I Fly My Motorcycle

Is it coincidence that many pilots also ride motorcycles? Personally, I think not.

Let me tell you why.

Both activities are pretty much about FREEDOM. And although some “bikers” are seen differently in North America, compared to the rest of the world, THAT part holds true no matter where you live.

Have you any idea what a Solex is? Or a Berini? Or a Tiger Moth? They were all “in vogue” during the 1940’s and early 50’s.

The Solex was a motorized bicycle, powered by a tiny 2-stroke engine, with a little friction roll resting on top of the front tire. Primitive, simple, cheap…… but it worked!

In concept, the Tiger moth was much the same, as was the venerable Piper Cub (though neither of them are exactly “cheap” anymore).

Here are some of the similarities (at least, the way I see them).


When I was about 10 years old, I ‘discovered’ a Berini and a Solex in grandpa’s ‘tool shed’. Both were pretty rusty and not used anymore. I can’t remember how old my folks were at the time, but I do know they found the ‘motorized bicycles’ too dangerous to ride through the little village with its increasing traffic.

Today, of course, we’d laugh about the amount of traffic they were referring to.

But it gave me something to dream about. What if I could get granddad to let me ride one of them? I think it took a year or so to nag him enough to let me have a go at the Solex. And then it took me a few weeks to get it running.

Remember, there were no Internet sites with manuals, no forums to ask questions, and no Google to locate parts.

I had to buy a book! Actually, I managed to find an old, second-hand, user manual somewhere at a bicycle dealer’s. And then I had to save again to buy new parts, such as a spark plug, some new wire, a head gasket……

But in the end, I DID IT, and was soon riding the Solex around the sandy paths of my granddad’s nursery. I wasn’t allowed on the public streets, of course; you had to be 16 for that!

So much for real freedom.


All the time I was riding the little Solex, with a max speed of 12mph or so, I was dreaming about flying – becoming a pilot. The Solex didn’t do much for that aspiration while I was riding over the little private paths, but when I got a little older I would take it out through the village, then on to the winding forest roads and river dikes.

Whizzing along with the wind in your face and making large sweeping turns at ‘full speed’ really felt a little like flying a Spitfire to me.

Just the crazy imagination of a 12 year old, I guess…

But the funny thing is that when I was on my first-ever-flight, at the controls of the Mistral ultralight, those Solex rides flashed back into my mind!

All I had ever wanted to do when riding that Solex had now finally come true, some 20 years later! Making sweeping turns with speed and elegance … looking down on the world … dodging the clouds.

Pure magic!

Time passed by, I made a career as a manager and director, earned a fair amount of money, but didn’t have much time to spend it on frivolous things like learning to fly and getting a license. Besides, Nina wouldn’t agree to such wasteful thoughts at all!

When I finally got into “quieter waters,” with more time and some money left, the bug to fly started ‘itching’ again. Alas, Nina’s idea of spending money still did not leave any room for something as exorbitantly expensive as flying lessons (this is Holland, remember). So the next best thing was to get back on a motorcycle.

The idea came to me one morning in March, a day with a wonderful clear sky and the sun warming the cool spring air. Two motorcycles were going down the highway in the opposite direction – away from my boring destination: a desk in Amsterdam.

That made me decide to do it. I was 50, had some money, still had the physical and mental powers to learn to ride – and to escape from my boring desk job!

I had to get my motorcycle license first! And I did that secretly. So secretly that, while I was taking riding lessons, Nina believed I was seeing another woman!

So, to this day I fly my motorcycle. Over Alpine passes, over German Autobahn’s at speeds higher than the ultralight could go, over sweeping Dutch dikes and over French country roads.

And I am almost having as much fun, and enjoying as much freedom, as when occasionally taking the controls of an aircraft.

… Almost.


  1. Francois,

    I love riding my motorcycle as well. When it comes to hobbies, I’m not thinking about flying, I’m thinking about riding. I think I should join you for one of your riding tours sometime soon.

  2. You’re more than welcome Scott….. provided I am not in the US of course (visiting this October !)

  3. I think I have six motos and a few in between iterations. I think the mechanical similarities interest me.

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