The first and the last – a novel approach to your final ride, Tim Dawson (2010)

Original article first published by

There are few unusual bicycles on which I don’t fancy a go on as soon as I register them. Indeed, one of the delights of the Cycle Show a couple of weeks ago was the opportunity to try out everything from Moultons to recumbants to penny farthings. The bicycle that Paul Sinclair has recently completed building, however, is one on which I will be happy to forgo a ride anytime soon.

Sinclair is the managing director of Motorcycle Funerals Limited, whose main business is to cater for those who would prefer that their final journey is made beside a Triumph or Harley Davidson. Sinclair and his staff have built a fleet of motorcycle hearses and now provide funeral transportation the length and breadth of Britain.

Earlier this year, however, Sinclair decided that there was a class of two-wheeled enthusiast for whom he was not catering. To fill that gap in the market he built was he believes is the UK’s only tandem hearse. The steel tubed platform on which the coffin is carried is supported by a third wheel, making the tandem a tricycle.

“We always try to listen to what funeral arrangers tell us that they want”, explains Sinclair. “Once people started to ask about bicycle hearses, we felt that we had to respond”.

Pedal-powered transportation might provide some of us with a fitting final journey, but we are unlikely to win much thanks from those left with the responsibility of seeing us off. Turning the tandem into a tricycle changes its handling qualities significantly, and for the worse, Sinclair accepts. “As with our motorcycle hearses, it is nothing like riding a solo machine – indeed, unless you are experienced in riding with a sidecar, it can be quite dangerous”.

When Bob Waddington, the late president of the Doncaster Wheelers cycling club was laid to rest in August, his club mate who did the honours beside the hearse, described the three mile journey as ‘challenging’.

The prospect of a cortege traversing any kind of contour is near unthinkable. Sinclair’s suggests that the best use for his pedalled contraption is the last few hundred yards of the journey taken by the coffin. He also prefers that his experienced staff do the actual pedalling. So, notwithstanding my hope that my last ride is some way off, do I want my family to keep Sinclair’s phone number close to hand, in case of the worst?

It would be a fine way to be conveyed – but I am reluctant to be prescriptive. Funerals are for the living, not the dead and I am not convinced that my nearest and dearest would thank me for saddling them with complicated instructions that cause them to arrive at my final resting place feeling hot and bothered.

Indeed, when I trip off this mortal coil, they will be faced with the considerable task of disposing of my collection of bicycles and allied components. It might be as well not to rub my enthusiasm for the spoked wheel in their faces at a time I rather hope that they will be feeling a bit glum anyway.

Of course, if I find myself organising a solemn event while there is still strength in my legs, the opportunity to fit a bike ride into the day of a funeral would be one not to be missed.

TD Oct 10

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *