Wednesday 29 April 2020

A Personal Motorcycle History....Or A Misspent Youth? Part 6

 A quick recap on where I was in Spring 1981. I still had the Honda CX500 road bike and the Suzuki PE400 off road/enduro bike. Plus my car! My interests waxed and waned as has been evident throughout these posts. From memory off road riding was losing its appeal (as it often did during the Summer) and the Honda CX500 was worthy....but the lure of a larger, more powerful bike was irresistible.
 I decided to part exchange both the CX500 and PE400 for my first "Superbike"
Suzuki GSX1100
(This image is taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
Mine was the same as the one pictured except the "stripes" were Blue

 Bought new, the GSX1100 was the most powerful (and fastest) mass production bike at the time. Powered by a 4 stroke, 4 cylinder DOHC engine boasting a 4 valve TSCC head....this produced according to the specs close to 100bhp. It did weigh 260kg though...suspension was air forks with adjustable pressure and damping, the rear shocks adjustable for damping and preload. 

 Once the original tyres were swapped for some stickier Michelins it handled really rather well, especially when I look at the diameter of those fork legs! This was a mixed blessing it encouraged you to exploit the plentiful power...and still in my early 20's I thought myself invincible.

 2 days off a week, split...Thursdays and Sundays..Thursdays were for the hills...peak bagging, and Sundays...well during the Spring/Summer/Autumn of 1981 the GSX was blasted up and down the Motorways and A roads to race meetings. Often to see modified versions of the very same bike as mine race, proper superbike racing...flat barred tuned monsters ridden to the edge of adhesion and beyond by some of the greatest racers in the world, such as Graeme Crosby, Wayne Gardner. This youtube video from back in the day gives an idea of what these bikes were like to ride. 

 I loved the "buzz" of riding the GSX1100, and the fun continued during the Spring and early Summer of 1982. I was with hindsight riding it in an ever more crazy fashion...and after being stopped by the police one evening near Ambleside (and let off!) I started thinking perhaps I should buy something a bit more sedate....
BMW R80 g/s
(This image is taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
 Mine was the same as the bike in the image, but with custom Dream Machine paintwork. Rather than the White/BMW motorsport colours it was a classic BMW combination of Red with Black Smoked highlights.

 Late July 1983, I traded the GSX1100 in for the BMW R80 g/s at Allan Jefferies in Shipley, I picked it up on the 1st August. Could 2 bikes be much different? The R80 g/s was powered by a horizontally opposed 800cc twin cylinder 4 stroke engine with shaft drive to the rear wheel via a single sided swing arm...relatively common place now, but a rarity then. The engine in a low state of tune produced 50bhp, but in a very usable way. Ideal for long easy days out...a much more sensible way to ride.

 It went to the Isle of Mull in the Autumn for a very wet week but I didn't keep it for very long. This was one bike I've always had regrets about selling, in the intervening years prices have rocketed for this model...the Grand Daddy of all the "Adventure Bikes". April 1984 and I was thinking of a bigger bike again..

BMW K100
(This image is taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
Mine was identical to the one pictured

 Bought new, again from Allan Jefferies. BMW's first departure from the horizontal twin configuration they had become synonymous with. The engine an inline 4 cylinder 4 stroke DOHC unit, watercooled and again shaft drive using a single sided swingarm. They would prove to be very capable bikes with generally excellent reliability. Mine certainly was.

It was used again for travelling to spectate at motorcycle events and for many mini tours over the 2 years I owned it.

Kawasaki KL250
(This image is taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
Mine was identical to the one pictured

 I'm not sure of the timeline here, but I think I bought it (new) in late Spring 1984. No trade in, this was owned in addition to the BMW K100. I remember very little of this bike, indeed it was only in a recent conversation with Tim on the phone that he reminded me I'd sold it to him! Bought as an easy to use off road bike and for the narrow lanes in the Lakes where the K100 was not that happy. It was powered by a single cylinder 4 stroke engine producing about 20bhp it certainly wasn't a ball of fire, but was quite a good "green laner", good suspension and quiet.

 Not sure how long I owned it, but probably sold it to Tim in late 1985/early 1986 to help fund a new car...I was back to one bike, the K100. Walking was becoming more of a "thing" and I felt a large bike was a bit of a waste, I had a new car for transport after all. So....

Yamaha SRX 600
(This image is taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
Mine was identical to the one pictured

   Spring 1986 i sold the BMW K100 in part exchange for the Yamaha SRX600, a lightweight single cylinder 4 stroke engine, in a lightweight chassis. I suppose in hindsight I felt that as the motorbike was purely a "leisure" vehicle, I may as well have a fun type bike. About 45bhp pushing 170kg ish meant lively performance. The handling should have been excellent, Japanese bikes had left their poor handling behind in most cases...however the SRX600 felt oversprung at the rear...I only weighed 65kg at the time which made matters worse I think.

  I hadn't put many miles on the SRX (maybe 2000) when one evening I set off to go bouldering in Great Langdale. A beautiful sunny Summer evening, wearing light polycotton trousers, trainers and a ski jacket things all went wrong.

 Making the most of the evening I took the Crook road to Bowness, and then Rayrigg Road (national Speed limit in those days). Climbing up below the Miller Howe Hotel there is a steepening in the road (slightly flattened since). Opening the throttle to pull the wheel up as it crested the rise, the back wheel kicked up and pitched me off, it all felt like slow fast...I'm not sure...probably 70mph? I landed heavily on my head and shoulder (tarmac is hard at that speed) and slid up the hill and across the road coming to rest against the kerb maybe 50 metres or so from the start of the accident. It was no exaggeration to say I was a bit of a mess...and the SRX was a write off.

 I can tell you that light trousers and a ski jacket provide very little protection against tarmac. Remarkably I wasn't seriously hurt, no broken bones or sprains. My helmet had taken a lot of the impact, I had a few cuts and a fair bit of skin missing, a huge friction burn down one side of my body.  

 No mobile phones in those days, so having picked myself up, I wheeled the mangled SRX into an unoccupied garden and walked/hobbled up to Windermere to phone home. I asked Dad to come and pick me up...and to bring a towel for the car seat to protect it. I dismissed the idea of hospital...they'd ask to many awkward questions! Mother cleaned up the cuts and gravel rash...where upon Dad said my backside looked like a plate of mince!

 I was back walking/running ( bagging all the Wainwrights in 8 months in that year) in a week. But that would be the end of motorcycling for a while. 
Once again you've done well if you have stuck with it to here. Thanks for reading, I've documented this for myself really before the old fool forgets any more!
Tek Care and Stay Safe

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