A Laverda 1200 Mirage and an old friend


“Of course, when the Russians kidnapped me, they held me at gun point for 36 hours, but I’ve got to go…” as the phone line went silent. My mind drifted back to the day I crossed the Carpathian Mountains on my old KLR 650 and down into the city of Bucharest in search of my old friend, Simon. The year was 1996 and I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since the mid ’80s when we ran together in our hometown on the coast in South Devon, England. Dropping acid, smoking dope, and using all sorts of chemicals to stay up for days, I rode a battle-weary Laverda 1200 Mirage at that time. Simon always had race cars, but occasionally found himself on the back of the Mirage as we navigated our way through the mass unemployment that saw us out of work and living on our wits. For a couple of years we were in each other’s orbit, and it was a mad and interesting time in our young lives, with plenty of colorful characters and excitement to pass the days.

By 1985 though, I was on the move to America and Simon was out in Eastern Europe. Leap-frogging over a decade of world travel, we reconnected in Romania where I found out that Simon was running casinos for a Turkish gangster from Istanbul. Simon could drive, and over the next days we went everywhere with bodyguards trying desperately to keep up with Simon in his large, black BMW. Sliding sideways towards the old dictator’s Parliament building one night (the biggest palace in the world by the way) with tires howling and smoke billowing up around us… it seemed like not much had changed since the old days in England.

With Simon busy taking care of business, I headed off to Transylvania with the lovely Miss Ouna Muher for a few days visiting Dracula’s castle and that sort of thing. We ran from the very dishonest cops, stayed in centuries old buildings, and generally played tourists on the old KLR. On our return to the city Simon had been called to Istanbul on business and all my gear was locked in his apartment. Thankfully, Ouna was able to get it back for me, and after a few days in the city and with winter fast approaching, I reluctantly said goodbye on a cold, grey day and made my way across the Danube before crossing Bulgaria, bound for the Mediterranean in southern Turkey.

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It was the last time I saw or heard from Simon.

Over the next decades, I heard a few scraps here and there. A good friend made some trips to Europe to visit Simon, with hair-raising tales of blasting across the Alps on high-powered Ducati sport bikes, of a Polish wife, a son, and a few other sporadic bits of information, but nothing concrete for over ten years.

Fast-forward to 2020 and with our world knocked off its axis by a global pandemic, my latest project to restore the aforementioned Laverda 1200 stalled out as all my business evaporated and we all got locked in place. Hitting the keyboard, I put a two-part story together about the early years with my Laverda, including how I shipped it to the States, and the first early, light restoration. These stories were published on the popular moto site, Common Tread (owned by the Revzilla powerhouse) and were well received.

And then another thread in my life’s tapestry was pulled, as a friend from England whom I hadn’t seen since the ’80s found my Laverda story and forwarded it to Simon. Simon then sent me a message and, for the first time in 24 years, we spoke and were quickly burning up our data plans catching up on the decades that had passed since Romania. Not surprisingly, he had gone on to be the Royal Photographer for the King of Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates, traveling the world with visits to the White House and with many other world dignitaries… as you do. Then he went on to become the Creative Director for the Xposure International Photography Exhibition.

As we rolled back the years it didn’t take Simon long to ask if I would be interested in speaking at Xposure and helping him with some media projects. I said I’d be delighted, and in early February I was reunited in Sharjah with my old friend. Over the next week or so I met with and interviewed some of the world’s top conflict photographers, got to see Simon in action, and then on the last night in the pub, after sitting at separate tables due to business needs, I went over, apologized for interrupting, and said, “See you later Simon, let’s try not to make it 24 years till the next time,” and I flew for home. The whole trip to the Middle East and reconnecting with my old friend …the result of restoring my old Laverda.


Top photo: The old Laverda 1200 Mirage that united then reconnected two old friends.

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  1. Lance Oliver

    So cool that the stories we posted at Common Tread about the Laverda led to a reunion. That’s the kind of great bonus that comes around once in a while in this business.

    • Neale

      Thx Lance. More interesting developments to come.

    • Rob Brooks

      I love how motorcycles can be a thread that binds us to each other, over the miles and years.


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