Music & Motorbikes

by Phil Beaumont, Toshiba, UK

Music: My father first introduced me to the wonderful world of music. Himself an accomplished musician, a classically trained pianist and lover of all things jazz and keyboards, he encouraged me to begin learning the clarinet when I was 8 or 9 years old. Little did I know at the time that this was a prelude to me learning the saxophone, which uses the same embouchure, because he loved the instrument so much from his national service days in the army when he played with Tubby Hayes, one of the great British saxophonists of the 1950s/1960s.

I continued with the clarinet through grammar school, taking the usual music examinations and playing in the school orchestra before my transition to tenor saxophone when I reached the age of 15. I joined a band and started playing around the working men’s clubs in the North of England, a very good training ground for the budding musician.
Mostly playing covers but beginning to improvise solos in and around lead vocals. I’d had good exposure to jazz by this time, heavily influenced by American jazz musicians and bands, particularly guys like Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, David Sanborn and many, many others.
I gravitated towards the alto-saxophone and the fusion of jazz, rock, blues, funk and the r and b genres and had the notion to start my own band; I was lucky in finding similar minded musicians from the college of light music in Leeds close to where I was studying for my electrical engineering degree. After working out sets and rehearsing we got to know the local (and not so local!) jazz gigs including an American air base where we always went down well. We also got played on Radio York and at York Theatre Royal.
Eventually my job and career took me away from the north of England and I missed the band but soon got involved in the local music scene in and around Guildford in the south, playing in pub bands, doing some session work and starting to teach the saxophone.
My claim to fame was playing A Whiter Shade of Pale with Gary Brooker at a charity gig where Phil Collins donated a pair of drumsticks for the raffle and jamming one evening with Roger Taylor from Queen.
I’ve taken my saxophone on business trips and joined in with local musicians in places as far away and diverse as Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. It has been a marvelous way of meeting like-minded people and making friends. I have not played live for some time now, but frequently play along to recordings of my favorite artists - it’s a great relief from life’s troubles. I have made a new deal with myself to seek out and get involved with the local music scene where I am based in Durham. It’s about time I started to play with other musicians again.   

Motorbikes: In a similar way to music it was my father that suggested that I ‘needed’ a motorcycle. When I left school I started college as part of my training to become an engineer before taking my degree. There was no easy route to college using public transport and I could not afford a car, so logic seemed to indicate a cheaper form of mobility. I had never considered a motorcycle and the idea seemed quite alien to me. Nevertheless, there appeared to be no other option and I jumped in with the usual teenage exuberance. I bought a little Honda CB125S and after a somewhat wobbly start, including a fair amount of embarrassment stalling the thing in front of my old school chums, much to their delight, I finally started to form a marvelous relationship with the bike.
Not only was I able to travel to college and my work placements,   but I could visit my new workmates at weekends who hailed from all over North of England. For a young man the independence and new found sense of freedom was a wonderful experience. 
A couple of years passed and I started to come across other motorcyclists in our town and eventually I was truly bugged and smitten with the motorcycling lifestyle. An ever increasing list of motorbikes passed through my ownership with the emphasis becoming more focused on sports bikes. It seemed to fit so perfectly with my career choice of engineering as well, I started to work on my own bikes, just servicing to begin with but as my confidence grew I started to build ‘specials’ from the ground-up based upon exotic frame kits and high end Japanese engines. This passion has continued throughout my career and has been a welcome distraction from the ups and downs of life.

Ducati: However, I did not realize that there was something missing from my life until I came across some particularly good marketing from Ducati, an Italian motorcycle manufacturer, the Ferrari of the motorcycle world. The advertisement in one of the motorcycle journals pictured a fairground ‘merry-go-round’ suggesting that owning a Ducati was a much better alternative to continuously changing your machine for the latest, fastest, techno gizmo every couple of years. This appealed. 
I had been riding bikes since I was seventeen and quite unexpectedly found myself as a 42-year old in danger of finding bikes becoming boring. This was actually quite shocking, especially considering the amount of time and expense that I had "invested," (my long suffering wife, Bev would say "blown") on sports bikes over the years. That single piece of clever Ducati marketing led me off the hamster wheel of buying the latest new model after latest new model and into buying my first Ducati.
The first Ducati of many was a second hand 748, and I have to admit that I did spend a lot of time and money on this bike, lightweight magnesium wheels and high performance exhaust system/ECU being amongst many purchases and my exploration of Italian kit continued with a subtly modified 996SPS. I would have done a lot more to this bike, but now I was nearing the pinnacle of my obsession and was drawn to buying a 998R instead of lavishing attention on the SPS. Amazingly I have yet to find myself in a divorce court!
The first ride on my 748 had a profound effect on me; some might say an almost religious experience. The way it felt as we accelerated away from our first roundabout together was an almost physical vindication of my decision to leave the endless repetition of across the frame, four cylinder motorcycles. You get the picture...
Needless to say, I was well and truly hooked and seeking ever more sublime experiences such that the local Ducati agent found itself a new source of income. I became a fully committed Ducati convert, to the extent that I have even found myself on two ‘business trips’ that mysteriously ended up with a factory visit to Bologna, home of Ducati in Italy. The owner of my local Ducati oasis, (to continue with the quasi-religious angle!) is my oracle, a much nicer way of saying "dealer."
Anyway, back to the 998R and I had originally meant to purchase a pair of billet race brake calipers together with radial front brake and clutch master cylinders as I went in search of the Holy Grail. However, when I went to pick these up my "dealer" stared at me with a glass like expression and simply threw a fuel tank at me. He was in the mode of a Jedi master and I found myself on the receiving end of more profound wisdom than anything experienced by Luke Skywalker. However, I digress, once I caught the tank, the reason for his glazed reverential expression became clear as I realized I was holding a Ducati Corse race item in the finest carbon fiber. His revelation of, “You’ve just got to have one of these” was actually quite superfluous - it was already as good as sold.

Needless to say Mr. Bank Manager was becoming nervous. From that point my life had started to become a dream of carbon fiber, titanium, magnesium and other exotic materials - the land of milk and honey for the terminally smitten Ducati owner. As often with these cases one thing led to another and I found that for the racing brakes to fit I needed new forks that could take adaptor plates that the standard forks could not. In turn, these required a new bottom yoke in order to fit them to the bike and for the front end to be finalized. Well, I say finalized and it was almost complete, but not before a set of fully floating discs were obtained to grace the front wheel.
Now my attention turned to the rear of the bike. Unfortunately for the valium consumption of the aforementioned bank manager, things quickly began to become more complicated and expensive. My desire for a magnesium swing arm implicitly required a lightweight rear hub, a different tie-rod, a billet race spec rear caliper and shock - in my dealers immortal words, "pure jewelry."
The 998R was starting to look rather tricky for its weight loss program. As well as the above modifications I invested heavily in a Magnetti Marelli digital dash, compete with the requisite sensors and other such goodies as a custom seat and Ducati Corse rearsets.

All these were added against a background of really quite obsessive polishing to the top yoke, wheels, side-stand, steering damper and various brackets that I had found the need to fabricate. The engine remains fairly standard apart from the exhaust system and ‘race’ ECU and the addition of cone type air-filters breathing through carbon fiber air intake tubes.
The bike has featured in Performance Bikes magazine and the Ducati Sporting Club’ in-house magazine and is now 10 years old. I’ve reached the giddy age of 55 but the relationship feels fresh and young and I’m sure is set to last for many years to come.


Phil Beaumont read Electrical Engineering at Leeds in the UK and graduated with a BSc (Hons) degree. He trained as an engineer with the Central Electricity Generating Board where he stayed for 14 years working in the fields of Measurements and Protection & Control. He has worked with ABB, Reyrolle Protection and VA Tech where he held various engineering positions in sales & marketing, applications, Chief Engineer R&D and as Engineering Director. Phil is a Chief Specialist with Toshiba, a Senior Member of the IEEE and a Fellow of the IET. He is active in a number of CIGRE and IEEE PSRC WGs and is IEC TC95 MT4 Secretary.


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