I wrote a post a while ago about the way that the bikes we ride shape us as riders, we may favour sports bikes rather than touring, or twins over fours, but in any case over the years I imagine like me, people will have quite a number of bikes which have shaped their riding and memories, so I thought I’d delve back into the sands of time and put pen to paper on the bikes I’ve owned and ridden.
This barely qualifies as a bike but it had an engine, all of 50cc and was my first foray into the world of two wheels. It was the single speed version (read slow!) and was bought brand new for the princely sum of £105. It had pedals which had to be turned to get it started, and returned miserly consumption of close to 120mpg, which as a teenager with little income was a real plus. I think mine was the N version which didn’t even had a speedo, probably because it was capable of speeds only marginally faster than running! I used to have to carry around a plastic bottle with two stroke oil to mix each time I filled up. As a riding experience it can be summed up easily, it wasn’t one!, but as a cost effective form of transport for a skint youth, then it was ideal and served it’s purpose admirably, till I got fed up of it and bought a proper bike!
The first of many Honda’s I was to own over the years.
I don’t remember the technical details, but Wikipedia shows it had an OHC engine and a top speed of around 65mph, which after the Puch was mega fast. I do remember having to learn how to use previously unknown bike parts such as a clutch and gears, and mashing them badly for the first few days as I learnt how to ride. It carried me and my tent from the Midlands down to Devon for a rally so can be officially recognised as being my first touring bike.
This was my first NEW bike and made an amazing impression on me. The colour was my favourite shade of blue, and the engine howled and emitted plumes of smoke from it’s twin exhausts. It’s 247cc oil cooled twin it made a massive 30bhp, returned 50mpg and had a top speed of 95mph. If those stats weren’t enough to get you excited, then how about it’s power band, something new to me after coming from a linear four stroke. The RD was not as exciting or dramatic as the hooligan LC models which came later, but had enough oomph to catch out the unwary, and it did catch me out, twice! I sold it soon after those two offs, but it’s always held a strong place in my formative memories, and now that I’ve got an R1 in the same shade of blue it’s like I’ve gone full circle and returned to the Yamaha fold.
Honda CB250N Superdream
This was a “sensible” buy. We lived on one side of a river and my wife worked on the other. Public transport wasn’t easy or convenient and we couldn’t afford two cars, so the bike was bought as a commuter tool and worked exceptionally well. I bought it off a work colleague who taught me the pleasures of oil baths for the chain, and I upgraded the worn suspension for a pair of air shocks, which although far superior in performance looked a bit naff in red on a blue bike, as you can tell on the photo above. The bike wasn’t particularly exciting and I remember being shocked at having to pay £40 for an exhaust box, which back then was a huge amount of money, BUT, it was safe, reliable, and an ideal choice to have bought to get back in to biking after a few years sabbatical.
Honda CB400N Superdream
As always with bikers, a bigger engine means more fun, and the 250 soon wasn’t cutting it for the things we wanted to do. The 400 was a logical step up, with the same Honda reliability and was effectively the same bike as the 250 but with a bigger engine. We took it to the channel islands touring, rode with the local bike club, going farther afield and riding harder and faster, still not a bike to get the pulse rate soaring but it started, stopped, and ran like a dream (sic) and proved a great buy.
ZZR600- May 1997-May 1998 ridden 9,600 kms
The birth of my two children pretty much forced the sale of the 400, but 12 years later and the bug had resurfaced, so I did some research, found a good compromise for price and performance, and bought a ZZR600. Renowned for not having the best suspension, the saving grace for this bike was it’s engine. Like many Kwaks it accelerated like the world was coming to an end and it was always a rush letting it rip. It ended up costing me way too much in parts, so using male logic to confuse my better half I “persuaded” her the best thing to do would be to offload it and upgrade!
VFR800-May1998- May 2000 ridden 25,600 kms
Officially this was my reward for passing the IAM Advanced test, but it had been ordered before I took it so I was going to have it come rain or shine! I bought it without having taken a test ride as none were available, and it had been a toss up, between the VFR and the CBR1100XX SuperBlackbird. If I’d have ridden the Bird I’d have bought it, but the VFR was a “sensible” choice ratified by the wife, so it ended up in my garage.
The trend I notice as I am writing this is that the bikes I’ve bought have all been “sensible” choices, with perhaps the exception of the RD250 a decade previously. The VFR followed that trend. It was a wonderfully efficient machine, the noise of the V4 engine was improved tenfold with the addition of an open Remus exhaust, it was powerful enough to tour on with luggage and a passenger, and when dirty always cleaned up like new. It ran perfectly, never missed a beat, handling improved with the addition of a made to measure Maxton shock, and looked as good the day I sold it, as the day I took it from the showroom floor. And why did I sell it? Because I’d moved to Switzerland and found the engine a little lacking at altitude, so something bigger was required of course!
CBR1100XX- March 2000- March 2004 ridden 63,111 kms
OMG! I knew within 10 yards of leaving the dealer I had to have this bike. The smoothness of the engine, the whispering exhausts, and unbelievable acceleration had me hooked instantly. I loved the stealth black, the paint quality was exceptional, the ride superb, I put the reworked shock from the VFR on it and improved its handling, and never looked back. Sue (the wife) loved it, we toured Europe on it. It ran and ran and ran, overtook lines of cars as if they were stationary, and all I ever did to it was change the tyres, brake pads and have it serviced, often! It only failed me once at around 55,000kms when the regulator stator failed, but that’s a common Honda problem and I’ll forgive it that one off failure. As a bike it ticked every box I had, it was a dream purchase, and if I hadn’t been forced to sell it when I moved to France I would likely still be on it today, what a bike!!
Laverda 750s- March 2002-June 2002 ridden 3,205 kms
From one extreme to another. I wanted a toy to go on track with or do some more sporty riding, but unfortunately this wasn’t it! Lots of nice parts like Marchesini wheels and Paoli forks, but the most agricultural POS parrallel twin engine known to man. It stalled, had gutless acceleration, and when friends who rode it confirmed my assertions that it was a pile of poo, it had to go. The only upside was I had bought it heavily discounted as Laverda had just gone bust, again, and I managed to sell it for what I had paid for it!
Honda RVF750 RC45- July 2002-Feb 2012 ridden 21,854kms
The Laverda was gone and thankfully the MV Agusta I had wanted to buy turned out not to be such a good idea so I bought this instead.No comparison. It’s true what the bike press wrote about this bike, it’s so much better than you’ll ever be. On the road it goads you into going round corners faster. The low seating position meant your knees decked everywhere, you became a riding god. It laughed at your best efforts on the road, 100mph, hah! All of this accompanied by a wonderful V4 soundtrack which could deafen you if you used the Micron open pipe and forgot your earplugs.
I used it on track, a lot, but it was completely outclassed by just about every other bike out there. Sure no one else had one and people would come to see what it was and to listen to the awesome sound, but other than it’s outstanding handling and rock solid road holding in bends, it became a real disappointment to me, and after 10 years of campaigning it I eventually sold it when I decided nostalgia wasn’t a good enough reason to hang on to it. I miss it but am glad I had one, something most people won’t be able to say!
CBR1100XX – March 2004-March 2010 ridden 36,597 kms
The original Blackbird was replaced by another one, why try anything else? But sometimes things aren’t the same. This was a French bike, originally restricted to 100bhp then derestricted, but it never made it’s power the same way as it’s Swiss predecessor had. It didn’t have cats in the exhausts, the paint was nowhere near as deep or the same quality as the black model, and although ridiculously fast, there was always something that you couldn’t put your finger on that made it slightly less good than the old one. It too had the regulator fault, but again it ran forever and only ended up being sold after we were knocked off a GSXR1000 and Sue ended up with a hip problem which meant the seating position became uncomfortable for her whatever we did to try and fix it.
Suzuki GSXR1000K2 -Oct 2005-April 2008 ridden 5,588 kms
A monster engine in a frame and with handling that never seemed to quite be in synch. Torque everywhere, but I was always uneasy with it. A big comfortable bike with a great pillion seat, but it was destined not to stay with us for long after some German lady decided that turning across a junction was a good idea, even though we were on the road in front of her. I repaired it but it had already been replaced by the bike below.
Kawasaki ZX-10R (05) Sept. 2006-Nov. 2007 ridden 4,087 kms
Polar opposites. A bike that handled telepathically. I don’t know what the previous owner did to it but it worked like a dream for me, and combined with that famous top end Kwak rush I had some great times with this bike. The howling top end was insane, made even more potent with an aftermarket Shark exhaust. I found myself riding like a maniac every time the road opened up ahead just to listen to the exhaust scream and to feel that huge rush of acceleration. It looked the dogs too in black, although as a pillion bike it sucked big style. I loved it and was gutted when after trying to take it back into France, after having bought it in Germany whilst working there, found there was no way I could import it. What a shame, great bike and worthy of the future classic status the mags tout it as having.
BMW K1200GT July 2008-July 2009 ridden 23,234 kms
Back to sensible again and the only bike Sue was able to get comfortable on. It’s built like a bus but handles ridiculously well for such a large machine. ABS, heated seats and grips, cruise control, trip computer, ESA etc etc, it’s all there and is a great bike to tour on, as luggage and pillions seem to make no difference whatsoever . BUT, it was a POS. Riddled with problems it was always at the garage, was the first bike that stranded me (due to it’s crazy electrical servo assisted brakes), and I was only too glad to do a deal with the dealer to take it back against the purchase of another BM.
BMW K1300GT -July 2009 to date ridden 70,953 kms
You might wonder what possessed me to buy the same bike again? Well this is the 1300 which supposedly corrected all the faults of the 1200 and improved it in many areas, and I have to say by and large its been a good buy. I’ve written several posts about it here on the blog, so if you want to find out more about long term and long distance ownership, it’s all here. I’ll summarise by stating I still have it and it’s a great tourer, but I’m wary of potential big bills in the future.
Yamaha R1-Feb. 2012 to date- ridden 3,314 kms
Full circle and I’m back in the Yamaha fold with my favourite shade of blue and 182bhp! A long way from the 30bhp of the RD250 back in the 70’s but I’m loving it. Bought for the track I’m still learning how to get the best out of it after 10 years on the RC45, but it’s coming. I’m consistently 8 seconds a lap faster on this than I ever managed on the RC, which makes me happy, as does having it wide open in fifth at Aragon. I’m hoping for great things and a long life together with this bike!