Paul Sinclair tells us a bit about his motorcycle funerals.
Before I started this business, the best a biker, motorcyclist or sidecar enthusiast could hope for in the British Isles was a floral display shaped like a motorbike in the back of a hearse.
In Australia they had a few sidecar boards with coffin stoppers. These were fine down there, where the weather is more predicable and at first I wanted to copy this idea. However, this posed a few problems. Our weather can go through all four seasons in a day so the coffin would get wet and mostly with dirty water off the road. That would cause a safety issue, picking up a large coffin that is wet and slimy is highly unwise. Secondly, when traffic splashes muck onto the side of the coffin and if you try to shoulder it, your clothes get ruined.
There was a girl in New Zealand who started with one of these, she had to try and protect the front of the coffin too as it would get covered in dead flies on warm days.
Finally, cardboard and wicker coffins flex, so it is absolutely vital that the wind cannot get a grip of them and certainly not get underneath. When you sit one of these on rollers there are gaps where the wind can get hold. This could quite easily result in a coffin coming loose or in the case of cardboard being ripped. So, having looked at all this I opted for weather protection and sent in a patent application. After a world wide search etc. I got the patent granted.
I have a little adage, the SAD funeral. This means Safe and Dignified. We use proper leading link forks, these are used by sidecar racers for stability and steering. Without these the sidecar would sway around. In a photo no one knows the difference, but you soon would on a twisty road. To buy and fit these costs about £2000, but we think it is vital. Without them the outfit would be very heavy to handle, so you get fatigued. As a result we can do extremely long funerals (one was 220 miles with the coffin). That would be a good example of Safe.
Dignity is different, it is a bit like beauty, what is beautiful to one person isn’t to another. As such you can’t have too many hard and fast rules. Most people would think it right that we are dressed smartly and are careful in our communication. We clean the windows and polish the paint etc. Dignity is difficult to explain, but you soon notice when it isn’t there!
It is interesting to note that many of our passengers are elderly, earlier this year we carried a 101 year old lady. Many of her generation were dispatch riders or had a sidecar outfit or a solo motorbike. At the other end we serve on children’s funerals as we have what looks like a child carriage. The glass surround really helps here as we can carefully lay out flowers and stuffed toys. I am careful to ensure none of our riders carry out more children’s funerals than the others as it is upsetting. We are proud to serve and don’t show how we feel as that is not our place, but it is still upsetting. We also serve at the funerals of bikers, motorcyclists, racers and so on. Quite a number of ladies ask for it as they like the style.
We also run the UK’s first full length trike hearse, we find that for every 160 motorcycle funeral requests there will be only one trike request. Often we find the deceased was actually a motorcyclist and the person booking the funeral didn’t understand that a trike and a bike are different, at that point they switch, but sometimes the deceased really was a trike enthusiast so this is just ideal. Initially we bought a trailer for trikers, but it was never ever used as the trike enthusiasts tended to relate that to going down the tip. Once we had switched to the full length trike they were really happy.
In the winter, especially when there is snow about, we don’t field the trike. The central wheel that you use to steer and brake is exactly where the ice and snow build up but we can use the motorbikes all year round. After all they made it to Stalingrad in the winter… mind you… they never came back!
Article by Paul Sinclair