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I avoid driving too much these days unless it is of necessity, preferring to roll a bike out of the garage. On this occasion, however, I have a three-hour trip to make, about 126 miles, on mostly tedious stretches of dual carriageway, multiple roundabouts to negotiate, and into a part of the country that I am not at all familiar with. A check of the forecast predicts a relatively warm, dry spell followed by rain later in the afternoon. I don’t mind riding in the rain, but when I have an overnighter to consider in a 4-star hotel, and dinner, I take the car.

My destination is Cheltenham, where I am booked into Hotel Malmaison as a guest of Ruroc, the UK-based helmet manufacturer, to attend a launch presentation the following day of the EOX. (Read all about it in Part Two.) The hotel has an underground car park, which is a blessing because I have no idea where I am going to park otherwise.

The receptionist informs me I have been upgraded to a superior room. I am handed the key card to Room 009 on the ground floor, and upon opening the door I am greeted with a large television, king-size bed, wardrobes galore, and, adjacent to the bed, a bath and separate shower cubicle.


This is all very lovely, but still I look upon it as modernism gone mad. Why? What’s wrong with a private bathroom with a door? I’m clearly missing something here, or just too old to get the point. Okay for newlyweds or the non-inhibited, I guess, but not for me. Sorry.

The room, which is spotless, has an Espresso coffee maker, but no tea, milk, or sugar. Bloody modernism again. After a long drive I fancy a cup of tea, so wander along to the lounge. The television is running the news, headlining that Putin is now blaming the US, the UK, Islamic State, Ukraine, and anyone else he can think of for the shooting of over a hundred Russians. Thank God we do not have a State-run media to listen to like the Russian people; brainwashed citizens who know no better than the shit they are fed daily. Sorry, did someone just mention the BBC?


Ruroc HQ, in readiness for the big reveal…

Back in the lounge bar, I spot Nik Samson, Editor of Back Street Heroes, one of four motorcycle magazines I manage as Production Editor. “I thought I recognised you earlier,” he exclaimed, a bottle of Sol in one hand and phone in the other. He has one of the new Honda Gold Wings on test and decided to ride it across from his home in deepest Norfolk… in the rain. I have known Nik for five years and have never seen him express disappointment at anything really, not even riding in a shit-storm.

As we step outside the hotel to take a short walk to the restaurant, it is still raining and we have to skip around puddles that are flooding the pavement. There is something extraordinarily atmospheric about walking in the rain, at night, along a wide boulevard with its grand houses and subdued street lighting.

No. 131 The Terrace is situated in the heart of Cheltenham and is all about seasonality and provenance using the best produce from local suppliers. We are directed round the side of the building to Gin & Juice, a late-night destination for good times on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, when drinkers can dive into the cocktail list and dance to the tunes of House DJs. But this is Tuesday evening… and it’s buzzing. I order a Gin and Tonic and lose Nik in the throng.

The first faux pas of the evening is when I ask Paul Smythe what his position is at Ruroc, as he has only introduced himself as Paul. “I’m the CEO,” he answers politely. Perhaps I didn’t hear that part. Ah well, nice one, Gonzo.


Good to see Taylor Mackenzie in good spirits. In fact, I don’t think I ever catch him not smiling!

After a brief chat, Paul politely excuses himself, and I spot Taylor MacKenzie, who, in October 2021, walked away from his life as a professional motorcycle racer in the British Superbike Championship. I want to enquire as to how he managed to adjust his life away from being in the MotoGP paddock and beyond professional sport whilst at the peak of his career. Today working alongside Ruroc as one of their helmet testers, he is cheerful and full of banter so I avoid asking the question. No need to spoil the moment.

They say some of life’s best memories are created over a table. Diners at mine include Nik, Paul, Ruroc’s PR Account Manager Lauren Wilson of Motocom, a leading automotive and powersports communications agency, and mega influencer Raven of @ravenrideruk


Fillet steak… and those chips were bloody good, too

Whilst dipping into a bowl of Iced Nocellara Del Belice Olives, I glance through the A La Carte menu and order Crispy Pigs’ Head, Pickled Walnut Ketchup, Celeriac and Kohlrabi Remoulade, followed by an 8oz Fillet Steak priced at fifty pence shy of forty quid. I hadn’t noticed the price, I simply fancied a succulent medium-done steak drizzled with peppercorn sauce. Sorry Ruroc. G&T flows, wine flows, conversation flows, laughter flows. The ambience is extraordinarily upbeat.

Chatting with Raven, I remain intrigued by social media. With a growing blog, only recently have I dipped my toe into the world of TikTok and Instagram to keep on trend. Raven asks me how many posts I have on Instagram, seemingly THE go-to site. I have no idea.

”What’s your handle?”

“The Gonzo Biker,” I reply.

“Pass me your phone… I can’t find it. It doesn’t exist!” Raven then Googles it and finds @The_Gonzo_Biker  “That’s it,” I exclaim. This is all highly embarrassing, and amusing, as she comments: “You’ve only got one post!”

For fuck’s sake, keep you voice down.

“Sit with me tomorrow and I’ll show you how it’s done.” Just the break I need.

It is heading towards midnight when Nik and I return to the hotel. He suggests we have another beer. My second sense has warned me that question is inbound. Well, not really a question, more an expectation. I have a good sense for these things, especially when with a fellow journalist. It is close to 3am when eventually I fall into bed. The next morning, I step inside the glass shower cubicle and immediately cut my finger on a tap. Shit! I look down and blood is being sluiced down the drain by the running water. I leave bloodstains on the bath towel and leave it exposed so the cleaner can spot it, then head to reception to ask for a plaster. I am offered one of the blue ones worn by kitchen staff.

I join Nik for breakfast, who orders the full works, whilst I opt for fruit salad and a child’s portion of bacon, eggs, and beans. Tedious, these muzzy heads.

As I leave the underground car park for the 20-minute drive to Ruroc HQ in Barnwood, Gloucester, once again the heavens open. Poor old Nik, wet again. Upon arrival, the Ruroc team is present and guide me to an outdoor marquee housing a mobile coffee van. Perfect. I order a latte and spot who I presume can only be other influencers, young, annoyingly young, attractive, blonde, full of bon viveur.


As the first of the presentations begin, I sit behind two of the influencers and watch as they take snapshot videos, show each other, giggle, then clap and wolf-whistle as each presentation ends. Totally unphased, unselfconscious, sans embarrassment. I don’t know, and don’t ask, their names. It isn’t relevant. They live by their handles and often on social media hide behind motorcycle helmets, with just the visor popped open to reveal a tantalising glimpse of mascaraed eyes.

We are offered a tour of the premises before fitments for the new helmet take place, along with colour choice. One of the young influencers climbs on to the presentation bar, flicks back her hair, puts on one of those petulant looks with pursed lips and adopts the pose. I glance at Nik. “No!” he says. “You’re too old, you won’t get any likes, and anyway you won’t be able to jump up there.” Point taken.


‘Vandal’ waving to the crowd whilst stood on the fuel tank… as you do

Feeling shunned, I wander outside where a mobile pizza van is serving a range of, yep, pizzas. I opt for my favourite, ham and pineapple, just as Mark ‘Vandal’ Van-Driel of Two Brothers Racing Stunt Team takes to the car park. Tearing up the bitumen, he wheelies and circles and performs what can only be described as crash-defying stunts with consummate ease. One of those ‘don’t try this at home, folks’ scenarios.

The Hollywood movie motorcycle stunt legend and his stunt team member Paul Todd (Toddy) are British Superbike Freestyle stunt champions. Watching Vandal’s stunning performance under trying (slippery) conditions, it is little surprise that the team is world renowned for its film and television stunt work.


Since returning home, I’ve been busy on social media, posting mostly on TikTok and Instagram. And you know what… it’s fun, it’s addictive. Apparently, my phone usage went up 58.3 per cent within a couple of days. I need to adopt some self-control.

Ruroc EOX

My design choice, the EOX Buzzsaw Carbon… An absolute stunner (check out the other options in Part Two)

Just a heads up to Ruroc for the hotel, the dinner, the drinks, the presentation, the walkaround and, most of all, the new EOX, which I am looking forward to testing when it arrives, so watch out for a full-on review and vlog once I have logged up a few miles. You never know, teasers might even pop up on social media.

Below are my handles, and I’m sure @ravenrideruk or @thehonestbiker or @lady.harley.883 will correct me if I am not getting things right. You see, all three are following me now. Whoop, whoop.

Think that’s it… Raven, hang in there!


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