Kawasaki Z250 A1...Click for more
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.
Kawasaki GPz900R...Click for more
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.
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
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.
Ducati 996...Click for more
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
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!
Yamaha RD400...Click for more
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.
- Yamaha XS850 - triple, shaftie, entertaining sport tourer
- Yamaha SRX600 - single fun, lesson in energy conservation
- Yamaha RD250YPVS - The devil made me do it.... Officer
- Yamaha TY175 - Mud plugger
- Yamaha XT500 - Big Thumper, the old way
- Suzuki GS650 - UJM 650 with stunning brakes
- Suzuki GSX400 - Pauls 400 that we trashed in France
- Suzuki Katana 1100 - Monster power in wild body, truly a fun ride
- Honda CB250RS - More power than it deserved from 250cc single
- Honda CB250N and CB400N - Twins: The 400 was fine, the 250 a dog.
- Honda CX500 - Plastic Maggot, need I say more?
- Honda CB400F - Stunning little bike. A jewel. Noisy as heck
- Honda CB650 - One of my borrowed rides, big but not much fun.
- Honda CB750 K0 - The First. Worked on one of these. It was a junker sad to say
- Honda VF400 - Vented disks and soggy suspension. Yuck.
- Honda GoldWing GL1800 - Yacht with a modo engine.
- Kawasaki GPz1100 B2 & Unitrak - Bodacious power, questionable handling
- Kawasaki Z650 - A fine middleweight, one I might consider again
- Kawasaki H2 750 - Triple; Just worked on this one, agricultural
- Kawasaki S1 250 - Triple; also worked on this; Handling? Whazat?
- Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk 2 850 - What a hoot, two slugs and a frame that handled.
- Moto Guzzi V50 - 10000rpm in first was not good, but the bike didn't mind
- Puch 50cc moped - Errr. It went. It could be made to carve up traffic.
- H-D Deuce - Big throbbing v-twin, all-original custom
- Buell Thunderbolt - A powerful sports tourer with a few rough edges
- Triumph Bonneville T100 - 1960 Meets 21st Century
- Triumph 955i Speed Triple - Another dance in triple time
- Ducati Hypermotard - Evil temptations incarnate
- Ducati 848 - Lightweight corner stomper
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?)