Spotlight: Markku Manninen

Markku’s DR650 / TS650

Markku’s DR650 / TS650

How did you get started with motorcycles – how/when did you learn to ride, and what was your first bike?: I was thirteen when a distant cousin moved to live next door to us. He rode a Suzuki Stinger. I immediately got hooked on bikes. He taught me to ride it on gravel pits. We did a 300-mile trip to see his old buddies. My dad was a traffic cop, but he bought me an old Jawa 150 to ride on forest roads and paths. I was fourteen at that time. It was awesome, but its electronics soon went legs-up. I got a (legal) moped at 15. I tuned it up and it was the quickest one among my buddies. Back in 1973 one could only ride a 125cc bike at sixteen here in Finland. Daddy found me a battered Kawasaki 85cc J1 for training purposes. I just loved it – I'd still buy onesuch if I found one. My proper 16th birthday present was a brand new Suzuki TS125 – the prettiest bike I've ever owned. I loved to ride it on gravel, forest paths and explore the near-by countryside. I rode 20000 miles on it, till it was stolen. During my countryside forays I was always looking for barn bikes. In the summer of '73 I found and purchased a 1951 Velocette MAC. It was not a rider, and my skills and resources were not up to the task of restoring it, so I sold it to a biking buddy who rode a 650 BSA. That was it – for 40 years.

What bikes do you currently own? Are they riders or projects?: In the summer of 2016 my biking fever had gotten so bad I rented a KTM Duke. It was a revelation. 300 miles in three days, on curvy country roads. I just loved it. I just had to get a bike of my own. After months of pondering, I decided on a bike that's not too heavy (I hate picking up fallen bikes) or fast. Sort of a gentleman's ride – I was sixty years old. I found it on the Net – a nicely kept DR650SE Suzuki. It was a 1997 model, but with only 18000 miles on the clock. I've ridden two seasons on it and grown very fond of it. It's a project too – I'm converting it to a TS650. Look at the pic and see what I mean.

If you race(d), what is your favorite race story?: Never raced properly, but I once completed a fiendishly challenging trials path with zero errors on my TS125. Too bad the judges weren't there. It was two miles of slippery rocks, fallen trees and bushes. Never felt so elated! I still love trials the best.

What is your most memorable motorcycle trip or adventure?: I don't do foreign trips. Teenage adventures were awesome at the time, but considering a 40-year gap between the rides, it was the three days on the rented Duke I mentioned above.

What is your favorite piece of gear?: The old leather jacket I got from a charity sale for 20 bucks.

You have $25,000 to spend on anything in the world of motorcycles - 1 new bike, several old bikes, track days, a trip, you name it. How do you spend it?: I'd love to have an old Brit – preferably a Velo Thruxton or maybe a late Royal Enfield Interceptor Mk 2. Realism winning, I'd get Husqvarna 701 Svartpilen. I have a thing for quick, lithe thumpers.

What is your favorite part of a motorcycle to work on, and what tips or tricks do you have that would help the rest of us with that part?: I don't have the tooling to do extensive work on my Suzy. I'm just improving its looks and converting it to a street bike/tourer.

What are your favorite motorcycle websites?: RideApart and custom-bike sites like BikeExif, Pipeburn and BikeBound. I regularly read classic bike mags.