Style Rider, Stephen Gray – Suzuki VL800

Style Rider focuses on the intersection of motorcycle culture and individual style. Here we speak Stephen Gray about his ever-evolving style, the suitability of WWII pilot jackets for riding and his recent move towards cruiser style bikes.

Name: Stephen Gray

Residence: Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.

Occupation: Defence Contractor

Instagram: stephen.gray.1217

Today’s ride: 2001 Suzuki VL800 with purely cosmetic adjustments. I removed rear seat and sissy bar, added the rear bib and front guard rail as well as white walls tyres.

Describe your style: It’s fair to say that like all things, they evolve and so has my style over the years. In the 80s it was new wave and burgundy hair dye. Duran Duran was my sound track. I have always had an interest in aviation and WWII and am a bit of a history buff. My style is uncomplicated. Jeans and a t-shirt are great, but also so is a shirt and tie, with a smart sports jacket. It does not have to be a suit at all times as that’s not always practical either. I guess I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I do like simplicity and convenience, but it’s nice to have some variation.

I like jackets and have too many in the wardrobe. Jackets are my thing, always have been. They just offer so much flexibility. However when it comes to bikes, that too has evolved, from 2 pot screamers to Road Trial, Naked, Semi-Naked, Tourers, and now the Cruiser. I have always loved the British bikes from 40s and 50s—BSA’s, Norton’s, Triumph etc.—, so the Bobber look was a natural progression. However, I wanted the convenience of gear sacks and a shaft drive. My previous bike was a Triumph Trophy 1200, so it’s really nice to be able to reach the ground—on the cruiser—rather than doing a little tap dance when pulling up at the lights.

Favourite items: My favourite item of clothing so far is this sheepskin jacket, an attempt at replicating an old RAF fighter Pilot Shearling jacket. This one was put together by a fellow out at Victoria Market (Dorys). Another favourite is the FOB watch. This is a great accessory, especially with a waist coat, which apparently I’m collecting them now too.

Next purchase: I’m hooked on the cruiser style, still wanting bags and shaft drive. I’m leaning towards either an Indian Springfield, or maybe an older Boulevard C90.

Style inspiration: Old school, think Victorian England, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson running around densely fogged London … maybe not that old….. but most of my schooling was in England, I am heavily influenced by the UK, WWII movies, smoking pipes and drinking tea and scones at 1600 old chap.

Best local ride: Anything around the Mornington Peninsula. It is a wide diverse landscape to explore and so convenient to where I live.

Best distance ride: Tasmania. Absolutely stunning scenery. I’ve done it twice so far; clockwise and anti-clockwise and will go again.

Tip for stylish motorcycling: Comfort first, and the right attitude and line through the corner. This always shows when watching another rider either from behind or in front. Nothing worse than watching a butchered line or poor balance on approach to a hazard. A smooth rider is a confident and comfortable rider. Position is the key. Too many riders hug the curb. Right wheel track is the best place to be offering better visibility for all involved and options for movement in the event of an evasive manoeuvre.

 Tip for best looking safe riding gear: You can have any colour you want as long as it’s black … it’s an ongoing  compromise. Comfort is going to be the first priority, but the reality is sometimes you just have to go with the safest black padded gear available. Look around, there are some nice options available. I am certainly not endorsing shorts and thongs … that’s just madness.

Next motorcycle trip: Tasmania and hoping to do it again next year. Great attitude from the locals towards those on bikes and very bike friendly roads.

Why do you like riding? I have been exposed to bikes all my life. My father rode, my brother rides, other family members ride, one uncle was a motorcycle courier during WWII. He had some stories that influenced my style over the years. It is also the people you meet, a shared common thread and interest.

The other point for me is that I find there is almost a meditative state when riding. I’m not talking about zoning out, but the pure joy of a line through a corner or the landscape opening up around you. Unless you ride it is something that can never be explained clearly and succinctly. I hope I can continue riding for many years yet, although I’m not sure about electric bikes. I understand progress, but to lose the smell and the noise that is generated by a bike, I’m just not sure it will be the same.