrives and it’s called the NEC.

Our traditional press day party in downtown Birmingham means everything starts well but then the hangover the following morning kickstarts a two week downward spiral in our health. We both love to talk bikes, so with hundreds coming by to chat it only takes a few days before we catch some bug and then we’re on Red Bull and Nurofen for the remainder of the show.  Occasionally we get individuals with bad breath coming by with something smart to say or simply to tell us we’re rubbish. Being a placid Scot I rarely ever think of a clever answer on the spot, but if you catch my partner in crime on an off day he’s got a tongue like a Samurai sword. I’ve seen men, women and pensioners on electric scooters leaving in tears, so confront him at your peril.

We both like our grub too so in eleven days our blood pressure and cholesterol levels rise and we gain around  a stone in weight.  A few years ago we found  the best way to get served quickly was to avoid the usual Subway and burgers outlets and go to the little known pastie stand in the main hall. The only trouble is they’re enormous and delicious so we never leave a crumb. There’s enough variety to have a different one every day so we start with a standard Cornish working our way around the world with the Indian curry, Thai chicken, Mexican Chilli, and so it goes on. The coffee ain’t bad either so it’s normally a large cappo with a chocolate brownie to finish the job off. Feeling sick yet? I am.

Each year we interview any biking celeb that might be visiting. Our ‘A’ listers last year being Marco Melandri and our very own JT. Racers are always very clear in their minds what they’d like from the season ahead but as we know (and that’s what makes our sport so fascinating) anything can happen. In the case of our interviewees, Marco told us he was relieved to be away from Marlboro Ducati and couldn’t wait to race for his new employers, Kawasaki.

A few weeks later he was unemployed when Kawasaki withdrew from MotoGP, then re-employed when Kawasaki became Hayate! James Toseland had just completed a successful debut season in MotoGP and was looking forward to top five finishes which we all thought would be a foregone conclusion. None of us would have predicted that nine months later his MotoGP dream would be over and he’d be swapping jobs with Ben Spies. I only hope Aprilia attend the show this year. The RSV4 is so beautiful, just looking at one in the flesh brightens up my day.

One thing is sure and that is Mackenzie and Whitham will definitely be on the Visordown stand at this year’s NEC show. We’ll probably be ill but we’ll still be smiling and up for a chat about all things biking. We’ll also be having a laugh interviewing  famous bikers as and when they visit the show.   See you there!

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