This week on WHITEBALLOON INSIGHTS we loved hearing from Marian about how her late husband Paul’s enthusiasm for motorbikes inspired him to set up Motorcycle Funerals.
Q: Founded in 2002, Motorcycle Funerals was ahead of its time in providing the first motorcycle hearse service in Britain. What inspired your late husband, the Reverend Paul Sinclair, to set it up?
After we were both involved in a serious biking accident in London, Paul was left recovering in hospital. As a life-long biker, known lovingly as ‘Faster Pastor’, he started to think about how he’d like to leave this world. He was so inspired, he put pen to paper and began the process of designing his very first dedicated motorcycle hearse.
I always said he was a good artist, and with his background as a sheet-metal worker he had the knowledge he needed to work on the design until it was just right. Paul eventually designed the world’s only fully enclosed motorbike-and-sidecar hearse. An engineer helped build it, and with Paul’s guidance and vision Motorcycle Funerals Limited was launched. We still have his original hearse today.
Q: You have a wide selection of wonderful bikes, from Triumph Bonnevilles and Thunderbirds to Suzuki Hayabusas and a tandem bicycle hearse. Which is your most popular bike, and do you have a personal favourite?
Our most popular bike is the Triumph Bonneville. I think families love it because it has traditional styling and is seen as a ‘proper British bike’ – which it is. It was built completely in Great Britain and is popular with the broadest spectrum of people and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.
My personal favourite is the one we used for Paul’s funeral – our Suzuki Hayabusa. It’s the ultimate speed bike for ultimate speed lovers. It’s fast, sleek and popular with racers, marshals, sport enthusiasts and people who just lived life in the fast lane. It has the added distinction of being the bike with the Guinness World Record for Fastest Motorcycle Hearse. We set the first official motorcycle hearse speed record in 2002, then beat our own record with our Hayabusa hearse in 2004.
We wanted to do something special for Paul’s final journey. He always moaned that he never got to go around Donnington Race Track as part of a funeral, so we decided to make that happen for him. The amazing people at Donnington agreed, and Paul was driven round the track on the day before the funeral by Lucy Coulbert, owner of the Individual Funeral Company. The next day, with the help of his employees and friends, every one of our fourteen hearses accompanied Paul in the Suzuki Hayabusa on his send-off to glory.
Q: You also have a fabulous three-wheeled Boom Trike. Tell us a bit about the origin and history of the trike.
Boom Trikes was founded in 1990 by German couple Wolfgang and Christine Merkle. For Boom Trike lovers, like other motorbike enthusiasts, their bikes aren’t just a stylish mode of transport, but a way of life. Boom Trikes unite freedom and adventure with the desire to travel, and a connection with nature. The sleek styling of our trike hearse really stands out. So does its quality and attention to detail, from its shining stainless steel lines to its 911cc VW engine. It’s no ordinary hearse and you won’t find another like it anywhere.
Q: You must have helped to create very special send-offs for some wonderful characters, especially the real bike enthusiasts. Are there any processions in particular that stick in your mind?
The most memorable was the final send-off for my husband. Little did I know back when he set up the company that he’d end up making his own final journey in one of our bikes, when we were still so young. We were married for more than 18 years, and Motorcycle Funerals was at the very centre of our working lives together, in and for the community.
Then in 2018 Paul was diagnosed with a Stage 4 brain tumour. He died in 2019, aged just 53. Paul went on his dignified final ride, just as he’d wanted when he dreamed up the company all those years ago. He left me with a legacy that I cherish every single day.
Q: Do you feel families are more open these days to doing something out of the ordinary or unique, both for their loved one’s funeral or for themselves?
Absolutely. Expressing the personality of your lost loved one is so important to the families and friends left behind. A ‘standard’ traditional funeral isn’t right for everyone, as no-one is ‘standard’, are they? Our unique vehicles allow the real person and what they loved to shine through in the final celebration of their life. If a family knows they have organised a truly fitting send-off for their loved one, it can provide a small element of comfort in their grief.
Q: Are you a motorcycle rider yourself? If so, do you have plans for a road trip anywhere special?
I have always ridden pillion, and Paul always said he was happy to ride with me sitting pillion. After Paul’s death I thought I had better learn to ride for myself. I could not even ride a bicycle! A good friend of ours taught me to ride, and they even got their grandson involved. I enjoyed every moment of learning to ride the bicycle, and now I ride a 125cc motorbike. I have no road trips planned yet, but who knows?
Q: And finally, do you have thoughts about how you’d like your own final farewell to be?
Like Paul, I would like a lap round the race track the day before in one of our hearses. However, on the day – and this may come as a shock – I would like to take my final journey with a white horse and a white carriage and big red bows all round.