THE family of a York motorcyclist who was tragically killed say he is now "riding bikes in the sky" with his best friend.

Garry Wakeman, 32, from Fossway, died on the eve of the anniversary of the death his pal, James Smith, who was also killed in a motorbike accident when he was 21.

Garry's parents, Bruce and Denise, from Bishopthorpe, said their son was happiest when riding bikes, and the image of him and James together in heaven was "keeping them going".

Garry, a long-distance lorry driver, suffered fatal injuries when his red Triumph machine collided head-on with a Jeep Cherokee during an organised ride with friends from the Bikers' Bar, at Sherburn-in-Elmet, on the B6271 between Northallerton and Great Langton. A picture of Garry's beloved Triumph will be buried with him and a procession of 15 bikers will lead the mourners at his funeral in Bishopthorpe tomorrow.

He was the seventh biker to die this year on North Yorkshire's roads.

"I believe he is now with James riding bikes in the sky," said Bruce, 56.

"It's spooky that he died the day before James' anniversary. Garry said that buying his bike brought him closer to James."

Bruce said his son was not a reckless rider and was not believed to be going excessively fast at the time of his accident. It was the first time the former Joseph Rowntree School pupil had ever come off his bike.

"I want to stress that I'm not anti-bikes because of this," Bruce told the Evening Press.

"He died a very happy man. When they go out in these groups it's a real social thing. Ninety-nine per cent of bikers are sensible and wear the protective gear. There should be more of these organised rides so that when kids want to buy a bike, they know what they're doing."

Denise said: "We loved him to bits and he loved us. Garry was the light of our life."

Bruce said his son, who was a Newcastle United fan and enjoyed playing heavy rock on his guitar, had hoped to open a motorcycle school to help other people understand bikes and pass on safety tips.

"Garry believed life was for living and I will miss him terribly," Bruce added.

"He was a free spirit and loved his rock and roll."

Motorhead's heavy rock classic, Ace of Spades, will be played at Garry's funeral at St Andrew's Church, Bishopthorpe, from noon tomorrow. It will be followed by a reception at the Bikers' Bar.

Updated: 10:47 Monday, June 14, 2004