The sale of my K1300GT will leave me in the strange position of being without a road bike for the first time in 20 years. In the past I’ve always had its replacement in the garage before I’d sold the old one, but this time it’s different. I’m in no rush, moneys tight, I’m missing my old riding buddies and the great trips we used to do, and I’m not feeling motivated to think about its replacement. I still have the R1 track bike though which does motivate me to get out on track, as it’s now close to how I’d like it to be vis a vis handling and mods, but it’s winter now and plenty of cold dark months and poor weather before next season comes around.
So I’ve been reminiscing, like you do. Thinking of the good times, the bikes I’ve owned and loved, the one I owned and didn’t like, trips, tours, speed and adventure, so here are a few of my favourite memories.
I’ve owned two outstanding machines, well technically three if you consider I owned two models of the same machine, a Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird. I purchased the first one in Switzerland in Y2K with a mere 2600kms on the clock. I knew the second it purred out of the shop floor and onto the Geneva streets it was the one for me. Super smooth, quiet, refined, and SOOO fast, it was my pride and joy, and carried the wife and me half way round Europe at warp speed and in total reliability, well except for a regulator rectifier failure, but they all do that!
Everyone knows that for a while the Bird was the fastest bike on the planet, but the best thing about it was the quiet exhaust note which allowed you to creep under the radar whilst Ducati’s and those with loud pipes were getting pulled over. The power came so smoothly and quietly with 100mph effortlessly and VERY rapidly passed, easy to get yourself in trouble with the law. I vividly remember being chased by a bunch of French riders on one occasion, and one coming up behind me shaping up for an overtake. No chance!, a rapid twist of the throttle and I was gone, warp drive engaged, and the guy disappeared in the rear view mirrors.
Then there was the ascent of the Pas de Casa in Andorra where we overtook a line of 10 cars in one go, but the best memory was riding back from the Misano superbikes with a mate and his Thunderace. The Italians allow free entry from the circuit onto the autostrada and then anarchy took over. Imagine hundreds of bikes let loose, all heading north and forgetting the speed limit. We set off together, but I soon had my Thunderace mounted mate disappearing in my mirrors as I gave the Bird the full throttle treatment. I averaged 220-240kph for the hour and a half it took all the way up to Bologna, at which time the fuel tank had been pretty much drained, and my hands were shaking with adrenaline. Crazy remembering those overtakes on either side of the traffic ahead just to maintain momentum. Could never happen again, and I’m amazed it did back then, but the bike was awesome. That adrenaline fix was actually better than maxxing it out at 285kph on a French dual carriageway and German autobahn some years later.
Legal disclaimer- At this stage I should point out that none of these events ever happened, the stories are fictional, and are the result of an over active imagination and defective memory.
The next “special” bike was the Honda RC45. This was a bike that excelled on the road and disappointed on the track, but however you rode it you were never going fast enough. The seat height was so low you couldn’t fail to get your knee down, the exhaust note so evocative it made you weep, and literally did when I rode it with a Micron open pipe for an hour and a half! The best thing, you rarely if ever saw another one on the roads so it always drew admiring glances from others, and questions from the younger generation who had no idea what it was. I had that bike nearly 10 years and loved every minute of it and to me was the very essence of why we ride bikes, because just looking at it made you want to ride, and when you got on it it never disappointed (on the road).
Disappointing bikes? I’ve only really owned one , a Laverda 750S, bought cheaply new when the company had gone bust (again) and only rode it for three months and 3000kms. It had lots of Gucci parts but the throttle control was awful and it stalled frequently. When my mates asked why I’d got it as it and gave their opinion of it having ridden it as being a piece of s**t, clearly it was time to get rid, and I did so very swiftly.
Most reluctant sale? Apart from the RC45, this has to be a low mileage ZX-10R l bought in Germany but had to sell when I moved back to France, due to that country’s barmy 100bhp law. This was a superb bike and obviously I didn’t ride it hard enough to be scared by its reputation as a wild ride, but the handling was sorted, it looked the dogs, went like stink, and was safe on track. Bloody French laws!
Got to be the 15 day tour I took with the wife on the Blackbird back in 2003. We toured through Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. 7 countries 3743kms and although it was our second big Euro tour since moving over in 1999, it was the most fun.
I’ve also enjoyed my commercial Alpinebiker tours where I met some great people and shared some great rides and experiences.
Not sure they count as tours, but I did so many ride outs with friends when I lived in Geneva that it’s difficult to pick any specific one out as being a favourite, I will say though, that sharing those days and tours shaped both my riding and long term memories, so to those people, you know who you are, thanks a million.
Encounters with the law-
When you’ve ridden a bike for 20 years there are bound to have been the odd scrapes with the law, I’ve had a few although none of the ultra serious nature.
The first came one summers evening whilst riding in Yorkshire with the wife on the back. I overtook a caravan and looking back saw a raplidly driven BMW with its lights flashing following me. No problem, go past I thought, the road ahead was clear, it wasn’t until he was closer behind me that I saw the blue lights flashing under the grill. One lecture later I’d got a ticket for 81mph for the caravan overtake but got let off the 92 I’d been doing earlier, oops.
Strike 2 was on our 2003 tour when I got pulled over in Bosnia for allegedly doing 65 in a 50, but although I paid the fine I was shocked to see the policeman using the same speed gun reading on the next poor motorist who complained bitterly. Given the dubious nature of this ticket I don’t count it, in much the same way as the ticket in Austria, again for doing 65 in a 50 but I didn’t see any sign advertising the limit?
I then had many many years ticket free until I got one in France on a dealer loan bike. I wouldn’t have been on the road if my bike had been repaired on time and the loaner had had a motorway vignette, but it didn’t, so I ended up on a road I wouldn’t normally have been on which on that particular day the police had a radar trap on. Strangely the police seemed to think it amusing that a BMW was speeding, perhaps they see BMW’s as normally being ridden by the more conservative type of rider? Truth is I should have contested the fine though as they had got the speed reading from a 45 degree angle as I was crossing a bridge, and people have won cases before based on the fact you can’t get an accurate reading off a bikes angular surfaces from the side. Think that one cost me €90.
I’m not proud of these and each time I get one I feel suitably chastised, but they’re all pretty minor offences (luckily). Given the 293,000kms I’ve ridden over the past 20 years, if these “speed awards” (as my US tour riders called them) are all I’ve got to show, then I’ve not done too badly considering!
I could go on and on, but as I’ve written this it’s clear my life has been changed and shaped by biking, the machines I’ve ridden, the friendships made through ownership, and the special memories that rides, people, times and places create. Get another bike? Probably!