Style Rider focuses on the intersection of motorcycle culture and individual style. Here we speak to Moto Guzzi Griso rider Geoff Warren about the importance of investing in a quality leather jacket, good manners on the road and the way riding sharpens your senses, opens your mind and makes you feel truly alive.
Name: Geoff Warren. Call me ‘GW’.
Residence: Sydney, Australia
Occupation: Pacific Leader – Advisory Project Management @ CBRE
Today’s ride: 2014 Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 8VSE Black Devil. The Griso has had a number of modifications including an Arrow fly screen, heated hand grips, Termignoni pipe (with the baffle IN), bar-end mirrors, rear guard eliminator/LED tail light and race pegs from Guzzi Tech. I add a Givi Tanklock bag and some Hepco Becker soft panniers when I’m touring. The engraved bar risers in memory of my mate Mark.
Describe your style: My tailor Richard Bowman says ‘a man’s style is like his signature – individual, with a flourish’. So what does this look like? I have a very square job, and under Richard’s expert guidance try to bring the cool with bespoke shirts, snappy jacket/waistcoat combos, knit ties, handmade shoes and artisan cuff links.
I believe a grown man should always carry a pen, handkerchief and a comb; also polish your shoes every time you wear them. I invariably have a Swiss Army Knife in my pocket and have done since I was a kid. Off duty and off the bike, simple is best. Black tee. Denim. Wolverine 1000 Mile boots. Cool jacket. El Solitario belt. Vintage TAG Monaco. Dresden shades. Done.
Favourite items: Every self-respecting motorcyclist knows deep down that their leather jacket defines them. Today I’m rocking my twenty year old Vanson with a plain Milwaukee Leather vest over the top as another layer of hide between me and the road is always a good bet; I can also parade my modest badge collection without puncturing my jacket. More pockets also offer better options for stashing the phone/ keys/wallet/tools etc.
In the jacket section of the gear locker are a vintage Schott Boston Police and a Lewis Leathers twin track Bronx. Pride of place goes to my very first jacket, a Stagg ‘Brando’ classic black horsehide, made in Australia in the mid-80s. I’m sorry to report it’s a bit of a tight fit these days.
These Stylmartin boots are amazing with good levels of protection, weatherproof and firm for riding while being surprisingly comfortable off the bike. I bought these Alpine Star strides from Union Garage in New York. They are the real deal. I reckon I could buy one of everything they have in that shop.
My gorgeous wife and soulmate Caroline has given me a couple of stunning vintage watches. For my fiftieth birthday, a mint condition original Omega Speedmaster (ref.145.012-67). It is the coolest thing I own and exactly the same age as me. For a wedding gift in 2019, a 1980’s TAG Monaco that I love daily. My sons will fight over them when I’m gone.
I pride myself as being able to fix things. Motorcycling in the 80s on second hand machinery meant roadside repairs were all part of the experience. I continually evolve my on-board toolkit and always carry this Swiss Army Knife which has been on my hip since I was fifteen. It’s my lucky charm and has helped me in surprising ways.
Style inspiration: I’ve been a rocker since the day I was born with a deep affection for loud music, fast motorcycles, greaser fashion and road culture. My icons include Brando (The Wild One), Elvis (selectively) McQueen (always), wayward café racers from the Ace Café glory days (obviously), The Clash (off the bike) and the Goose from Mad Max (a little). When it’s time to dress up formally, it’s a coin toss whether I channel McQueen again (The Thomas Crown Affair) or Sean Connery (as 007).
Best local ride: On my very first day as a motorcyclist, literally on my way home from the RTA wearing my Stagg jacket, I went for a run out to West Head on my ratty old Suzuki. To this day this route remains my favourite solo burn. The gates to the National Park are open from sunrise to sunset, the road surface is good, the route gorgeously twisty with just enough spots to overtake the tourists in their hire cars. Watch out for bush turkeys in the morning and wallabies at dusk.
Blasting up that road with the throttle open wide to the stops on the straights, heart pounding in time with the engine and a grin from ear to ear…..all of a sudden I’m nineteen again and doing this for the first time. The pace and hardware might be different, but the feeling it inspires is the same.
Best distance ride: Some mates and I spent a few days in Tasmania tooling around on some hired big-bore KTM enduro bikes. The road from Launceston to St Helens and thence to Freycinet is simply made for motorcycles. Do yourself a favour and get down there. I also recommend a stop in Bicheno for a lobster roll along the way. You’ll be glad you did.
Tip for stylish motorcycling: There is stylish attire and stylish behaviour. Dressing stylishly can be expensive, but projecting the right attitude is free, and the benefits are beyond cost. I encourage all motorcyclists to be the very best version of yourself at all times when riding. Everything you do on two wheels reflects on us all. Sure, split that lane at 70kph during peak hour, burn off that wanker in the lowered WRX at the stop sign cos you can, lay some rubber in the work carpark. Really? If you are ever in doubt, ask yourself ‘what would Steve McQueen do?’ A couple of etiquette tips from an old timer. Always wave/nod to another rider. It doesn’t matter if they don’t, you have set the tone and paid the courtesy forward. Also, never, ever ride past a broken down rider, one day it might be you.
Tip for best looking safe riding gear: Dress for the slide, not for the ride. Find ways to look cool and be safe that align with your aesthetic. For me, leather is always best. Save up for that dream jacket. Spend a week’s pay on a cool pair of boots. Invest in a good helmet and take the time to get it fitted properly, remembering to replace it from time to time.
Recent online purchases have come from Union Garage, El Solitario and Sideburn. When I travel overseas, I always find a cool bike shop and buy something other than a t-shirt. Locally, I like to spend my money at Motociclo at St Peters whenever I can. Apart from running a great workshop, Nicole and John have some very cool kit in stock. Nazbags have a truly awesome range of locally handmade tool rolls and other great stuff that riders need.
Call me a piker, but I don’t commute on a bike these days although deep respect to those that do. Sydney roads are crumbling to pieces, traffic has never been worse, and drivers have given up using indicators. My Griso hates traffic as much as I do, we both prefer quickish rides to nowhere in particular with a great coffee at the other end. With this mission profile in mind, I never ride without gearing up – road pants, boots, jacket, helmet and of course gloves. I buy kit with armour when I can and make sure I use it.
Please people, always wear gloves, every single time you get on a bike. I carry scars and wounds from many ‘offs’ over the years and wouldn’t wish this enduring damage on anybody. I despair when I see people old enough to know better taking dumb risks by trying to look cool in summer; no jacket, no gloves, no long pants … no idea. How long do you reckon your own hide will last when you’re sliding down the road at 60 kph in a t-shirt and shorts with your bike on top of you? Anyone who has ever left any skin on the road knows better. Flex your guns and/or flash that ink when sitting at the cafe, not whilst riding the cafe racer.
Next motorcycle trip: Boys weekend trip planned out to Lithgow, through Tarana and Oberon, then on to Rockley for lunch at the pub. Take the back roads to Goulburn for a sleepover. Sunday morning, we will roll the southern highlands loop, do the Macquarie Pass both ways with a stop at the Robertson pie shop in between. Stay off the highway heading north and then home through the Nasho (Royal National Park).
Why do you like riding? I love every single thing about motorcycles; always have, always will. Riding is not a mode of transport it is a way of life. My best mate from school, Mark and I started riding at exactly the same time. We lived in a share house in Terrey Hills for a while, which was conveniently close to the West Head ride. We used to hammer our little Honda and Suzuki 250cc’s mercilessly out and back on that road until we knew it like the back of our hand. In later years on bigger bikes we would ride, tour and camp with girlfriends and had a ton of fun.
Every time before we would roll out—and I mean every single time—we would recite our pre-ride mantra: “Hey Ho – Let’s Go!”. Tragically, Mark lost the struggle with his many demons about 15 years ago when this life became too much for him to bear. Since Mark passed away, I have had our mantra engraved somewhere on my bike where I can see it at startup. On my Griso it is right here on the bar risers. I like to think I’m riding for both of us these days.
I am also a prostate cancer survivor and support the awareness and fundraising efforts of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. During a difficult recovery, I was unable to ride for many, many months. Caroline my wife took time off work to look after me and I reckon she saved my life. I’ll confess to being very emotional when I got back on the road and experienced the special healing powers of riding my big, noisy Guzzi. The sound of that Termignoni pipe resonating off cliffs and the familiar throb of that big Mandello V twin underneath me did nothing but good. No surprises around the destination on that special day. And yes, I wore my Stagg jacket, with my lucky Swiss Army Knife in my pocket.
Riding also sharpens your senses, opens your mind, makes you feel truly alive and hyper aware of your surroundings. You become an intimate part of the landscape and not simply travelling through it. There is nothing like burning down a twisty road on a crisp morning as the sunrise melts into a cool, clear day. Crack the visor a little and you can smell the trees, the intense cleansing blast of fresh air through your helmet draws a tear or two from the corner of your eyes. Feel that rhythmic pulse of the engine as much as you can hear it.
Travelling solo, rolling with a pack of cool people or best of all, riding with the main squeeze on the pillion, she is hugging you while you and the bike hug the road. Take me now. I encourage all riders – especially blokes – to find ways to talk about what’s really on your mind and how you feel about it with someone you trust. Men are notoriously bad at this, and I can tell you from hard experience that when you can share these feelings in the right way with the right person your journey gets a whole lot easier. When you have a real conversation with someone you might be giving them more than you know. You might literally be helping to save their life. Connecting around motorcycles is a great and safe place to start these conversations.