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Kawasaki Z250 A1...Click for more
Z250 [5K bytes]

My first bike in 1980, was a metallic green Z250A. It was a twin cylinder bike following the previous years introduction of the Z250 "Scorpion". It was a small bike with a claimed 27bhp, giving it a top speed of about 95mph, with a little optimistic work on the part of the speedo over 100mph could be obtained.

The bike was frugal on fuel, fast, handled reasonably - though later I would have called it skittishly - and proved to be an able workhorse. I crashed many times on it and was able to rebuild it each time; slightly differently.

It is still running now, 20 years after its birth with over 60,000 miles.

Kawasaki Z550 A1...Click for more

The Kawasaki Z550A was the precursor to all the modern 550's and 600's. In its original format it was a plain across-the-frame four cylinder machine with a steel tubular frame. It had a comfortable seat, reasonable power, and could get over 115mph (even with my elephantine frame). The 550 came from the prior years Z500, an extremely pretty bike available only in red with a rear disk brake. The following model was the GPz550H1, and as they say, the rest is history.

I thrashed and crashed this bike mercilessly. It even seized on French "l'essence". In all that time 8 valve shims were changed, and the exhaust pipe rotted out. It was a picture of reliability... until the wiring harness turned to copper oxide.

The old 550 is still alive with over 60,000 miles on its worn out clocks.

Z550 [14K bytes]
Kawasaki GPz900R...Click for more
GPz900R [9K bytes]

I waited months for this bike. I had a deposit on it for at least 4 months with a Nottingham dealer - my local dealers had already reserved their one bike for other punters. I picked the beast up, with a local press photographer present, on a gray April afternoon. I owned the bike for only about 6 months, but had some of the most amazing motorcycle experiences of my life in its saddle.

From doing over 165mph (indicated) on the day of the British motorcycle GP, with a BMW K100 in tow, to the effortless way it guzzled miles on a trip back from Scotland, it was a remarkable machine. It handled well, though with some foibles; was fast; could be miserly with the fuel, if treated right; it looked stunning; and pulled amazing 100mph+ wheelies. I miss that machine.

Kawasaki GPZ500S...Click for more

The GPZ500S was an odd bike. In the UK it was positioned as a poormans sportbike. It was a twin cylinder machine with high power output (62 prancing ponies) that appeared high in the rev range, a range that hit redline up over 12,000 rpm.

After suffering for over a year with carburetor icing problems Kawasaki was forced into warranty work, replacing all 500cc and 600cc bike's carburetors. The replacements never worked as well as the originals.

The front brake rotors had a habit of warping, or even splitting. I fitted 4 in my period of ownership. May be it was me, but associated with the front brake rotor use was similar consumption of other front end consumables, like tyres and brake pads - at 3500 mile intervals. My ownership saw the accumulation of over 52,000 entertaining miles, including a trip in the company of two 1100cc machines to the South of France.

GPZ500 [8K bytes]
Kawasaki KZ900
No image.

I owned for a short time, well I suppose I might still own the dratted thing, a Kawasaki KZ900, it was a late model from 1976 that I got when I first came to the USA. It was a disaster. I was knuckle headed about the bike and should never have taken it, especially after it stopped running on my short test drive. It had been repainted, given sissy bars, and some strange open pipe. I removed the sissy bars and put on a Kerker pipe. It began to look like a real Z900 again. Lower handlebars and it was getting back into the 'Look' the engine, though, was just so much corroded ally. It was a mess. It must have stood for 10 years without running before I came along. The "L" painted on my forehead must have been visible from several miles away. The engine had been seized, probably through rusting up. When they did the leakdown test, two cylinders were so far out of compression limits it was a joke. The thought of $1000 worth of engine work put me right off the project. I abandoned the thing right there in North Carolina. So if you want a Classic, just visit Raleigh! It's done another 10 years of no running!

Yamaha Seca II...Click for more

The Yamaha Seca II, a.k.a. the Diversion in Europe. It's a 600cc bitza bike, meaning it is made from bitz 'o other bikes. It looks resplendent in yellow, even handles quite nicely, but lacks the horsepower or torque to pull the skin off creamed rice. I have rung this machines neck. It has responded by getting more and more gutless. It's battery failed, it's tyres went off, it's carburation turned into a means of charitably giving fuel to the atmosphere with no risk of other forms of pollution. To say I dislike this bike is to understate the situation. May it writhe in hell on its demise.... But then the clouds parted and a jetting kit arrived...

Seca in garage
Honda Nighthawk 250
No image yet

The 250 Nighthawk was bought in response to Lois' interest in riding and not feeling she could handle the Seca II. The bike served admirably for 2 years to educate Lois in the fine art of riding. I can't say it was a good bike, I can't say it was a bad bike. It did what it did. The 250 had enough power to propel me to 65, and Lois to 70, but nothing more. It would get round corners, but you didn't want to hit a big bump. It could take a passenger, so long as they were light. The suspension was bouncy, the brakes sort of worked (cable operated disc at front, drum at rear), and it returned great fuel mileage. But first and foremost, it is a learners bike and it even looked good doing it.

Ducati 750 Monster Dark...Click for more

What a difference a few cylinders make. The M750, a.k.a. The Monster, is a stylish, entertaining machine, possessing 2 bhp more than the Seca II, costing a bit more, but not SO much more, and feels like its come from a different planet. It steers, goes and looks like a motorcycle ought to. It's a fun machine. It's also my wife's daily ride, and has the power characteristics to make her enjoyment of the sport much more satisfying. With gears matched to speeds, and a torquey motor, the riding sensation is very 'user friendly' (I hate that saying but works well here). The limited turning radius is probably its biggest drawback. The second biggest issue is its lack of a tacho. Even my wife likes to see the red line being abused.

Monster [8K bytes]
Ducati 996...Click for more
Ducati 996 [8K bytes]

There are dream bikes and show specials that never see the light of day. There are bikes you have heard others talk about, but never been able to see or feel. The 996 and the 916 were like that for me until recently. My wife twisted my wrist and ORDERED me to get one.

It was announced in 2001 that the good Dr. T. had passed on. See the story on Soup.

Laverda Jota 180...Click for more

Laverda started life as a manufacturer of agricultural equipment, combine harvesters and the like. One of the brothers got into motorcycles. The first stop on the way to fame was the 750SF, a loud 750cc twin. The twin was given an additional cylinder and with help from Slater Brothers in the UK, the 1000cc Laverda Jota was born. Named for a dance in three time, it was a brawny, tall bike. It was best in orange, and the clip-ons adjusted down. The bike vibrated, badly. I remember a local dealer saying that every bike they sold was back for crash damage repair inside 12 months; the bike had some handling quirks. But it was the engine that made this a bike to remember. The controls could be fun, without factory conversions the bikes came with the gear shift on the right side.

The one I rode had the old 180° crank, the later 120° crank was a much more civilised ride. It was a big muscular bike that just wanted to hurl you down the road like a catapult wants to fling an aircraft of an aircraft carriers deck.

Now good examples are collectors pieces, they go for over $7500. Ouch!

Jota [9K bytes]
Yamaha RD400...Click for more
RD400 [8K bytes]

The Yamaha RD400 was a 2 cylinder 2-stroke sport bike. It was a development of the earlier aircooled RD350, it too air-cooled unlike the later RD350LC's. It was a bike I met on two occasions: a friend by the name of Tony 'Fido' Hayes had a normal, road going white one, and the Chas Mortimer race school had a posse of race prepped ones. They were light, fun bikes. My first power wheelie came on one. They handled well, were powerful, and could humble much larger bikes, and most cars... including Martini sipping drivers in Porsches - ask Tony about that one.

Others or NTMTM

I used to listen to a DJ on BBC Radio 1 called Anne Nightingale, she would cut peoples requests off with the acronym, NTMTM - Names To Many To Mention. In someways this section is the same. There are many other motorcycles I have ridden in my time, for which I generally don't have images, but also I only got relatively short rides on, or had in my care for only short periods of time.

A Selection


The missing

I am missing rides on BMW's, a few Italian makes (anyone lend me a Bimota?) and there are a few Brit Marques that might be entertaining, too (anyone with a Vincent or a Hesketh?)




 
© Copyright A. Maclean 2001 -
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