MB Restructure 2011


This started as a statement on our Facebook Nov 2011................

Rumors and forums have been rife lately about MB in the last few days. Is there any truth in them? Well yes and no, it depends on how you want to look at it.

Some announced I (Mark) had died! Well thanks for that one. According to some rumors this was in a car crash in Derby! Do some people have no feelings for anyone? Luckily none of my family read Scooter forums nor do their friends. Seeing as my family all knew the facts before they happened I think these viscous rumors were the least of my worries.

Others said we have gone bust and the usual hand full of anti MB non-customers have come out with their usual below the belt comments. What’s wrong with these people and their constant derogatory and unfounded comments? The problem is they affect business, as some people believe them to be true. Once it’s published on the internet it’s hard to un-publish it. I’ve also seen a large amount of people voicing their opinions with respect and support for all things MB. And to those people thank you very much.

So what has happened? It would be very easy to cut the story to a sentence and try to move on, it would not explain very much and it would not show why we have got to where we are now.

It’s well documented all the hard work we have done in the last year, I’ve written on facebook about stock level problems and my opinions of some people who spoil forums and Scootering in general. I feel like I’ve worked non stop, every day for over a year.

MB Developments have come on leaps and bounds over a 10 year period as planned. Each year we increased turnover from 10 – 35% to where we are now, we had expanded and increased the workforce from 2 to 9 plus 5 subcontractors! In an unemployment hotspot like South Yorkshire I was proud to have built up such a business.

Now I’m not a business man, I don’t claim to be, I’m a grease monkey mechanic who is good with his hands and uses common sense to design quality products and run a business.

I was put onto the dole by a well known Scooter shop in Grimsby, we had been negotiating the purchase of our new house for 3 months, with the full knowledge of my employer - he even backed up the wages for the mortgage. The day I moved in, before I even picked up the keys he walked in the workshop and told two of us we were redundant. He knew for 3 months this would happen! How things could have been different, these things happen for a reason and you deal with them.

I left a well paid job to go to Grimsby, to be put on the dole within a year. I was stuck there with no job to pay the bills so ended up starting my own business. It wasn’t choice I was forced into it in the middle of the Thatcher years, not a great time but it worked. When I went to see my accountant after the first year, I still remember his face when he said ‘I can not believe you are sat opposite me, I never expected you to succeed and I cannot believe you’ve made a profit!’ He was over the moon, here was a young guy who had taken himself off the dole to make a successful business. I’m proud of myself - sometimes I forget what I’ve had to go through to get where I am now.

A month later vandals set fire to my business and burnt it to the ground and I lost everything. Now this is not a sob story, it tells you I’m accustomed to major things happening to me that are out of my control. And as my family said at the time ‘something good will come of this’. It did, I moved in with my Nanna and traded from her garage to try to pick myself up. My Nan and Grandad had been in business most of their life, she wasn’t over the moon when I went into business; she knew all the hard work and heart ache that I would have to go through. For many years later I would visit her weekly and discuss business and problems, she was my brick and always listened, some time she would rant and rave at me but always supported me until she died at 95. The moral of the story is; people close by know all about me and the hard work I have put into my business, my life and the fun things I’ve got up to over the years!

That’s how I started, the hard way! I was sweeping up in workshops up at Grandads when I was 11 earning 50p a day, I had a paper round, washed cars and cleaned windows. I’ve never been given anything, I’ve worked hard all my life with good hard working morals. Growing up in a pit village I didn’t want to go down the mines and wanted to do something different and became an apprentice.

Over the last few years, we were growing quickly. Looking back we were growing at an unsustainable rate, we were seemingly doing everything right, employing more people and expanding into more units. The more employees we had the more we had to work at turning over enough money to keep them. I worked at more exclusive deals and new products, advertising constantly. I was advertising executive, boss and business man through the day. When everyone went home I was in the workshops as tuner, engine builder and designer. At home I would work until 2am most nights catching up on the computer to start it all again the next day.

This worked well for a good 3 years, it allowed me to travel, visit other dealers and suppliers and tour Europe to see how things were done. It allowed me to expand my product range and generally grow. I had worked at the old place for 20 years, same road, same buildings day in day out. We had 6 units and needed a 7th and needed a new employee. The bills were mounting up. We were imploding, bumping into each other and becoming less efficient due to lack of space. Lambretta sales were becoming harder, fly by night dealers were popping up left right and centre, dealing from home with no overheads. They were blitzing EBay and the weekend parts fairs. The Vietnamese and Indians were flooding the market with shiny inferior products. There were more rallies and functions, spreading what a customer could do over the year, something on every weekend. The forums had taken over allowing any Tom Dick and Harry to slate a dealer rightly or wrongly.

We saw Lambrettas being spread over a much larger sales arena so we needed to branch out and spread our wings. I have been working with Lambrettas for 30 years, taken the knocks and carried on. I was in hospital at 31 with stress and told by two experts I would be dead in a year if I didn’t do something about it. I had to change my life. My Grandad and Dad both had heart attacks young. I consider that stress time as “my” heart attack. I found out who friends really were when it came to money and paying back bills. I moved forward and got on with it, but with a change to life and a change in business attitude.

I’ve been asked lately ‘Did I expand too fast’ ‘Did I bite off more than I could chew?’ Well it depends on how you look at it. If we stayed in Edlington we needed more units and more people to do what we firmly believed was a way forward. I have always had interests other than Scooters. By going to the same Industrial Estate for 20 years with all that had gone on through the ups and downs I could feel my self starting to get stressed again. We really needed to make some forward decisions and move into one unit to get rid of the problems from split units.

After the stress break down and with all the illnesses it had brought on for years, I was told to get away from the pressure, lift the weight off my shoulders and do something to improve my life. I went back to White Water Slalom Kayak racing. I shut the shop on Saturdays and I got out into the country and buried my head into that at weekends and became UK National Champion 4 years running. That’s what I do - I get my teeth into something and strive to be the best. It doesn’t matter if it’s in business, sports, racing, tuning, designing products or walking vast distances I work hard at the end goal.

For the last few years people were coming in saying they had lost their job, the news was full of the recession, the honest open dealers would say how quiet it was. We never saw any of it we were so busy and looking to expand into the Touring, Travelling and Trekking market all still to do with Scootering/Biking, Rallies and Euro Rallies. I had been traveling Europe on my BMW and saw potential with a similar age group to Scooterists. Me being me saw the BMW wasn’t perfect and so I started making parts for them. As with Kayaks you don’t just walk into BMW and make money. Like other people trying to jump on the bandwagon with Scooter products, some people just fail for unknown reasons.

Everything’s not a bed of roses even when doing well, we made Kayaks and spent a fortune developing a Kayak to suit me. Research and projected sales looked great as a sideline. We had a manufacturer making them. But as we did, the sporting body changed the international rules and suddenly it was an old design not worth anything. But without it I wouldn’t have won four championships, so it was worth every penny to have had the title ‘British National Champion’ in a hard tough sport aimed at lightweight kids when I was 40! Some you win, some you lose, I just moved on.

It’s the same with BMW parts, my ideas were thought to be brilliant, I looked at some of BMW’s faults and cured them, and BMW showed customers who said the same but expected them free if BMW had a known fault, so I couldn’t win. To be honest I’ve not had time to develop or market our BMW parts. And then Scooterists being Scooterists started to critisise me for riding a BMW! Why is it such a problem? I really don’t have to prove anything. The real Scooterists who have seen me ride thousands of miles at the speeds I do have respect for me! I have always developed my own products and tested them every time I’ve gone somewhere. I was doing this on every rally before I was even in business. Fair enough, people like the re-assurance that a part is tested by the designer and it has helped my business for years. I just like riding anything with 2 wheels - pushbikes, scooters or motorbikes. I like to travel and see parts of the world you don’t see at a Scooter Rally, what’s wrong with that? To me the journey is the adventure, not so much the destination.

A year ago we saw something changing, we weren’t sure what. A slight down turn in business, engineering was drying up, we blamed the forums for knocking us and sticking up for the dealers working out of their garages – “Fred in a shed” as one supplier calls them.

Money started to get tight and as a company we had to make some decisions to save money……….. what’s the biggest bill? Wages were. We took legal advice and went through a period of interviews and letters and all the Politically Correct hoops you have to jump through to let people go when a company runs out of money! Everyone was at risk, it was out of our hands we had to go with the flow and work it out on a points system. Reality had struck; I wasn’t in business for this. Ian used to be a nurse and often had to tell people their family members had died; with tears in his eyes he told me making people redundant was the hardest thing he had ever had to do! It wasn’t a great place to be.

We made two redundant. I took over the hard engineering and tuning; we got on top of the cash flow and got us back to where we should have been in two months, ready for the big move, which we thought was the way forward. We were committed and went for it, it was the biggest gamble of my life and I’m not a gambling man. It was hard, we had no spare cash to restore the new unit. The outlook was going to be better, even though the unit was bigger than we wanted. We had planned the move months before with nine employees and we were now down to seven. That made the move harder but we did it. We moved in April, which turned out to be our biggest April – with highest takings in 3 years. When we hit May it was the worst in 3 years! Just like a light switch being turned off. Then we hit June, July, August and September the same. We thought the down turn was down to moving and lack of advertising. We would have meetings and it always came up it will be better tomorrow, next week, next month, there’s a Rally coming up, the open weekends coming up etc. As much as we worked at it, doing every trick in the book, all we were doing was prolonging serious decisions we didn’t want to have to make.

I felt like I was on a merry go round or roller coaster going backwards getting faster and I couldn’t get off! I needed a break, a long one, so in October after doing everything in the building to the date, I headed off to the other side of Europe on the bike with Alice. It wasn’t until we got into France the next day I realized how ill I was, I was felt I was cracking up, my mind was spinning, my body was shouting at me to stop. What a joy it was to be away from work with 5000 miles of unknown in front of us! As we headed across to Turkey and back in a big loop I had calmed down, I really didn’t want to go home. As I got closer to the UK Alice said ‘you’re not right’. I knew I wasn’t, a black cloud was coming over me called depression, I didn’t want to get home and face what I needed to do. I had hoped the 3 weeks away would have generated just enough money to keep the wolves at bay and move forward.

And this is what happened. I made a phone call to my accountant. Reality struck, we could not sustain the amount of bills coming in and bills that were sat there because of a drop in takings! He pointed out I had invested a lot of my own money already in the business over the last 18 months. Part of going away was to decide if me, Alice or the house was going to be investing into the business to save it…….. ‘Just how much more can you keep investing in a company to basically just keep people in a job and potentially lose it all’?

I was asked what Mark wanted to do? All I could think of was drop the keys in the drain and go walking in the hills with no phone to get away from the rat race that I had been swept along in for many years. I’d said I’m not going back to hospital again, why should I end up on the slab for being in business and employing people! The banks would only help if I put my house up, which was part Alice’s so that was out of the question! We’d tried every trick, like I say I had nothing up my sleeve.

The building had done it, the money we spent added up to pretty much what we thought we’d end up spending.

This was fine based on the last three years takings but we couldn’t have seen the collapse in the market. All I wanted to do was employ a few people to take the pressure off. Pay the bills, wages and invest any extra money back into new products and ideas, which we had been doing for years. All the employees had known the score, they had been saying ‘what are you going to do if it doesn’t pick up’? For them it wasn’t a bolt from the blue. Every customer who we talked to was down in the dumps, scared to spend because they were scared they might be losing their jobs, fed up with the recession and the government. Every sales rep told me stories of bike shops, scooter shops and outdoor shops saying it felt like a plug was pulled around May the same as us, they all questioned what happened. It was just like turning a light switch off.

We had done as much as we could and had run out of options. After a very real conversation with the accountant I was left in a daze, I wanted to walk away, throw the keys away and go straight back to Europe where it all seems normal without the Capitalist rat race I was stuck in and getting dragged along with. I wanted to pack in and climb mountains! That’s all I could think - fresh air and nothing to worry about but bad weather.

We got ready to lose everything, I walked around the building, I must have looked a picture staring at walls and ceilings and all the hard effort we had put into our future to potentially have it taken from us over night. The next day we had internal meetings and all employees knew the decision I was going to have to make. Ian didn’t want to go down without a fight and suggested another sale, which did help and allowed us to pay off as many suppliers as we could. The consensus of everyone was what did Mark want to do? It was down to me and only me, me being the MD and 100% share holder and I’m the Mark Broadhurst of MB. I had to make serious decisions. I didn’t know what to do, I’m no hard businessman, I’m a made up businessman, muddling through and making it up as I go along! Internally we all knew we all had to go through it and we all expected the doubting Thomas’s and web forum warriors would have a field day, to be honest it was the least of my worries!

The next few days and weeks we carried on, did our best and things moved forward to a point where we’d got out of trouble or so we thought but then as one month carried to the next month the usual happened. It’s that time of year all companies chase you to the day. Some were chasing a day early to get their month endings right, it wasn’t just us having problems every supplier was in the same boat. An invoice goes 1 day overdue and they started phoning, emailing, faxing and threatening legal action. I’ve loved being in business, I really loved project managing the building restoration. I just don’t like the money side of it. I live comfortably but I’m not rich, any money I had spare went back into the business, looking back I’ve had no wages for two years! That is no word of a lie, I have put more money back in that I took out. As a good friend used to say “its only paper, shuffle it around the desk and it will go away”, just before he killed himself! And of course you cannot bury your head in the sand for too long.

It was our year end and employees were using up holidays. How do you think I felt, waiting for people to return to be told we were thinking of losing jobs again, it’s not easy to do. They all seemed to accept that if it had to happen then it had to happen. Internally we prepared to do what we had to do. I was given 5 days to make my mind up. We turned it around a bit with the sale and other things, which gave us a few more weeks to try and pay more people off. In these weeks I was constantly on the phone with emails and meetings. I didn’t leave my office. I would turn up at work and not leave the office till late. It’s draining, it wears you down. I did what I could but I felt like I was surfing on a tidal wave and being swept along out of control. The next I knew we had people from USA asking if all was well, the death rumors started which came from a letter sent to some of the direct debits set up from the bank.

The letter from the bank said “Account holder deceased”, nice one Co-op bank!

We had suppliers phoning and visits from the Inland Revenue, I was now on a ride I couldn’t do anything about. Rumors started and some UK dealers went straight to Schwalbe and Scooter Center to beg for my exclusive distributorships. These valued partners had been warned and stood by me and told the other dealers where to go. No friends in business hey! All that work and the sharks thought they could just step in and take over. We had other suppliers and dealers phoning and telling everyone we had gone bust and laughing about it, then the same dealer from the Midlands phoned a week later wanting parts saying “it wasn’t me honest!”.

Why whenever MB gets mentioned do people try to spoil a good thing? It’s alright having a laugh between friends down the pub but when it’s in public and there for everyone to read people don’t realise how damaging it can be to a hard working company because lives and jobs do get damaged and yes I do blame forums for not helping our industry over the years!

So what really happened? Well Mark and the accountant took advice from a couple of insolvency companies, it was decided it was the only way out of the problems we were in. I had no idea how any of this worked, yes you can make one company bankrupt and set up the next day like nothing has happened. I questioned if my morals and sanity could have dealt with the decisions and the later repercussions! In the end it comes down to survival, sanity and keeping your health! You cannot win every fight, but you can do something to fight another day, so we did it.

We already had two other companies set up to protect our web sites, it wasn’t a case of setting up a new company we had them already, so the MB Developments company had taken the big hit on the move. We were told by the experts we didn’t do it wrong, it wasn’t the lack of advertising that we thought as another well known company had done the same as us a week earlier and not one word has been said about him. I’m amazed at the amount of interest in the whole MB thing from around the world.

So after 23 years I had to go with the flow and make MB Developments insolvent, with regret I had to make all our employees redundant. Yes some suppliers did lose money, as much as I tried I just couldn’t find enough to keep everyone happy, there was too much to find. The person who has lost the most money out of everyone is me!

We’ve had a few weeks where just me and my son ran the business, that was hard. Even with rumors we were working from 9am till 6.30pm picking and packing parts, we couldn’t get through the normal demand. I needed to re- employ and had to make decisions, these are not easy to do. I had to let my go of my ex brother in law and friend for over 30 years, my best friend for over 8 years and a good friend for over 10 years. I’ve brought back Phil and Ian who both have young families and have been with me for many years and know my business inside out. The hardest part for everyone is the moralistic side, getting rid of people and setting up the next day like nothing has happened. I was advised to go down this route, I didn’t even know you could do this until a few weeks ago. If you don’t like it then have a go at the bankers and governments who have ruined the worlds economy and made these cop out rules where big businesses use it to make money over and over and over again. All the time I’ve been trading I’ve always paid tax, national insurance, VAT etc – how many of these “Fred in a shed” characters are doing everything by the book?

The reality is: We’re still here but under a different trading name! I worked hard to get little or no business interruption, a lot has happened out of my control in the last few weeks, I’m not proud of having to do what I did after 23 years of good business, in that time I have never made a loss in any one year at my year end.

We trade under the title of The MB Group which we were already using as our main landing page for MB Developments, this is where we made our microsites stand out. We were trying these out to get as many fingers in pies to pull us through the last few years. Obviously it didn’t work after hundreds of hours of work. We’ve reduced these to our main specialist sites - Lambretta spares - BGM Spares and Schwalbe Scooter tyres. Then the main business trading name is Serious Outdoors Ltd which we have the web site and shop to see if that works. We live in hope that Serious Outdoors is a much better name to potentially sell in the future! It’s much better than MB Developments! Anyway I’m living in total reality world, I’m never going to be paid millions for a company I own. Just imagine ‘Serious Outdoors’ above a shop in any high street! It works, does MB Developments?…….. No! I hope you see where I’m coming from.

So that’s where we are at, business is still hard, we do need support, we’re still aiming at doing what we do best and leaving my side lines for another day. We’re keeping our heads down as much as we can and plodding on until things pick up. On a positive note Scooter Center Koln are backing me by putting some of my ideas into production under the MRB BGM brand, we’ve got cylinder kits and exhausts due soon, so fingers crossed. Tyres are finally coming through again and I have lots of new ideas will be coming in the next few months.

I’d like to say through all this, there have been no customers affected by any decisions I’ve had to take, no customer has lost any money or parts, we are still here building on what we think is one of the best Scooter shops ever!

We hope the future is bright. I’m small fry there’s plenty of bigger clever people gone bust in the last year and I’m sure there will be others. I know of two other scooter shops that have done exactly the same as me this year!

Did we do it wrong with the move? Did we make bad decisions? Should we have done something different? People are quick to point a finger, as usual everyone’s an expert looking in from the outside. People have demanded I make this statement, well here it is, you’ve had it, pick it to bits, pick me to pieces, I’m only human. I’m not going to look back and say ‘I wish………..’ Hindsight is great when you have the knowledge of history. Of course if I knew now what I knew a year ago I wouldn’t have moved. Knowing what I know now my business would have survived the first round of cuts and I would have paid back the money owed to me and I would have paid off my mortgage but that never happened. I’m not looking back, I’m very proud of the work we have done in the building and we can only look to the future. Looking ahead, December is always hard as is January, we just have to keep our chins up, knuckle down and see what the future holds.

Mark Broadhurst MB Group (Serious Outdoors Ltd)

UPDATE TO THE STATEMENT

Well I’m amazed at the response of our very open and franc statement about the state of our business. I’m overwhelmed at the support I have had since doing it. Not only on facebook where we launched it, but in private emails, telephone conversations, texts, forums and people visiting us.

It really has been an eye opening experience not just from friends and die hard customers but from Joe Blogg customers in general, people who I don’t know, never met or may have never even heard of. It’s been incredible, the support we’ve had to carry on from people understanding the current climate has been overwhelming.

I’ve had businessmen offering advice and sympathy from people who have had to make job cuts themselves. I’ve had heart warming letters and conversations of thanks for the many years we have supplied people and offers of 100% support for the future.

I had a dealer phone just to say ‘if I need any parts I could have them and pay back when ever, it’s not about the money but keeping us going’. One dealer phoned to say in a very heart felt speech to say ‘After reading my statement he has had to look deep inside himself’ and apologized for making a very premature phone call to one of our main suppliers. I could feel the pain in his voice as he had realized that we are all in the same boat and sometime dealers need to support each other even if its just a conversion to let some things off our chests. I had a hand written Christmas card from one of the old School dealers, who we still owe money to totally supporting us and wished us luck for the future! Which was very nice and we’ve had words in the past! That was a simple gesture, which meant everything. I’ve had other dealers who I won’t mention who have admitted to me they have done exactly the same for very similar reasons. And wished us luck. So in a round about way I’m very proud that the news about Mark and MB shot around the world so quickly, we must have done something right over the years as the four other dealers that I know of, they never even got a mention!

I had people telling of dark periods in their life when they were so low and depressed, suicide was their only way out but survived to tell the tail and supported how these things over time do get to you and becomes out of control but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I was on the phone for two days with constant phone calls of support. It really did take me by surprise; even people who had slattered us were giving support and placing orders. The forums picked up on it straight away and again were full of support or said ‘it must have took some balls to write it’ The truth is, at the time leading up to the re-structure my hands were tied, I couldn’t say too much. The forums were slating us with incorrect statements and shit stirring, it was playing on my mind, I wasn’t sleeping and felt forced into saying what I had to. If only for the uplifting support it was totally worth it, if we survive time will only tell.

I re read my statement a few days later and as a few have also said ‘it brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat’ It was a statement from deep within facing problems I didn’t want to have to deal with. I’ve been praised for been a good businessman, ok things have gone wrong and I made some bad decisions but the good decisions have kept people employed for a long time when looking back we could have had these problems years ago.

I’ve re looked at my self and some of the memories the statement has made me think about. I’ve done a lot in my life with good and bad memories, I’ve had a fun filled action packed life. These things have I re thought about at quiet moments. There’s been positives and negatives you just have to try and process them. I’ve had good memories of my Grandad, helping him in the garage from a teenager meeting all his really old friends and listening to his stories, getting embarrassed when he farted. Teaching me bad habits I still have today, memories of my Nanna inviting customers and reps ‘through the tradesman entrance’ into her kitchen and supplying a coffee half full of Whiskey. And then there’s the not so good memory of finding my Grandad dead when I went for my nightly tea after finishing work to go in the garage to restore a car or scooter. Little and big things have shaped me into the way I am. Hard working, honest basic principles that I have grown up with even from parents who divorced when I was young and both have reminded me of all the hard times I’ve been through and still are 100% behind me and have been very proud of the achievements I have done. Indeed my Nanna came to the rescue from the grave and her inheritance has come out to help me re buy back my own business, it was only a small amount in the grand scheme but it has helped out.

All in all the support has been wonderful, yes we’ve had the odd comment having a go for leaving suppliers high and dry. Telling me I should have lost the house first before anything! Well these people do not know what has happened in between the lines of the statement. It’s not been easy over the last few months. We had and have paid off as many as we can and are in discussions with others, the main people to loose are the HMRC and that will come out of our taxes. But as I’ve found out we are total small fry and if anyone still wants to have a go………. turn it on the crooks who run the economy, the banks and the world who have got us all in the mess in the first place.

For those who think I should have lost my house, well it’s half Alison’s she bought into it years ago. With the money I extended the house, landscaped it, bought my big bike and put the rest back into the business over the last 18 months, I have nothing left. As for bikes I’m not a Scooter horder like other people. I only have a couple which are only worth what people will give for them and sods law no one comes with the money when you need it. As for the Sports Car, well bloody hell I’m the last man who wants a sports car, never had one or will ever have one. Always had a van or estate car and that’s gone, it would have gone last year but the lease company wanted more money to send it back than to keep it another year.

So where are we now? We’ve not come through the other side in a bed of roses. What a crap time to have to do this right before Christmas. I hate Christmas it’s the worst two weeks of the year, it’s a total waste of time in our business. We started off really well paying off bills, the future looked good but unknown. I’m more in control of money; I’ve spread weekly, yearly, monthly, quarterly payments into daily payments to spread cash flow. We know exactly what we need to turn over each day to survive and to be honest some days in December haven’t even touched daily standing orders. Then there’s working days which are bank holidays! I’ve been cringing checking the bank knowing bills still go out and nothing comes in because of business interruption over this period.

Like I say the car has gone and I’ve been looking for an excuse to start push biking again that’s why I built a shower block in the new shop. So that’s what I do now every day I’ve dug out my 16 year old second hand mountain bike and the exercise works. For those in the know exercise changes the chemicals in the brain and gives you that feel good factor and it works. I used to walk to the old place for the same reasons. If you’re a bit wound up at home, pissed off with the misses or cat by the time you get to work you have processed the problem. It’s the same at work if your stressed by the time you get home you’re not going to take it out on the misses or cat!

So this is now my daily ride and has been for 2 months and it works. I could ride a Scooter or the bike but I’m pissed off with paying taxes to get from A to B. I ride in all weathers, I always have I’m not a Sunny Sunday Scooter rider. Every day I get up and pull on my usually very muddy push bike clothes and head off through our housing estate over the A1 bridge heading up to the old place then turn off onto the very undulating old railway line track at the side of Edlington pit top. This leads into a wood, then onto a main road for a bit to pick up the old railway line again and head up the very long climb usually into the wind around the obstacles to stop the thieves heading off to the hills on stolen motorbikes and cars to the top of Conisborough which then steeply drops down into miles of woods and old quarries.

As the path levels off I turn left just before the very high Conisborough viaduct and inspiration for our own viaduct store design in the shop. The viaduct must be 150ft tall and expands over the Don valley. Today its now been opened up to the public to cross. In my old days of mountain biking the bridge was shut with two fences and barbed wire to stop the cars and bikers and suiciders! It too tall to jump off it would hurt but people have killed themselves off that bridge! I’ve swung over the fence and barbed wire holding on with one hand with bike in the other hand with nothing but 150ft of space below my feet! Some mates have refused to follow in the past and I’ve had to take their bikes over for them!

As I turn left up the slippy limestone rocky technical section I climb into the woods on an undulating mud track up to the highest peak of Conisborough. The technical section is usually off the bike and scramble up especially if it’s wet which it always is as it’s the intersection for the woods and is always churned up by the Enduro, Trails and Motorcross bikes that go there and are usually chased around by Police bikes. In the dry you can get up easy, in the wet a little run up off the flat viaduct gets you up the steep section over the top and down into the woods. I did this once a few weeks ago with works bag on. I made it look a piece of piss and as I turned to race down the woods there was 4 professional mountain bikers on full suspension bikes and body armour pushing their bikes to this point. I even had enough energy to say hello, all their faces was a picture looking at my old cronk as I made the trick look easy and they were all pushing their bikes up a hill I get up in the dark coming home.

As I climb out of the woods I come to a really fun section, it’s a very steep un adopted road. Conisboroughs millionaires row! Well there’s some great houses perched each side of the hill worth £300k. The hill is so steep it’s first gear coming home from start to finish. They have tried many times to surface it but its all broken up with pot holes, ruts and bits of concrete which has been dumped as the houses have been built over the years. The road is around 200 meters long in an S shape, which you can’t see around. On the first few days I was braking from top to bottom, now it’s no or little braking from top to bottom. A few weeks ago I shot from top to bottom with no brakes, bunny hopping all the way down where you come off over 30mph bouncing over the bumps to hit tarmac at a steep angle. On this day I was so fast I couldn’t see a thing. Just like riding a Watercooled Reed valved Vega at 80mph! As with Kayak racing you have to trust your instincts and go for it, always hoping no car is pulling out of a drive or coming up the hill. As you come to level off you pass the only pub on the route onto another un adopted road round a few corners down to the river Don. This day was cold, the back end skipped a little the next I knew I smacked my head on the tarmac and was sliding down the road…… black ice! I was hurting from top to toe, my neck cracked so hard I thought I’d broken it. Yes I always wear a helmet on a push bike or motorbike and usually the best I can afford and I’m glad I did. I’m sure that simple fall would have killed me without a helmet. I use clipless pedals and couldn’t understand why when I kicked the bike it kept coming back to me, so quick was the fall. It ripped my new jacket and after sliding around like Bambi and getting my breath and checked to see if anyone was watching I was back on the bike and off again………… onto shit Alley.

Shit alley runs from where I fell, across the backs of some new houses across a field up another steep hill next to some steps onto a tarmac path at the back of more new houses. All running next to the fishing lake, River Don and Railway line. What do you get with paths at the back of houses, yes people walking dogs day and night and dog shit! So you need your wits about you as you zig zag around it and everyday it’s different!

From here I come out by the Railway station at Conisborough where I cross the main road, pass our friends Team Roberts then turn off up the long drag up to the top of Denaby and pass 4 of the 6 working men’s clubs, showing the kind of area I live and work in, all left over’s from the mining days. There’s two pubs but ones now a curry house so doesn’t count. As I rise to the top of Denaby by the last working men’s club I have to dodge broken bottles in broken glass alley then drop steeply down to work.

It’s ride around 5 miles of hard up and down crunching which usually always has me covered in mud and sweat, so I’m glad I built a shower block to freshen up. At night it’s nearly all dark so I use a Trail Tech HID helmet light to see. From the off it’s up our steep hill through broken glass alley, down Denaby’s working men’s road onto the main road to turn off on Dog shit alley in the dark. Now even with a HID light you can’t see if it’s a leaf, a patch of damp or dog shit. One day before Christmas I had to stop to let a monster dog pass going wild at me, coming home at speed I drop over a hidden drop by the steps which is always muddy, you slide out of control all the way to the bottom. On this day there was a guy on the phone dressed in black with his hood on with 3 dogs running around him, I couldn’t see him until it was too late I hit one of his stupid dogs which ran in front of me and nearly fell off. I stood on the pedals and set off again. The next I know I’ve got mud all over my glasses, so I wipe it, then it hit me! The smell and taste, mud! Yeah right……………. Frigging dog shit! I could hardly breath, spitting and snorting and wiping it all over my face. God what a smell, I now know when people say when they can taste smell like rotting corpses that never leaves you! I still had a few miles to go, I still had the steep hills to climb and breath it all in. On the railway track I was attacked by two dogs, must have been the smell. I couldn’t get home fast enough, my stomach was coming up. I got home threw the clothes on the floor, ran into the house without looking in the mirror and had a shower! Even clean I could taste it, I pored a big Brandy and downed it and could still taste it, a large red wine washed it down finally! What a journey! A day later I fell off on the technical section in the dark and landed on the side I’d dropped on the ice, bruising me for another week.

And to me this is all fun! It gets me through the day, I don’t miss the dog shit side of it, the falls are fun as long as I don’t really hurt myself. It’s stuff I’ve always done it’s what lifes all about little experiences you can tell a story about and laugh it off. Some days I can hardly walk after a good run, it’s keeping me fit and hopefully well. If I’ve had a bad day, like always I beat myself up mentally and physically and feel better for it. I’ve no car so it’s push biking for as long as I can or want to. My bike is old and was secondhand at that. It breaks all the time, I’ve snapped spokes, ripped an inner tube and tyre, broken the seat post and forks! I’ve spent my spare Saturdays leading up to Christmas going to my local bike shop like I did when I was 15 and 16 to drool over Scooters and parts, now it’s over the latest mountain bikes and I’m saving for a new one. 

So what’s the point in telling you my daily drive? It shows I have my falls, I brush myself down and get on my bike and carry on like I always have done.

Will business survive? I have no idea! We can not cut back any more, we need to turn over a large amount to pay the bills without even catching up to pay off our old bills let alone save enough money to expand and develop parts.

It has given me time to think, reflect, ponder and look to the future. My mind is full of new products and developments. The forums inspire me to show people and prove a point. Looking back I see it as climbing a pyramid, if you get to the top you’re the best, people come and knock you off then you pick your self up and start again and climb back up to the top. Do I want to or have I got the energy to get back to the top I don’t know because when your at the top it’s so easy to fall down. Maybe we just keep our heads low and do what we do best and let our products and service say it all.

Today it’s so easy to have, made up non engineering experts come along and take the limelight. There’s nothing new here it’s been happening for years, one thing going for us is; I have been here a long time, I have more experience than others and experience counts for a lot. Times are hard if people do not have spare cash then they’re not going to spend it on a Scooter. Scooters are not daily transport like they used to be, they are more collectors items not been used as much so sales slow. We now have so many more Scooter shops and ebay shops to choose from and sales slow down. Petrol and oil prices never lower so sales slow down! It’s a never ending circle which is hard to control.

I’ve been more hands on to catch up. I’ve taken the place of three engineers, I’m doing their work plus my own high class engineering, tuning, repair work and designs. I’m running the company, answering the phone, processing orders and serving. How long for I don’t know something will give I’m sure, I’m not getting any younger! Work has been coming in from customers and dealers, I now turn it around sometimes the same day and I’m enjoying working in our big purpose made workshops. Really it’s far to big we need to make the space work for us.

As I’m doing all the engineering I would be better becoming a ‘Fred in the shed’. Me and Alice have looked at some houses to suit. This is not easy, you need money or we can get the money but payments are scary. With what’s gone off life is scary for the future. Looking back we should have moved when the going was good and been prepared to down size into that perfect little farmstead with outbuildings that I’ve always wanted. With out money it’s a gamble, lets see what the future holds.   

Our works department is a real pleasure, It’s designed so well. It works but was designed for 4 engineers to be spread out and now there is me, it’s massive and tiring walking around it all day. After a day in the workshop and mountain biking to work some days I’m knackered after a 6 day week my limbs tell me to rest. Because it’s designed so well work comes in and flies out. I’ve 30 years of doing this stuff. What’s difficult for some is easy for me, I’m fast at what I do……. Tuning or engineering the only problem is a lot of our tools and machinery are now so old I’m repairing it most days and we need investment for new gear and you’ve got it, no spare cash……… sods bloody law following me again.

I’ve been machining, fabricating, manufacturing and tuning most days. We’ve found a new CNC company close by which will be taking on lots of the mundane work which I don’t need to keep doing, this will take a load off me and give me time for better things.

Better things! Well with all that’s been going on I’m tuning like normal. Our shorty Reed block has becoming really popular. People want power with speed and fuel economy. Our reed conversion with old Skool tuning for all round spread of power really works, the feed back has been great, statements like ‘It’s F..king awesome’ ‘It’s the best engine I’ve ever had’ ‘It pulls like a train’ ‘I’m getting 80mpg!’

It’s all about giving people what they want, fuel prices are rising I’ve developed something that gives a wide spread of rideable, driveable power with the benefit of fuel economy! It’s not about all these over hyped max out bhp motors. I still do these motors, indeed one of my most popular tunes is our Race-Tour TS1 tune, a touring or road racing tune developed from our old Stage 1, 2 and 3 tune that we have done for years. Do this tune with the right compression ratio/head design, fit the right reeds and exhaust then you easily get 30+bhp with no welding I have been doing this for years. Tame the same tune down with lower compressions, smaller carbs and you really do get a MB wolves in sheep clothing type of engine like our Race-Tour cylinder kit which have been proving over the years to be excellent high Torque touring engines.

Scooter Center have invested heavily in producing the new MRB-BGM RT cylinder kits and new pistons. These are due as samples in January and the prices are right for most people who want a good bolt on kit that works without having to fettle and be an engineer to fit it. They have backed my MRB Big Box Clubman which is going to production for March delivery! At first a real exhaust that looks standard, sounds nearly standard but works like the best touring expansion chamber and works on anything. They have also produced a new 58/60mm crankshaft that is affordable. They are producing a new Electronic flywheel with a new carb and much more. Between us we are producing an affordable bolt on package which is interchangeable with other products on the market. 

This Christmas seems to be the longest ever, I can’t be doing with days off doing nothing but I needed it, I’ve not done a lot, I’ve let the body recover. Things were getting to me I seemed to be fighting something off all the time sat watching the television with my feet up has helped. We only managed one local walk on Christmas day. I couldn’t wait to get back to work but Alice had different plans and booked a couple of days off. We had seen an outdoor program with a walk and water fall that we had not heard of. So she found a nice place to stay, eventually as it seemed everyone was on holiday in the Dales and we headed to Middleton in Teesdale.

Our first walk had us driving up the road from Middleton into the moors to park at a reservoir and do a walk described in the book as possibly the best walk in England, part of the Pennine way! That’s like listening to Jeremy Clarkson saying the Transfăgărăşan road is the best in the world. They might be good but the more you travel and the more adventures you have the more these just blend into another day out. There’s always an adventure and memory to be had and I’m finding more and more things swirling around in my head and the best way is to tap into the computer and clear my mind. Perhaps I should write a diary to put down my thoughts. I would if I had the time.

These two days had me in an area I’m brought back to time and time again. So as we headed off back down the single track road all covered in ice we realized how dangerous the road was, we could hardly stand on it with black ice from the wet moors running on it. 2 miles later with loads of slides we wondered if we were doing it right parking at the top of the hill. The route was a 7½ mile circular to take us down to the side of the River Tees and follow it up to Caudron Snout the UK’s longest water fall. As usual it was raining as we set off and it was rain clothes all the way but a perfect day to test the gear we sell. (Always working on a sale) To me it was just another wild walk, more extreme the better, test the clothes and become free from the modern rat race for a few hours. As we turned the corner Caudron Snout is truly worth making the walk. Just as we started the scramble up the very icy climb it started to snow! I’d check the weather for a week and it was rain all the time. By the time we had got to the car after seeing no one as usual on the walk it was a blizzard and we we’re covered, the temperature was around freezing and some couple had made their way up the ice road to have a picnic in the snow! And people think I’m crazy another few minutes they could have be stuck there all night, stupid and with a baby in the back!

Having done the walk earlier than normal we too decided to have a drive around and planned a route back to Barnard Castle for a Curry. The snow stopped and it was raining again, then as we started to climb the snow got worse again and was down to single tracks all the way to the A66 which was once a Coast to Coast race where I came second even after running out of petrol! A sign showed Tan Hill the highest and most remote pub in England a favorite haunt for Scooter do’s and a place I don’t really remember in 85 when I was so drunk and slept outside! Not a good memory!

The next day we planned Low force to High Force then a circular over the moors and then back home in the rain again. The Tees is a great river when it has water, low force is a fun 10 ft water fall to Canoe over I’ve done it a few times. With all the rain the river looked good. I’m always there studying waves and eddies and rocks just like preparing for a Canoe Slalom, it’s how you win races knowing how water flows. Perhaps that’s why I found 2 stroke tuning easy as I can see flow in my head. Hi Force is Englands highest water fall, I’ve paddled underneath it but never over it. I’ve heard someone has but as you climb and hang over the side it looks impossible to do, but there’s always someone with more nerves than me or less brains! The water was poring off the moors the snow was still high up on the hills and the wind was blowing again great for testing gear.

I’ve paddled down from Hi force to Middleton, at Middleton there used to be a Slalom for beginners, it was a lovely place on a big field full of campers and caravans, surrounded by the moors with the river running past. With a nice walk to the pub at night it was cracking place to get your fellow competitors pissed so they didn’t beat you the next day. When the sun was out the place was perfect. But the river at this point was usually shallow and eventually got cancelled, a shame really it’s what the countryside is all about.

On our way home we passed Eggleston Hall the place where the TV program was done for Ladette to Lady where bad girls are taught to be posh, a funny program! As we neared Barnard Castle there’s more memories of Canoe trips.

One such trip had us drive to Barnard, the river was in full flood, the wind and rain was hollowing and was mid winter. The Lad I took with me just said ‘I’m not getting on that’! He was training for the GB team so it surprised me. The lads used to place bets on me to see if I would turn up with a Slalom Carbon race boat or plastic boat like everyone else. And it was usually a Race boat. This trip was my best ever it was a very quick trip to Abbey Rapids a long 300 meter gorge where the Tees thunders through. On this day we couldn’t see the bridge 50 feet above the river, all we could see was a wall of water, mist and hear the roar before we could see the rapids.

For some reason our team leader turned up in a open Canadian Canoe with someone sat in the front who had never sat on a river! As we got to the rapids, the team leader said ‘off you go Mark’ ‘All I could think was ‘I don’t think so’ I’d never been down it before! Another Doncaster lad said he would go but the look of fear said it all. He spun out and got stuck in an eddy near the top just as I watch the open Canadian pass me heading straight into the rapids. I was in a perfect position to see them drop over the first wave and then see two bodies flying with the Canoe capsized upside down. At that it was my que to go and save these people.

The first wave was big, as big as my boat, no wonder they were spat out. I caught the first lad stuck in the eddy as I went over the first wave on the downward side it was a black hole. As I descended I realized there were two more waves even bigger! At this point you don’t get out, everything goes in slow motion and your life slips through your fingers on the second wave I though I was flying it looked like we were going to be splattered into the rocks and bridge! As I dropped over the second wave it looked like the black hole was even bigger than the first one! As I got to the 3rd wave right at the top the wave collapsed underneath me and I truly was floating!

What happened next was 30 minutes of carnage, boats, paddles and people had all been spat out and it was a rescue from start to finish. We lost two boats and paddles but saved all the paddlers. One girl fell out and took 30 minutes to get her boat out of a whirlpool which took 3 of us and ropes to get it. That girl is now a UK team member. The guy I took refused to go down it and he got the UK team level and was tipped to be European if not World Champion. When he was a bit older he would have paddled it blind folded. Once we all regrouped we managed after many more rescues to get to Walton Lido where the rest of them all got out and wanted to go home!

When I was 15 I raced here, in 1980 I had left School at Easter and started work for a few months, I’d had a holiday booked to visit my dad throughout the Summer holidays. I Kayaked everyday on a flat water Slalom course and Sea surfed on the Atlantic. Any way I did the Slalom. In the old days Saturdays were team events. 3 people racing for the fastest time with little penalties. I can’t remember how we did. The next morning I was woken by a roaring noise, which sounded like a train coming through the tent. It had rained all night and the river was in full flood. Today it would have been cancelled but not in the old days they redid the gates and did a one run only race. I had shot through the divisions in one year so was near last to go. I’ve got a old Canoe customer who looked me up and said it was really rare for someone to shoot through the ranks because the only way to do it was win every race! I just don’t remember everything I’ve done.

Some time back the pre world championships were held in Wales, my dad was over from the states as he had built the US team boats. We had arranged to meet a friend who built boats in the UK and I’d saved for a new boat. The one I wanted had gone to another new kid on the block. The same kid was racing after me, I hated him he had my boat. I had stood and watched everyone race, sussing out the hard gates after 300 people went down the river and I was getting close to my turn and the other kid running after me. I was totally focused in completion even at 15 and have never changed. Any way was I fit, 6 weeks non stop training and I won. I was the only one to do a clear run and 3 seconds quicker than anyone else. I collected my prize in my US parker and that was my last race for another 20 years when I got back into it again and became UK National Champion. If I didn’t get into Scooters maybe I would have gone further who knows.

Back to the River trip I convinced 3 more to do the trip and it was like a team event all the way to the end and that is what memories are all about.

Again another story to show I don’t give up easily.

I don’t think 2012 will be an easy year for any of us. Saying that some people have got money and I’ve seen many orders lately which are only restorations so things could look up.

As from 3rd of January we are back to normal. Shop hours are still 8.30 – 5.30 Monday to Friday and Saturday 10 – 3.

Were still at 4 people Mark, Ian, Phil and Luke which gives us cover over a full week.

You know what I do, Ian does the computering and report side of things  and make sure the web site keeps working and does all the behind scene things that only I really see.

Phil is the main man on the phone, serving the counter and processing the orders.

And Luke is our main packaging man, phone answerer and sales man.