Blez's FF History (Updated April 2011)
Paul Blezard's potted FF history
I've been riding scooters and motorcycles for over 30 years and writing about FFs for more than 20. I was 'turned on' to FFs by reading Royce Creasey's HighTech articles in Bike magazine in 1979-80 and by meeting Malcolm Newell with the Cibie Z13 Phasar at the first NEC motorcycle show in 1981. I have ridden a very high percentage of the FFs to be seen on this site, (something like 40 in all), and had articles published about most of them.
My 'FFing career' started when I bought the Difazio-Creasey CX500 Flying Banana from Jack Difazio in 1983 and rode it to the south of France ten days later - see the July 1984 issue of Motorcycle Sport for the full story . I also rode and wrote about Royce Creasey's first solo attempt at an FF - the Ducati 450-engined 'High Techati' in 1985 - and the prototype British Racing Green Voyager 850 in 1988. The Banana was also mended and modified by both Royce and Malcolm during the time I owned it, from 1983-1990. For most of the 1980s I combined scribbling with chaperoning teenage American schoolgirls around Europe on coaches. I've since written features for most of the UK specialist press and several foreign magazines and also had motoring articles published in the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Sunday Mail, Top Gear Magazine and Auto Express, amongst others. Many of them have been about FFs, including the Ecomobile and the MonoTracer.
I've had a go at most forms of motorcycle competition, from moped endurance racing in FFs and 80mph AR50s to the Le Touquet Beach race on both ancient trail bikes and modern motocrossers and racing at Le Mans on single and twin cylinder road bikes and my Burger King 650. I raced the Flying Banana twice at Silverstone in the 1980s and took part in two Ecomobile world championships in Czecho and an Ecomobile training at the Nurburgring in the 90s.
I rode four different FFs to the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France to spectate at the Bol d'Or 24 hour endurance races of 1983, 4, 5 and 6. in chronological order these were the Banana, an original Quasar, the Bruce BSAFF and an LC350FF Phasar. None of them returned entirely unscathed....and each adventure was the subject of a magazine story. Stumbling across an upturned Renault 5 in the dark on the fast lane of a French motorway was particularly memorable....(See BIKE and Motorcycle Sport, January 1985 issues).
I also took the Banana to the 1985 Le Mans 24 hour race in company with the 'White Eleffant' - its 'sister' Difazio CX500FF, ridden by its then owner, Tudor Thomas, who now owns the Z13 Quasar and the Slug GPZ 1100. One of the winners, Guy Bertin, had a brief spin in the Banana afterwards.
In 1988 I wrote and presented a ten minute feature on feet first motorcycles for the BBC's Top Gear TV programme. For that, I assembled at Wroughton aerodrome what I believe was the largest and most disparate gathering of FF machines ever seen in one place, before or since. I also wrote and presented a video about the first Ecomobile World Championships at Most, in Czechoslovakia in 1991. Other Claims to FF fame include riding an Ecomobile into the BBC TV studios live on Blue Peter with John Leslie in the back. That was during a three week trip to the UK from Switzerland with the original blue Ecomobile in October and November 1992. I took over 100 passengers in the Eco, including Simon Le Bon, two members of the House of Lords, 'King' Kenny Roberts Snr, former Norton designer and TT winner Peter Williams and Cosworth co-founder Keith Duckworth. I also thrashed it around a wet Donington Park circuit with a key African member of the Riders for Health team in the back.
In 1991 I co-wrote, with Philippe Le Roux, the keynote speech which he presented to the German Engineers' Institute (VDI) conference in March of that year on behalf of Norton. It was all about Feet First motorcycles, and I rode the Voyager demonstrator machine all the way to Munich, non-stop, with the accompanying slide show on board, which I displayed as Philippe talked.
The same year I played a key role in the design and development of London's first taxibike and looked seriously at using the Voyager as a taxibike, having rejected the Honda Helix which taxibike creator Rob Cave originally wanted to use. In the end the Voyager wasn't available, so I plumped for Honda's Pacific Coast 800, but I had been seduced by the Helix, and went on to own three.
The Honda CN250 Helix/Spazio/Fusion (as it is variously known) was the world's first superscooter and is still the mass-produced machine closest to the FF ideal, at least in terms of seat height and user-friendliness. Since it was first released in 1986, superscoots have grown like topsy, and I've 'upgraded' my machines accordingly. I owned both Mk1 and K2 Burgman 400s before moving on to the 'Burger King' 650 which I went on to race in the inaugural Moto Tour de France in 2003.
I also acquired an early Mk1 TMAX and it was temporarily transformed into a 'BubbleMAX' by Phil Meaton for the first day of the Central London Congestion Charge in February 2003. In standard form I competed with it in the Nick Sanders Moto Challenge of GB in August 2003 and in the inaugural big scooter race at Circuit Carole in Paris in June 2004. In 2002 I tested the prototype 'ComforTmax' initially developed by Royce Creasey for Andrew Gibbens, and compared it with a 'fresh' standard machine from the Yamaha UK press fleet. (see pix elsewhere). In 2005, I re-tested the finished ComforTmax after Andrew Gibbens rode it down from Newcastle to the Beaulieu show. I once more compared it to standard Tmaxes and also rode it two-up to the Goodwood Festival of Speed before returning it to Andrew G who sold it to Monty Billington, who had a lot of fun with it before he plumped for monogamy with his Carver tilting 3-wheeler.
All of the above adventures with big scooters have been recounted in Twist & Go scooter magazine. For the launch issue of the magazine in the summer of 2000, I did a 'roofed scoot comparison' of BMW's C1 with the Benelli Adiva and Phil Meaton's Gilera 125-based 'Bubble'. (For what it's worth I suspect I'm the only person both to have carried a passenger on a C1 for ten miles and to have ridden a Benelli Adiva 125 two-up from London to Brighton).
I plan soon to experiment with Ffing both my Burger King and my TMAX. My current stable of machines also includes a BMW HP2 1200 trail bike and a KTM 450 on which I've competed in a couple of North African Rallies. I also have a Mk2 TMAX which I used in Nick Sanders' inaugural Euro Challenge in June 2004, covering 7 countries in 7 days via numerous mountain passes in the Picos de Europa, the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Vosges. (see Twist & Go nos 32 & 33 for the write-up - www.twistngo.com).
In April 2005 I bought Mo Simpson's Quasar at the Stafford Classic Bike show and in June rode it down to Beaulieu and back two days in a row and paraded it on the Sunday. The Quasar had lots of refurbishment done during the summer and I picked it up to coincide with the annual Quasar rally in Hastings, where no less than six working Quasars were gathered together. (See www.quasarworld.com) I have since driven the Quasar to events all over England, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Revival in both 2006 and 2007 and to Beaulieu three times.
I also rode Ian Pegram's roofed Genesis Burgman 650 in all of its 3 different incarnations from 2003 to 2009 and compared it with my own standard 'Burger King' and original Quasar before I finally decided to buy it in January 2010, having sold the Quasar to do so. I have also ridden all three of Mark Crowson's variously modified Quasars and his tuned GS1000 Phasar.
In August 2005 I flew to Winterthur and rode an Ecomobile for the first time in eleven years. Two hours later I drove Eco 5003 all the way to Brno for the annual training and World Cup. While there I rode several other Ecomobiles and also drove 5003 from Brno to Prague and back in an afternoon to pick up my girlfriend. We returned to Prague after the World Cup and I then drove the 5003 all the way back to Switzerland.
In 2007 I did a similar trip, driving a new Ecomobile from Winterthur to Brno, this time with a passenger all the way. At Brno I was the first journalist in the world to drive the new Peraves MonoTracer and I later rode it some 80 or so miles right into the centre of Prague before riding a 1200 Ecomobile back to Winterthur via Munich.
In 2008 I repeated the Winterthur-Brno-Winterthur trip and had a memorable ride in the back of Roger Riedener's freshly converted electric Ecomobile.
In 2009 I got the chance to drive the E-Tracer, the first MonoTracer to be converted to electric power, and wrote up the story for Motorcycle News, amongst others.
In 2010 I drove myself directly from Zurich airport to Brno in an old Ecomobile and on the way back met up with the Designwerk team and their newly built electric ZeroTracer at the top of the Susten pass shortly before they set off 'around the world in 80 days' a couple of weeks later in the zero race.
In February 2011 I drove the Genesis 650 non-stop to the south of France to meet up with the Zero Race competitors for the last two days of their trip around the world in 80 days on electric power. The overall winner was of course the Oerlikon-sponsored ZeroTracer designed and driven by Tobi Wuelser and Frank Loacker which can be seen on the Peraves page of this site.
In March 2011 I flew to California to ride the latest Zero electric motorcycles but afterwards met up with Craig Vetter and spent several days riding his Helix-based FF streamliner which returned 100mpgUK in varying conditions and also had a top speed of 80mph. See the Craig Vetter Creations page for photos.
PNB. Last updated April 2011.
Some stories, with photos, here:
Video of my Quasar and other FFs parading at Beaulieu in 2006 here:
Nick's video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA8aFt-XH4w
Video of FFs at Wroughton here:
on board video of the electric ecomobile lapping quickly in the rain at Brno here:
Some of the FFs I've ridden:
The Difazio-Creasey Flying Banana (also owned for seven years)
The Difazio White Eleffant CX500
The Creasey High Techati 450
5 Reliant-engined Quasars: - Neil Vass's (now Shawn Grinter's), Mark Crowson's (standard and QuickaQuasar), Mark Verden's Reliant-Guzzi, Mo Simpson's Isle of Man Quasar, around the TT course, which later became my own.
The VF 750 Quasar
The 'Thirteen' Quasar
4 Voyagers: The original green Creasey Voyager 850 prototype; The Demo Voyager (now owned by Graham Robb) Colin Russell's Voyager; Keith Duckworth's Voyager (now owned by Ian Kew)
13 Ecomobiles: 5002 'The Old Blue Machine', 5003, the single sided steered black machine, and several others including 5086 which is powered by a K1200 engine and the beautiful dolphin-themed machine. Also the 1991 yellow machine that was featured on the front cover of Motorrad as 'Das Gelbe vom Ei' (the yellow of the egg) and Koen Van de Kerckhoven's 1992 Ecomobile, in Belgium.
3 MonoTracers: the original factory demonstrator in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, David Baber's UK MonoTracer in 2009 and the newly converted E-Tracer in 2009.
3 Phasars: The LC350THS, Julian Bond's VT500, Monty Billington's V50 Guzzi
3 Gold Wing FFs: Andy Tribble's, TIm Brown's, Richard Baughen's
Pete Lawrence's Delta Talbot (now Jan Nelder's)
Jan Nelder's Difazio KL650 (now Colin Russell's)
The NVT FF moped racer at 3 races in 1985, 86 and 87.
4 John Bruce FFs: the BSAFF, the Black Dream Racer, the Coda 250, the Coda 400 auto
The 1912 Wilkinson which was featured on the Top Gear FF programme
The ComforTmax, in both original 2002 and final 2005 versions.
Colin Ferguson's 'Comfergmax'.
Ian Pegram's Genesis Burger 650 in all 3 versions, which I now own.
An Isle of Wight FF with XS650 engine and modified Reliant front end - can't remember the name of the builder.
2010. Sold my Quasar, bought Ian Pegram's Genesis and took it to Zolder for Clean Week, the Isle of Man TT and Silverstone for Day of Champions.
Also to Mallory Park for the Festival of 1,000 bikes, Snetterton for the first UK mainland electric race and Brands Hatch for the last of the season. Also to the South of France and Switzerland for the last two days of the Zero Race in February 2011 and back to Zolder for Clean Week 2011.
See the Genesis section of the Image Gallery, under 'One Offs'.
Craig Vetter's Helix-based streamliner, including 3 laps of Laguna Seca. See the Craig Vetter's Creations page.