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Another Biking Life

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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 21:10 - 25 Apr 2014    Post subject: Another Biking Life Reply with quote

I've been meaning to do this for a while, and Paddy's story has inspired me to give it a crack, so here goes....

My elder brother (I was the youngest of 3) sparked my interest in bikes. He used my dad's CD175 for a while, then bought a new Superdream, and he used to take me pillion to the bike meet at High Beach, Epping Forest sometimes. Then he traded the Superdream for a new Kawasaki Z650, a real beauty in Candy Apple Green, and I fell in love with that. He modded it up nicely, with a Laser 4-1, S&B pod filters, 2/4 seat, S&W shocks and fork springs, Goodridge hoses, Dresda s/arm etc.

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/z650f2modded001_zps5a16cae0.jpg

I got a job as a Saturday lad at D & A Rayner m/cycles, who had Ducati, Laverda, Moto Guzzi and Yamaha franchises at the time. I knew from reading bike mags that the Italian stuff was a bit special, and it was a real privelege for me to work around these bikes. I loved the bright orange Jotas and Montjuics, and the black/gold 900SS'. And Rayner had a partnership with Harris Performance for a time, and was doing some really nice bodywork kits for Ducati Pantahs, and a bit of tuning work too.

I got my first bike, a Suzuki 50 X1, from there, and then later a CB100N. The little 50 I used to commute around the North Circular to school on for my last year - scary stuff in rush hour traffic!

When I was working at Rayners, my brother made a big cock-up with his Z, damaging the sump pan, so he ordered a new one, but when it came, in his rush to get the bike back on the road he forgot to take the oil pressure relief valve out of the old pan and put it in the new one, then ran the bike, despite the oil pressure light staring accusingly at him Shocked

In one of his typical fits of temper, he said if I could repair it, I could have it! So I got it taken to Rayners, where, during my lunch breaks and free time, with a bit of guidance from the mechanic, I stripped it to find deeply scored crank and cam shells, a couple of blue looking con rods and scored pistons. Very lucky it wasn't even worse. So I took the crankshaft to an engineers, who just happened to have a fella who was a bit of a Kawasaki nut, who proceeded to check and regrind the crank bearing surfaces, ordered up new matched shells for both crank and cams and rebored the cylinders, supplying new pistons and rings. I then rebuilt the bike, with new rods too, back at the bike shop and flogged it on for a few hundred quid. I was only 14 years old, and was pretty pleased with myself when the new owner told me after doing just a couple of bits to it (he never told me what Laughing ) it ran sweet as a nut and he had no further problems with it.

So, came my 18th birthday and I had a little money coming to me from an accident compensation claim, and I bought my GPz750 Turbo. I hadn't yet passed my test, so there was good incentive to get it done sat in my dad's rented council lock-up. I did used to sneak the bike out late at night, and once got into a horrendous tank-slapper, which really taught me to respect the power of big, heavy bikes.

I'd also signed up to join the RAF, and was determined to get my full license before I went for my basic training in Jan '85 - after having one test cancelled due to snow and ice, I managed to book a cancellation to do it just in time. Then my CB100 nipped up just before the test date, so I used the bike training course's KH100 to actually do the test on - fortunately, I did pass.

Came a year of hooning about on the turbo - it had a fantastic power delivery - I think Bike magazine described the boost kicking in something like "having a giant tug you along on a big bungee cord" or some such words. As a young lad who'd ridden nothing faster than a 100cc machine before that, you might imagine how I loved that bike Laughing
Two up, it would hoist the front wheel so smoothly and easily, and after I ditched the standard silencers for a couple of those little chrome pipes you used to get to tidy up the end of a car exhaust, it sounded like a fkn Formula 1 car - you could really hear the turbo whistle too!
It wasn't a light bike by any measure though, and was where I got my taste for stuff that you really have to manhndle through the twisties. Ground clearance wasn't great either - you could bounce the wide belly pan off the deck on mini roundabouts with no real trouble, and there were times when I was running out of road cos it was decked out with no more lean available.

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/750turbo001_zpsfafbc93e.jpg

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/bikes_1_zps693b71ee.jpeg

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/turborunsgoodwithnosilencers001_zps68f527c2.jpg

One incident I remember well is a time my mate, on his GPz1100A and me were giving it some welly up the M11. I'd been distracted by the fact it wasn't pulling so well as it should - it used to get 150 on the clock pretty easily if you had the room, but was only pulling to 130 (turned out because of the low mounting position of the air filter, on the engine casing outside the front sprocket, it used to get clogged pretty quickly and needed regular washing out) - so distracted that when I saw a flash of red brake light from my mate just ahead, and then him flashing past behind me, I just thought he was playing silly buggers like he always used to do, and totally failed to see the cop car, that I now passed at a steady 130, until too late!

Awwww, shit! Time to do a runner! I thought if I could make it to the Harlow turn off not far ahead, I'd be able to lose the guy - yep, I did such daft things as a youngster Tut Tut
Somehow though, he caught me on the slip road and we all pulled over. To my astonishment, when he got out of the car, he walked straight past me to my mate, and said "10 out of 10 for slowing when you saw me, but DON'T YOU EVER CHASE A POLICE CAR AGAIN!!!"
It was all I could do to stop myself cracking up right there, as after the police had put the pedal down to come after me, my mate had indeed planted himself right on their rear bumper Laughing
Even more astonishing was that all I got was a severe ticking off - couldn't imagine that happening nowadays. It probably helped that when he asked for ID, I pulled out my RAF ID card - that got me out of a few such sticky situations; seemed to smooth things over a bit.

Well, I put about 20k miles on that turbo in the time I had it, mostly commuting on weekends from and to RAF Cosford, where I did my trade training, and tearing around with my mate on his 11. We were regulars at the Ruskin Arms (featured on the front cover of the first Iron Maiden album)on a Saturday night for the rock disco, and back then thought little of sinking a few pints, having a couple of spliffs, then riding home again - different times, and the madness of youth! Folded arms

Then I saw a beautiful Kawasaki H2C, in purple, the best colour, in the window of Powerhouse Motorcycles in Enfield, and my horizons were about to be stretched!

And so ends part one (hoo-fkn-ray, they all cheer Laughing ). Plenty more thrills and spills to come, including mucho 2-stroke madness, and the big stack - but I'll be here all fkn weekend if I don't take a leaf from Paddy's book and do it in installments - besides, you youngsters have the attention span of woodpeckers on acid and probably gave up after the first line (don't blame you really Rolling Eyes Laughing )

EDIT (10/5/14)

Aha! Just found this on't net:

http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/model/harris/rayner_ducati.htm

Rayner promised me a go of this when I'd passed my test, but what with me going in the RAF and then his shop closing down not long after, I never got the chance Sad


Last edited by chickenstrip on 19:52 - 10 May 2014; edited 1 time in total
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slowlydoesit
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PostPosted: 22:10 - 25 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent! Like this kind of post. Thumbs Up Thumbs Up
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riejumike
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PostPosted: 18:45 - 26 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool story! Smile
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 01:07 - 27 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Couple of other memorable events with the turbo. I was pulling out of a service station on the motorway one time, and a GT750 Kwak went past. So I thought it'd be nice to have a little company for a while and accelerated hard after him. Just as I reached about 90, suddenly I lost all power, and everything went very quiet. WTF?!! I quickly pulled in the clutch, and coasted to a halt on the hard shoulder, and just as I stopped, it dumped all the oil all over the road! WT fkn F??!!!!!

I'd fitted an aftermarket chain guard, a metal one, a little while before, and as I gave it a handful pulling after that GT, the chain must have snagged on one of the mounting lugs, which were quite proud on the inside of the guard. The chain had snapped, and part of it had swung forwards into the airbox casing on the left side of the engine, smashing the airbox case and the shift mechanism cover to pieces - and all those little bits of twisted metal had been sucked straight into the turbo unit Shocked

The turbo vanes on the impeller were all chipped and bent, so I had to get a second hand unit, which fortunately were not too dear at the time if you could find one in a breakers. Later, they got expensive, as everybody wanted them to put on other bikes for a while there.

I remember another time two coppers at the side of the road waved me in. Going a little fast there weren't you sir? or something like that. I'm sweating out not having any tax on the bike that time, and as the older of the two gave me the lecture (which included "allo, allo, what have we here then, a bald tyre?!" - I kid you not, those were pretty much the words he used - I thought, oh god, it's detective Charlie Chisom! Laughing ); as he gave the lecture, the younger one was going round my bike looking into every nook and cranny - I thought, he's bound to spot there's no tax - not to mention no silencers, and the fella's already got the bald tyre. But nope, not a thing was said.

Oh, and on the tyre lecture, I got, "put your hand on that; warm isn't it? That's how your tyres get in that state, that's from going too fast all the time" - I held my tongue on "how's it going to grip if it doesn't get fkn warm then?!!"


Anyway, then I saw this H2, so into Powerhouse Motorcycles I went. I'd first seen a purple H2C in a book called Superbikes of the Seventies - that book has influenced my taste in bikes ever since, featuring the Guzzi Le Mans MK1, Z650, Z900, Laverda Jota, Honda CBX 1000, Suzuki GS 1000 and all the best of that era. But when I found out that this particular H2 had a Denco tune, that was it. SOLD!

Denco were an American tuning firm - not much I can remember about them now, but IIRC they specialised in 2 strokes, and had done H2s for the drag strip (and you know how seriously they take their drag racing in the States! ).
So this bike had a full spec porting job, 34mm Mikunis and Denco spannies - boy, those things were loud! I mean, they positively crackled!
To give you some idea of just how loud, I let a mate of mine have a go of it one Sunday. He did about a 4 mile circuit, and I swear I heard that thing all the way around. Some of you will be familiar with the reputation they had as standard. I mean they weren't exactly the best handling things around, and when that 2T triple hit the power, they went. With Denco, the effect was extreme Shocked
So the guy who'd had it tuned, all he'd done for the chassis was fit a Dresda box-section s/arm, a Kawasaki-type steering damper, and Marzocchi Strada rear shocks - the shocks were way too fkn hard for it too. He had an oversize Metzeler on the back, which was showing signs of cracking in the sidewalls, so I replaced that with a Pirelli Phantom - well, it just shredded that puny little thing Laughing

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/dencoh2c001_zps5be04723.jpg


Every time I rode it, the vibration used to shake the headlamp bulb from it's socket, and I'd find it lying in the bottom of the h/lamp bowl when I got back. At anything over a ton, the handlebar grips would just be a blur in your hands - you weren't really gripping them as such, more just kind of "guiding" them.
The gearbox wasn't great, and sometimes it'd have trouble getting 2nd (I later had another, a standard US spec H2B that had the same problem - turned out on that one that there were cracks in the crankcases around the rear engine mounts - they couldn't be welded cos the crankcase metal was like chocolate and the heat would just distort them and cause cracks elsewhere) and I'd get real frustrated trying to get it in gear with many a resultant wheelie.
Fuel consumption, as you might imagine, was abysmal. I remember riding it to High Beach one time. It went on to reserve about 2 miles before I got there, and I thought, that's ok, I'll fuel up on the way out, it's only a couple of miles. Uh-uh! I ended up pushing it most of that 2 miles or so from the Beach to the petrol station Shocked

Eventually it got to the point where I knew it'd have to go. If I kept riding it, sooner or later it was gonna kill me. And I'm not one to have bikes sat unused in the garage - I buy them to ride them. I still had my turbo, and a 400 Superdream I'd picked up with the idea of using that as my winter hack, so it wasn't like I was lacking transport. So, a little reluctantly, I sold it. Sad, but I now had a fighting chance of biking survival.

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/bikes_2_zps9d57a7c3.jpeg
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trevor saxe-coburg-gotha
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PostPosted: 07:19 - 27 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/534044416/hD3B385E5/
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kestrel
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PostPosted: 07:59 - 27 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love the write up on your H2 experience, I had one in 1974. Out of all the bikes I've owned over the years it's the only one that I really regret selling, although I sold it for the same reasons you did. There was a large group over here for TT week a few years ago from the Kawasaki Triple Club, most of bikes were fully restored 500's and 750's a rare sight and sound these days.
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 11:21 - 27 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

kestrel wrote:
Love the write up on your H2 experience, I had one in 1974. Out of all the bikes I've owned over the years it's the only one that I really regret selling, although I sold it for the same reasons you did. There was a large group over here for TT week a few years ago from the Kawasaki Triple Club, most of bikes were fully restored 500's and 750's a rare sight and sound these days.


Those triples were certainly an experience to own and ride. I've a feeling that the reason you don't see so many H2s these days is because of the gearbox/crankcase problems. As I said, my 2nd one was pretty bad, to the point I never got to actually ride it, so I've never experienced a standard one on the road. More about that later, but I wouldn't buy another one Sad

Glad some of you are enjoying this - I wasn't sure if I was commiting karmacide here Laughing I know Paddy has been around here for a while and has met/ridden/got pissed with many here, so as a complete stranger, I thought I might get karma bombed to oblivion, but, what the hell Razz

Still got GSXRs, RG500, Powervalve mayhem, FZR, and the road that led to my big off to come.....stay tuned Very Happy
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-Monty-
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PostPosted: 14:07 - 27 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent read. Really enjoying these write ups that are getting posted recently Very Happy

Looking forward to the next installment.
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Pigeon
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PostPosted: 21:30 - 27 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brilliant posts, great pictures, lovely bikes!

Am I the only one who found my in-head reading voice switch over to Grandpa Simpson though Very Happy

Love the bikes. The Z650 and H2, so elegant, lovely looking bikes.
The turbo, you had that at 18! I couldn't be trusted with a pedal powered trike at 18.
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 22:03 - 27 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Superdream was a really clean looking bike, and I thought it'd be nice to keep the turbo away from winter salt. I'd already resprayed the swing arm and some other bits in that Car Wheels Gold stuff to tidy it up a bit, and it had a few scrapes on the side panels from slinging on the throwovers for my commutes on the weekends.

But once I'd ridden the Honda a couple of times, I knew I wouldn't have it for long. Don't get me wrong, it's not that it was uninspiring (it was), or that it didn't handle (it didn't), or even that it was slow (oh yessssss). But it did teach me what the magazines had been on about when they said "handles like it has a hinge in the middle" - this after an attempt to get it round some local twisties I knew well, to have it wobbling and yawing all over the shop. I s'pose I could've uprated the suspension, but it was a Superdream FFS - the idea wasn't to start throwing money at it, but just as simple transport. But I'm not sure I can really do the "simple transport" thing when it comes to bikes. It just really misses the point for me.

In the end, the decision was made for me, as everything went wrong with it at once, and not long after I bought it. Clutch, camchain, plus, strangely, all the wear and tear items seemed to suddenly expire at once too. Maybe if one thing had come up at a time, and not too closely.....

Nope, it had to go. So I took it to a local Honda dealer.
"What will you give me for this then?"
"We don't really want it mate."
"I'm not looking for much...."
"Sorry, we're not really interested."
"Well, I ain't fkn ridin it home. What can you give me from the till?"
"50?"
"Done!" Laughing

Oh well, a good night down the pub then.

Next up, I read the roadtests on the first GSXR750 Slabby. Ooooh, I like the look of that! And my local stealer had one sprayed up by Dream Machine, all sparkly and shiny in their showroom. I'd bought the turbo there too (low mileage second hand), and since I'd looked after it pretty well, they had no problems taking it back as a trade-in.

And so I started to learn what half-decent handling was. What can I say about this bike (bearing in mind I'm thinking in the world of it's contemporaries here)?
Well, it was fkn light compared with the turbo, that much goes without saying. And I was surprised and pleased to discover it wasn't really any slower - just delivered it's power differently. Ok, maybe it didn't quite have the top end, but it wasn't far off, not enough to be bothered about anyway.

I was in the last couple of months of my trade training now, so was still doing the weekend commuting bit to up near Wolverhampton. But, that was a very boring, door-to-door motorway trip (M25, M10, M1, M6, M54 Sleeping ), 80mph all the way. Well, I had to run the GSXR in, so that was no good. So I chose the A5 for most of it, so I could vary the speeds a bit, and not fall asleep - I'd be limited to about 60mph for a few miles.

The main thing that struck me was that I could approach the roundabouts at 60....and not have to let the throttle off at all to go round them! Very Happy Try that with the turbo and you'd have ploughed straight across. So that was good.
And when I'd got it through the running in and first service, I discovered of course that it was much more peaky than the turbo - no real surprises there either really, but it was all new to me on a 4 stroke.

It also had a much buzzier feel. And a much more fragile feel. I guess that was the light weight. But......you know, I'm struggling to think what to say about it really. And I guess I felt it needed something to, well, wake it up a bit.
So I went to Pete Gibson, manufacturer of bespoke exhaust systems, and Yoshi full works rip-offs! Razz

One raw, unfinished, loud and raucous Yoshi copy later. This was more like it - now it had a soul! And then Superbike magazine did an article on Mick Grant's superstocker and published the jetting changes his team had done to his. Ok, I ripped out the airbox (well, it was a bit trickier than that - I reckon they'd welded the frame up around it Rolling Eyes ), and changed the mains. No pod filters, no mesh screen, nada. But by feck it transformed it! Now I had a bike that went good, looked good, and by christ sounded mean.

I went on the GSXR to the superstock racing at Brands (2 rounds) and Donnington that year that Schwantz and Merkel (GSXR and VFR - or was it just a VF? Memory fading a bit these days) were vying for the Transatlantic title. That was some fkn good racing, and I was present at Brands when Schwantz did his Randy Mamola impression - coming off the bike but somehow still managing to hold on and get back in the race - amazing stuff! My bike's screen had MCN Superstocks stickers all over it.

I think that generally my time with that bike was a bit uneventful though. It was a cracking bike, and I enjoyed every minute on it, but seemed to keep my nose fairly clean while I had it. My brother also bought one, in the original blue and white colours, so we hacked about together for a bit.

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/bikes_4_zps7c0da632.jpeg

The only other thing that springs to mind with the GSXR is when a mate got the new 1100 version, and I raced him along this bit of road. Now, he was no slouch - in fact, there was a time when he'd jump on any bike and just leave everyone else for dead - I once swapped my turbo for his John Carpenter/Mistral tuned Z1-R, which he always left me behind on - and promptly left me behind riding my own fkn bike too....bastard!
But this time I had the measure of him.....until the rear shock gave up mid corner and it started pogoing all over the place, nearly spitting me off in the process. And matey comes flying past laughing his fkn head off Mad
Anything else? Only the time at a party where I was found fast asleep curled up hugging the front wheel of it in the driveway - well, I did love my bike Wub
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 22:05 - 27 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pigeon wrote:
Brilliant posts, great pictures, lovely bikes!

Am I the only one who found my in-head reading voice switch over to Grandpa Simpson though Very Happy

Love the bikes. The Z650 and H2, so elegant, lovely looking bikes.
The turbo, you had that at 18! I couldn't be trusted with a pedal powered trike at 18.


Well I ain't gettin any younger Rolling Eyes

Cheeky bugger! Laughing
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 20:48 - 28 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unfortunately, there now follows a period when I never seemed to have a camera handy Sad , so for this next bit, I'll try to find some decent photos of the models in question just to brighten the place up a bit.
(Not taking any pics for this period is one of the greatest regrets of my biking life - especially after I'd checked out Fizzer Thou's story in pics elsewhere on this forum).

The GSXR750 got traded in for a very clean GSXR1100G, again the slabby. Not a great deal to say about it really; the 750 was, IMO, a better bike - certainly more fun.
The funny thing about the 11s was by all accounts there were fast ones, and there were slow ones. I don't know why this should have been, but that's what everybody said at the time. If so, I reckon mine was one of the slow ones Sad
It was great for doing my weekend commute (up the M11 to near Huntingdon now) - comfy, torquey, good wind protection, and with an unhurried feeling after the 750.

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/GSXR_1100_G_86_1_zpse2ac69e0.jpg
(^^Just-a like-a mine Laughing )

Only a couple of things stand out in my memory of this one. The first was a ride from London to Cornwall. There's a bit on the M4 (?) I think, where the motorway has been carved straight through a hill, so for a while you are completely protected from any crosswinds. Well, I was doing XXXmph through there, minding my own business, happy as a pig in shit. The motorway was virtually empty at that point, and I was in the nearside lane.
Then I came out from that cutting........and the sudden crosswind picked the bike up clean off both wheels, and deposited it down neatly in the fast lane! Shocked Never has anyone shut a throttle down so quickly Laughing
And the second memory is that it got nicked, so that was the end of that one Mad

So now I downsized back to 750 with the Yam FZ750. This proved to be a much more enjoyable bike than the bigger of the two Suzukis. Handling was very surefooted, it was fast and smooth, reasonably comfy for distance work and had a better finish than the Suzukis.

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/YamFZ750_zps45cdae58.jpg
(^^Again, same colours as my one, red and white - these days I think I prefer the original silver and red though)

In fact I took to it so quickly, that I stacked it within a week of buying it new Confused Laughing
I ran in to a couple of bikes on my favourite bit of local road. For anybody who might live in the area, the road I'm talking about is Gravel Lane, Chigwell, between Hainault Forest and Abridge.

Just a quick digression from the FZ if you'll allow: this bit of road is maybe 3 miles long, can't be much more. It was on my regular route to High Beach, mates in Harlow, and most other places I tended to go for fun rides in those days, Consequently, I knew every bend and every bump intimately. I rather foolishly got to the point, in fact, where I treated it as my own personal race track. I was actually quite proud that nothing ever passed me on this road, and few could stay with me when my mood was right. (I later even chased a Porsche 911 Turbo down it in my battered old 1.6 Orion, and he couldn't get away from me - I guarantee you he was trying too Mr. Green ) Later, this lead to disaster, as well you might expect. But up to this point, the only accidents I'd had were two minor spills on my CB100, so I guess maybe by this time I thought I was invincible.

Now the two bikes I met on Gravel Lane whilst riding the FZ on this occasion: One was a proddy tuned LC, apparently ridden by a local guy who I later found out had quite a reputation as a very quick rider - no matter, his LC ws no match for the FZ, perhaps unsurprisingly. The other guy was on a GSXR750 like the one I'd had. They started out in front of me, so it was pull away from the lights at the top of "The Lane" (as I shall refer to it from now). Down the hill, houses and parked cars on both sides for a short way, then a side road on the left, so everyone taking it easy to this point.

Then the fun begins. A full throttle climb back up, a very slight kink left and then cresting out with a half-tight right hander that leads to a drop back down hill. I was on their tails to this point still. The next left hander used to be a fairly tight hairpin, but it had by this time been altered to give a wide, fast sweeping left, still on a bit of a downward incline. And it was here I passed them both.

I guess I pretty much dismissed the LC as lacking the power to really be in this scrap. But I could not understand for the life of me why the GSXR rider hugged the kerb on the sweeper. Whatever, he was easy meat and I swept past him with ease, flew down the next slope into the middle double left-right (a blind bend entry and a couple of houses here, so not a really bright place to be hacking it, but I was too dumb to bother thinking about that back then), and on through the final tree-shadowed bends to the end.

So now, having been caning the nuts off a bike that still had less than first-service-mileage on it, I thought, ok time to take it easy, a little bimble through Chigwell and back home will do now. Until the LC came flying past me.
How stupid was I really in those days?! That was just a red rag to a bull - "I'm not havin' that!", and off after him I went again Rolling Eyes
Only I completely forgot about the sharp, 90 degree right hander up ahead. At the last minute it was OOOOOH SHIT!, grabbing the anchors in a panic - well, I almost made it round, but "almost" don't cut it. Just as I thought I'd escaped with millimetres to spare, the rear wheel clipped the kerb and down the road we slid.

The main thing that has stayed with me to this day while sliding along that road is how cringe-making it is to listen to plastic and metal sliding along tarmac! Especially when that plastic and metal is only a week old Embarassed

I cracked a scaphoid in my right wrist on that one, but was able to pick the bike up and the two guys I'd been racing came back to help too. Not much damage to the bike - a scraped fairing panel, silencer, bar end etc - the usual stuff. Luckily I had managed to shed most of my speed before the bike actually went down.

I rode straight from there back to the dealers to order some new bits, where, as luck would have it, I met a guy who had the exact panel I needed which he sold me at a good price, so not all bad Smile
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 21:33 - 29 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

But I didn't end up keeping the FZ all that long, maybe a few months. It may have been something to do with the crash, but the sheen came off with it for me after a while. It wasn't that I didn't trust it; I was still confident enough in it to throw it around, and it pretty much did everything I asked of it but....well, just something. Maybe it lacked a bit of character compared to the bikes I'd owned previously, I dunno. Whatever it was, I didn't get a chance to try modding it in any way, doing anything to make it more lively and interesting, cos another bike came along and tempted me away...

I was back at my favourite dealer for a natter and a coffee then, when I spotted they had a second hand RG500 in. I was intrigued - another ultimate stroker, it appealed to me instantly, and on a whim, I asked for a test ride, wondering how it would compare to the H2. So the sales guy, Alan, wheeled it out front, and as he was warming it up gently, he said to me to take it easy for a few miles, give it a chance to warm up thoroughly before giving it any welly.
Yeah, yeah, don't worry, I'll take it easy (yeah, right Laughing).

I took it easy - until I thought I was out of sight and sound of the shop............then i gave it a damn good thrashing for about 20 miles - revelling in the square-four two stroke motor's desire to just be caned, all the time, don't let up for anything, it's all or nothing - before returning to the shop with a big grin plastered all over me mug; "I'll take it!" Laughing

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/rg500_zpsbcdd6a5f.jpg
(Once again, sorry for the borrowed shot)

This wasn't a very well thought through idea Rolling Eyes ; I didn't consider, for instance, that I still needed to do my weekend motorway commutes. It hadn't occurred to me whilst testing it out that I would still want a bike for short trips to the shops etc. This was my heart coming along and saying "fk off head, the decision's made!" Laughing

That was one crazy bike. It was built with just one thing in mind - to be thrashed every time you took it out. You could actually ride around quite sedately on it, as long as you kept a good bit below where the power kicked in. I mean, it wasn't much fun to do that, but it'd cope ok. But it did want a bit of warming up, and it didn't really like the town stuff, traffic etc.
Now I can't remember after all these years where in the rev range it took off, but I did find out it was a completely useless candidate for motorway use; if you tried to sit at 70 or so, it was like a hunting dog with a scent for the quarry, just straining at the leash - clearly, it just wanted to go.

But if you loosed it, it made very short work of a tankful, and there being no services on the M11 between London and Cambridge, where I took the road for Huntingdon, it wasn't a great idea to do so.

And there was the time I carried my mate pillion on it. Now, I'm 6' 2'', and although pretty skinny, still have a bit of weight over what might be considered a better-tailored rider for this bike. But one-up, it was fine. On the other hand, my mate, he was 6' 4'', and had a rather comfortable bit of a beer belly. So when he got on the back, firstly, the rear shock instantly bottomed out - bang! Whoa, ok, this is gonna need some care here. And then I found that his knees were literally clamping me into one position from which I had pretty much zero room to move - I mean, they were literally up around by my shoulders. But I saw it through to wherever it was we were going, straining to keep all that weight upright on this little slip of a bike, nursing it around corners and trying to ease it along the straights, with the front wanting to paw the air and never mind even touching the power band. Needless to say, that wasn't much fun, and I never tried to repeat the exercise!
Silly me for trying to use it as an all-rounder really, but there you go; I'd done the deed, and 'til the next thing came along, I'd have to live with it.

But oh boy, it was soooo much fun when you used it the way it was supposed to be used!
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Grimeric
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PostPosted: 07:03 - 30 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love this. Can not wait for more.
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 08:08 - 30 Apr 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Grimeric wrote:
Love this. Can not wait for more.


I think you might agree that I've struggled a bit with the last two instalments, but hope to pep it up a bit for the next ones. Again, I'll be borrowing pics alas, but things did get a touch more "interesting" (ahem!) from now, and I'll try to keep things a little shorter whenever it wasn't so Smile
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 21:44 - 01 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Using the RG as a general purpose, do-it-all bike soon started to wear a bit thin though. Well, it would, wouldn't it Rolling Eyes Of all the daft ideas I've had in my life, that had to have been the worst. Both me and it hated the motorway runs of course. It was only the two trips each weekend, but that was enough. It had a few thousand miles on it when I bought it, and I was quickly adding to that, so it was getting a bit tired and ringy, as two strokes do eventually. But it wasn't the right bike for me to be throwing more cash at on strip downs and new pistons, rings etc. Frankly, at this point, I didn't have much money, so it had to get the chop.

But what to replace it with? The deal would have to be done in one weekend, as I still had the run up to Huntingdon to do. But there wasn't much within my now limited budget around in the showrooms at the time, and a quick trade-in was what I needed.

I did actually try out a second hand GS850G. Well, that was sensible thinking, wasn't it? An in-line four Jap, shaft drive, comfy seat - perfect for motorways. But, really?! God, it was awful! Gutless, heavy, ugly, totally devoid of any character - I worried that people waiting at bus stops might try to flag it down. A valium-injected slug would have been more thrilling. So I did try, I really did.

What else was there? Only one other thing caught my attention. I needed something reliable, comfy, frugal; you know, practical.
So I traded the RG for..........another two stroke! Very Happy

A very clean 350 p/valve sat in the local showroom. Bog stock, it was one of the first ones with the little pro-am style nose fairing and belly pan; the mileage was low, and the price was right. I tried it for size and it felt comfy and not too small physically. But noooo, it's not gonna be right fer chrissakes! It'll hate motorways, it'll wear out in no time, and it's only a fkn 350! But what else? No answer. And no answer.

Oh shit. Ok, let's do it. So that's what I rode away on.

It turned out I needn't have worried so much. Ok, it wasn't a motorway killer, but if you varied the speed a bit, and didn't thrash it, it actually coped with that bit pretty well. And as to trading down to a 350, that needn't have scared me so much either. Powervalves are fun! I was never much of a wheelie merchant - the turbo did them easily on throttle two-up, and with the H2 it was more like some kind of tantrum - get. in. gear. you bitch. Waaaa!!!! Fuuuuuuck! I would never have had the bottle to clutch it up purposely on that monster.

But with the 350, it was just the most natural thing in the world. It didn't really have the power to be really daunting, but of course, being a stroker, it delivered what power it had in a fun way, despite the powervalve they'd given it to improve low down pull.

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/Yamaha350YPVS_zps8498ea38.jpg

I have very fond memories of that bike. It's not that I did anything particularly memorable - it wasn't a time when I went to a lot of rallies in all weather, no touring, no great events - just using it from day to day was enough to put a smile on my face. It was just so easy to get along with, Easy to service - you could have the motor out on the bench in little more than a half hour. Everything was easy to get at, there was just nothing complex about it at all.

Then, my eldest brother bought one, the N version with clip-on style bars. My other brother had also taken an interest in bikes by this time, and had himself a little NS125 on L plates.

So one time, we all headed up the Beach together. By way of "the Lane".

Two of us never made it to the end.
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lukamon
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PostPosted: 23:38 - 01 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

great write up, nice read Smile Thumbs Up

but can I just say.... on behalf of all people under 25 or so...

BARSTARDS. being 20-ish, ill probably never get the chance to ride one of the mental 500 4s / 750 triple 2 strokes that you lot all rave about, partly because they've been killed by emissions, and party because they are now collector pieces. best 2 stoke I rode was my rather beaten up kmx 125 Laughing hopefully I may be able to get a kr1-s or similar one day Thumbs Up
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stevo as b4
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PostPosted: 00:05 - 02 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

If there weren't around in your era though, you can't miss them! I'd advise any newbie biker to steer clear of second hand two strokes, the market has changed, bike buying habbits have changed, and if you weren't there in the 2stroke days, then theres better ways to spend your money and time today IMO.
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Teflon-Mike
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PostPosted: 03:54 - 02 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

lukamon wrote:
being 20-ish, ill probably never get the chance to ride one of the mental 500 4s / 750 triple 2 strokes that you lot all rave about, partly because they've been killed by emissions, and party because they are now collector pieces.

Rose tinted spex and selective memory hugely over-rates the legend.
The two strokes never 'ruled', anywhere except the track, by dint of arcane regulations that favoured them.
In the 60's we got few Jap bikes in the UK; Honda were the first to offer machines here, and I have a feeling that was around '61/'62. The two-strokes didn't start appearing until the late 60's, and now often unremembered maker Bridgestone, I believe were the first to offer 'Hi-Po' two stroke twins, circa 66/67. Most Jap bikes went to the same cash-cow US market as most Brit-Bikes; wasn't until 1972 when BSA went bankrupt, and the other British makers went into rapid decline, Jap bikes were there to fill the gap; but even then, most buyers bought second hand, so wasn't until the mid to late 70's there were more folk on Japanese bikes than Brit or European... and even THEN most were four-stroke!
Biggest selling bike from 1978 to 1982 was Honda's unfortunately unforgettable CB250N Super-Dream. Top seller in the top selling 250 learner-legal class, they sold a Super-Dream for every single other 250 bought, and a few!
Mainly because it was a four stroke, and also because it was physically large and styled like the CB750 / 900, looked at casual glance like a 'Super-Bike'.
Two-Strokes? Well; we have to talk MZ.
On the one hand, the MZ250 epitomised the bargain basement of motorcycling. It was as utilitarian as they got. Under-powered, I think it made about 15bhp, chewed up spark-plugs like all 2T's, demanded inconvenient 'pre-mix' in the fuel; didn't handle, pressed steel frames rusted, looked ugly and generally had little going for it but being 'cheap'. This is what people expected of a two-stroke. They were not 'serious' motorbikes.
Yet, it was MZ Chief engineer, Walter Kaaden, who kick-started the Hi-Po 2T revolution; he hugely improved the efficiency and specific power out-put of the piston-ported 2T at a stroke by innovating disc valves to keep charge in the crank case on the piston's down stroke. Artesian porting, expansion chamber resonance tuning and many other developments allowed Kaaden to field MZ's in the smaller capacity classes of GP racing in the early 60's, to great success... until he was put under house arrest by the Stazzi after his development rider jumped the Berlin wall taking all Kaaden's 'secrets' to Suzuki.
Decade saw the 2T's start to rise in the rankings in the smaller GP categories; but wasn't until '68 Yamaha took a two-stroke to world GP Championship glory, and even then, only in the 250 class.
Honda and MV fielding four-stroke 'fours' kept the stink-wheels at bay in the blue-ribbon 500's right up until 1975.
And by that point, the two-stroke was already 'dead in the water' due to emmissions....
1972, US Oil crisis made people sit up and think about fuel consumption, along with Federal Emmission control regulations, the Double-Nickle speed limit, and a US 'ban' on 'Performance Advertising'.
Honda had always pinned thier colours to the four-stroke flag; and the 1969 CB750 'Four' that didn't burn oil, and could make healthy power on low-octane unleaded petrol, was JUST the right product at JUST the right time to sustain sales in the cash-cow US Market.
While Kawasaki launched, JUST at the exact moment the Oil Crisis struck, the Z1 DOHC 900 four-stroke.
And both went on to develop small-bore fours for the middle market, that were the main-stay for the 70's and early 80's.
Yamaha & Suzuki may have been winning on the race-track, but they weren't wining so many customers in the show rooms, when the two-strokes were still looked down on as second class 'cheap' motorcycles for learners and commuters.
And Air-Cooled 250 two-stroke twins were NOT cheap bikes. They had the performance to challenge 500 four-stroke twins, maybe even the odd push-rod 650, but they cost damn near as much brand new and had a tendency for self destruction, often taking riders out with them. They were really only of interest to a minority of speed-seeking teen-age learners, as long as they were still allowed them; and were therefore even MORE looked down on and ridiculed by the motorcycling majority, as 'kiddie bikes'.
Kawasaki H2 or Suzuki Kettle? They did not sell well in the UK. They fell between two stools; they weren't kiddie bikes; but nor were they 'serious' motorcycles; they were oddities that didn't handle, weren't reliable, were not particularly easy to maintain, and drank fuel like it was going out of fashion, at a time, thanks to OPEC, prices had risen faster than were had ever seen and didn't see again until that fat git Scotsman got his hands on the government cheque-book, a few years back!
The 'height' of the two-stroke era was the Yamaha RD250/350LC. Launched late 1980, with advanced mono-shock rear suspension and liquid cooled 2t twin motor; it had one season of success before the UK 125 Learner-Laws rendered it something of an irrelevance. The 350, gaining a 'Power-Valve' in 1984, was the two-strokes Indian Summer; having had a decade to establish itself amongst its peers, it was a two-stroke to be admired not sniffed at... but by then, the Kawasaki GPz600R had come along, and shown that a four-stroke 'four' could be made compact and nimble handling as well as reliable and powerful. With 75bhp it was a good 25% more powerful than the 'valve' and only a 10bhp down on the RD500V4.. which at the time was as expensive as a GPz900R, with a claimed 115.
The RD & RG GP reps were collectors oddities from the day they hit the show-rooms.
By 1989, a mere five years, the 600's had proved that they were the future; not two-strokes.
The 60ish bhp RGV250 and KR1 were the 2T's swan-song; ever more irrelevant to mainstream motorcycling, you hardly ever saw one on the public road, most of the very few 'official' UK imports sold for production racing; and by about '93, even they were being muscled out of the lime light by the 400's, like the VFR and ZXR.
This is 'my' era, but believe me, it was far from some two-stroke utopia, where 'every-one' was riding hi-po two-strokes!
They were more common, but by far and away, the most common were the 'utiliterian' air-cooled two stroke singles; not raucous power-band ridden twins or tripples, and very very few were to be found above 250cc.
And of the 'legendary' hi-po two strokes? Most owners I knew, spent more hours fucking about with barrels, pistons, rings and 'spannies' then they ever spent riding them! POSSIBLY that was all part of the fun... certainly was with my air-cooled RD... but history has a strange way of foreshortening perspective, everything looks so much closer together, and those brief moments that stand out, seem so much larger than they really were.
You haven't REALLY missed all that much; apart from perhaps a lot of long frustrating nights trying to salvage cylinders with wet and dry sand-paper wetted with silkolene; making excuses at the bus-stop about waiting for forged racing pistons to arrive from Japan; while saving desperately for a set of over size rings and a new pair of spark-plugs; worrying, as you pile into a corner with steam coming off the front brake whether those shiney exhausts really WERE more important than a new pair of tyres... and sitting through your English O-Level exam, picking hawthorns out of your thighs and arms... paddock jackets? Yeah, cool, but really NOT the most protective of riding wear... even if you didn't slide down tarmac, but just went and introduced yourself to a frisian on the 'wide line' Wink

Sorry chickenstrip, rose tinted spex now cleaned... you may continue Laughing
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trevor saxe-coburg-gotha
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PostPosted: 10:28 - 02 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

chickenstrip wrote:


Two of us never made it to the end.


*genuine goose bumps*
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 20:30 - 02 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyhoo, there were the 3 of us headed off down The Lane. Of course bruv on the NS was getting left a little behind as the two 'valves tore off over the first bit of hill. With me right on bruv's tail here, sweeping around the left hander, we both piled out of it to plunge down the slope towards the middle bends. This is where I planned to get past my brother - you came through the first blind bend and then could see across the next bit, so if it was clear, you could take a wide entry on the opposite side of the road and cut it across; I'd passed a few people in this way before.

So out of the blind corner we came...................Ooooooh fk!!!! An Escort type van doing a fkn 3-pointer, clean across both carriageways! Shocked

I never quite believed this idea about things going into slow motion when life is threatened imminently, until then. But that is exactly how I remember it - I seemed to have forever to take in what was happening.

My brother apparently spotted the only get-out.....through a gap in the offside hedge and into a field, which is exactly what he did. And then I remember it like I had all the time in the world to sum up the situation and decide what I would do. I knew I couldn't follow my brother, cos I might plough straight into him. There was no way I could get around the back of the van on the nearside - no gap to go for and anyway, it just wouldn't have been possible at the speed I was going. So I aimed for the lowest point, around the front wheel.

We must have come around that corner at about 70. Maybe, I managed to scrub 20-30 mph by the time I actually hit the van. I really don't know. But of course, 40-50mph to a dead stop in a microsecond against an immovable object is not a great way to finish the job. So I hit it, the bike stopped right there, and I went flying over the handlebars. I could've won Olympic Gold with the somersault I did, straight over the van's bonnet and landing on my back on top of the hedge on the offside of the road - a more comfortable landing you couldn't have wished for! It didn't even knock the breath out of me. I got not so much as a minor scratch Mr. Green

But I lay there for a moment, trying to grasp what had just happened. When it felt safe enough, I rolled off the hedge onto my feet and looked around. Shit, me bruv! I looked around into the field to see him getting somewhat groggily to his feet. He seemed to be ok. Then I took in the general scene.

The van driver was out of his vehicle by now, and was basically just standing there gawping, his jaw on the deck. The rather drastically shortened version of my 'valve lay on the ground on the other side of it. My brother was in the field with his bike, just looking around in wide-eyed wonder at the general carnage. There were bits of bike scattered around all over the shop - in the hedges, in the field and all over the road. And then bruv no. 2 came pottering around the corner on his NS, just managing to stop before ploughing in as well. So us two survivors looked at each other - and burst out laughing Laughing

Poor, stupid van driver - he got two insurance claims against him: both the same surname claimant; both from owners of Yamaha 350 YPVS': both red and white in colour - same place and time of accident, both with the same circumstances and description of the scene and the event. I'd love to have seen the face of the insurance office clerk that received those claims Laughing And we both won our claims - I mean, what a dumb place to be doing a 3 point turn!

Well, I ended up buying my brother's bike off him; of course it had come out of it much better than mine, which had it's forks, front wheel, fairing, clocks etc mashed.

So now I had a bike that looked more like this (after replacing a couple of bits of course):

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/Yamaha350YPVS1jf_zps794a2a61.jpg

So, what do you do with a bike that you rely on for motorway commutes, that you had a nasty experience on, and that really could do with having the handling tidied up (they went round corners ok, but with skinny little forks and a weedy s/arm they tended to be a bit wobbly doing it)?

Why, you tune the nuts off it of course! Laughing
I'd found the motor on my one to be a bit perkier than my brother's one, so as that had survived the crash totally intact, I pulled it out and of to Mr. Stan Stephens with the barrels I went. And a week or two later, picked up with his Stage 3 job completed.

"Where the fuck have the cylinder walls gone?!!" was my reaction when I saw them. Jeez, but he'd opened the ventilation on those babies! Add a pair of Stephens/Lomas spannies, and I now had a machine that was completely unsuited to my daily needs. Boy, was I happy! Very Happy Laughing
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 20:45 - 02 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Teffers, you are right of course. Much of it nowadays is very rose tinged. But I've tried to be faithful to my actual experiences, and frankly, if you're not put off by what I've written, you're as daft as I was!

The 70s air cooled strokers were evil handling, gas guzzling, high maintenance things with crap brakes but addictive power delivery. Is it any wonder people were forever crashing them?
But Lukamon, if you get the chance to ride them, take it. It's an experience worth having. Just go easy. But don't waste your money buying one unless you plan to open a museum. You won't keep one for long before you've had enough.

As to the RG, I wouldn't want to ride one now. I like my memories as they are, and I'd be worried that it'd seem positively tame by today's standards.


Having said that, I'd like to try an RD400 Smile
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chickenstrip
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PostPosted: 11:05 - 03 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now the 'valve had some real zip to it. But the wobbliness of course was a bit more annoying too, so I put a Metmachex s/arm on it. This really transformed things, but did also show up the weediness of the forks. At this point, I decided I wasn't going any further though, as the bike had not really been my ideal choice, and I wouldn't have bought it at all if it wasn't for my need of something quickly to fill my transport requirements and the lack of choice at the time.

I can't remember the actual decision process at the time now, but I sold the 'valve not long after that to a mate who took it racing with some success. I then got a posting to RAF Gutersloh in Germany, so for a short while managed without anything, until one time I was home on a bit of leave, and spotted an 1100 Katana in an ad from a dealer in Kilburn High Road. And I fancied going back to a big 4 stroke. And I fancied doing something extreme with it. Like maybe a turbo kit.

I'd managed to get about 5 grand together, so off to the Kilburn dealer I went. They'd advertised the bike as a very clean example, but when I got there it was a fkn state. Tyres shot, chain rusty, rust here there and everywhere in fact - in short, it was a dog. Very disappointing. BUT.....they did have a very smart looking GPz1100 Unitrack in. It had a red Guiliari seat, and the wheels were painted bright yellow..... Thinking Bit gaudy, but it was a very nice example - and it had 1260 Wiseco stickers on it; intrigued now Twisted Evil

http://i1291.photobucket.com/albums/b550/nicknicklxs/KawasakiGPz1100Unitrack_zpsb854088a.jpg(So imagine this with bright red Guiliari seat, bright yellow wheels, a chrome Harris 4-1, shorty rear 'guard and Wiseco stickers)

Took it for a test spin, and it seemed ok. I've no idea to this day if it really had that big bore kit, but it did seem a bit livelier, a bit crisper, than the one my mate had had. Never mind, it'd do as the base bike for a turbo project.

So next job was off to a well-known 4 stroke tuner to order a Mr. Turbo kit which I paid for in full, but they had to order in. The plan was to get that in and then let them loose on it (no, I didn't trust myself to do the work myself!) with all the necessary engine-strengthening etc that it would need.

Then back to Germany for a bit. Came back a few weeks later, and they hadn't even ordered the turbo kit! Evil or Very Mad So after a visit and several threats, I got my money back. Then I let my mate have a go of the bike. We were at the Cross Keys cafe on the Harlow-Epping road at the time. Of he went, and a few minutes later, we heard him caning it up the road. Then nothing. For some time. Where's he got too?

Then, my brother came back into the cafe from nipping round the corner to the petrol station to get some bits or something and said "He's stacked it. He's dead"

You can maybe imagine the silence with which this was greeted. He'd apparently come round the bend at speed and somehow ended up on the wrong side of the road, where he'd ploughed into the front of an oncoming car. He'd been killed instantly.

I don't know to this day what possessed him to take that bend so fast. It was blind, there was a junction (minor road) on it, and a petrol station just after it. A crazy place to try hacking it. Also, I don't think he was used to such a big, heavy bike - I don't know what else he'd ever ridden, but this was the mate I'd sold the 'valve to, who'd been in to racing. I'd previously warned him that the GPz would be a whole different kettle of fish and to take it easy on it. But apparently the warning went unheeded. And he paid the ultimate price. God rest his soul.
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m3-paul
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PostPosted: 19:33 - 03 May 2014    Post subject: Reply with quote

Superb write ups, the RG is particularly interesting me as I had one and bloody loved it.

chickenstrip wrote:
I Now I can't remember after all these years where in the rev range it took off


On mine it got interesting at 6000 through to 7000 at which point it went positively mental Laughing .

I have been on one in the last few years and the power delivery is as good and still does not feel tame by today's standards. I will have another at some point.
____________________
Yamaha TZR250 - love the smell of TTS!!!!
CBR900RR Fireblade - so much fun
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