We all know Ritchie Neville as one fifth of the squeaky clean boyband Five, and more recently you might know him as a devoted family man, raising his little family alongside girlfriend Natasha Hamilton. However, what a lot of people don’t know about him is that he is mad about motorbikes! We grabbed Ritchie for a chat about his best moments and his more surreal experiences out on the road.
Although he is a self-confessed Harley man, Ritchie learnt to ride on a 250 Suzuki, remembering the experience as pretty scary to begin with. “I remember that first day and I was freaking out because I thought I was going really fast and then I’d look at the speedometer and I was only going like 40 miles an hour but it just felt so quick. But you get used to that over time.”
If anything, Ritchie said that getting on a motorbike only made him more aware of what is going happening on the road, making him a more conscientious driver on the whole. “One thing I definitely noticed when riding a motorbike was how much people don’t see you. You are so acutely aware that you’re on a bike that you are toast if anything hits you on the road. That was a big eye opener, and it made me a much more observant and meticulous driver. If I’m coming to overtake on a motorway I really check my mirrors and look over because there could be a bike and there could be a blind-spot. There’s not much for you to see as a car driver, and the last thing I want to do is take out a motorcyclist at high speed.”
It is perhaps for this reason that Ritchie has “touch wood” not had an accident on a bike. “It’s part of the appeal of biking for me. You are in a state of heightened awareness when you’re on a bike. More so than when you’re in a car. That is quite meditative. It’s just you the bike and the road.”
Not one to do things by halves, Ritchie has taken to riding more obscure routes then the UK has to offer. “I rode around Goa, and then I went on a fairly long trip in to the state underneath Goa, searching for Paradise Beach. I was riding on sand some of the time and that was tricky. It was very deep sand actually. I had a passenger with me and I had to ask them to get off because I didn’t want them to get hurt. I kept coming off and it was really frustrating and it’d been a really long day. It was one of those where I was going ‘Ah for gods sake!’ screaming at the top of my lungs and kicking the back wheel.”
And did he do it in the end? “Yeah. It was an adventure. It’s beautiful. You go out off the beaten track and go through villages. They don’t see Westerners very often so you get all the kids in the village running out and chasing your bike. It’s really cool. I was riding through mountains and there were monkeys coming in to the road. We were going through the jungle and stuff, it was a proper experience.”
If riding through the jungle taught Ritchie to be acutely aware of his surroundings, one thing it certainly didn’t teach him was how to do this while parking. He recalled turning up to a trance party in Goa: “When I pulled up it was an empty field. It was early in the day so I thought I’d go and check it out and listen to some music. I was there for a good few hours. When I came out it was pitch black and the whole field was full of motorbikes. I couldn’t even remember the general direction of where I’d left my bike. I just thought it’d be an empty field still and I’d see it. So I had to walk down rows and rows of bikes, and some of them were the same as mine. I didn’t know my number plate so I had to keep putting my key in to check.”
Citing himself as more of a café cruiser kind of guy, Ritchie confessed to being less interested in motor sport and more in to “Sitting upright and cruising around with an open faced helmet like a Hells Angel.” With a love for all things Harley Davidson and Sons of Anarchy, he even has the trademark SAMCRO t-shirt to match his beloved café racer style. “I also really like Triumph, because it’s British. You have to support your country and what an iconic brand.”
So what’s next for Ritchie? “I haven’t gone and done much recently because obviously we’ve just had the baby but I would really, really love to take my other half to India, because there’s something about India that’s really special. There’s something that gives you this grounding. I’d love to take her to ride around India and get that cruiser vibe going on and show her what a mixed bag of beauty and hardship India is. So yeah that’s where I’d want to go back and do a really long road trip.”
You can follow Ritchie’s latest adventures on his Twitter.