Tuesday 21 April 2020

A Personal Motorcycling History....Or A Misspent Youth? Part 4

Although the Honda CB400 Dream was quite a capable bike it was a bit bland perhaps. I'd probably only owned it about 4 months at the most. Anyway I was earning quite a bit more money so decided I should upgrade to something a bit larger...and more powerful...

A Yamaha XS750
(this photo taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
Mine was exactly like the image above

 Bought used from Sapphire Motor Cycles in Staveley. It had less than 1000 miles on...barely used! The XS750 has a 4 stroke, 3 cylinder engine with shaft drive and triple discs to slow its not inconsiderable weight down...a real grown-ups bike! It produced round about 67 bhp, and was supposed to have a top speed of 110 mph. I certainly never had it up at that speed mind. The handling was typical of large capacity Japanese bikes of this era. Just look at the super skinny forks.

 Very comfortable over longer rides, I can't remember what it was like on fuel...it was way more powerful than anything else I'd ridden before, but didn't encourage "spirited riding". My mate Tim was still into off road riding, and as I liked the idea of keeping the XS750 in good order I thought a small easily manoeuvred off road bike would be a good idea...Oh dear... 
A Honda SL125
(This photo is taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
Mine was exactly like the image above

 It had taken over 5 years but eventually I had a Honda SL125, having being seduced by one back on the Windermere Ferry all those years ago. I bought it used (well used in fact!) from James Walker's in Kendal. Powered by a single cylinder 4 stroke engine, developing perhaps 12bhp (when new) quite a contrast to the XS750 in my parents garage (which I was slowly taking over). It was very light though..which made it ideal for the use I had in mind.

 The SL125 was used throughout the Winter of 78/79 with minimal maintenance Daily commuting the short distance to work and off road on days off, including "Runs" with the TRF (Trail Riders Fellowship). It was indeed ideal for this purpose, incredibly reliable considering the abuse it received...it snapped it's chain twice from memory...but I always carried a repair link so no worries there. It did however break a piston ring...reducing it's power,  but actually not stopping it!

 I was enjoying the off road stuff, the SL125 was doing a great job. Winter is fraught with error and I had a lot of money tied up in the XS750 parked in the garage not being used (I think I only owned it for 4 months) I felt I should change it for a proper off road bike. (My parents thought I was Mad...so do I now!) So....

KTM 400 GS
(This photo is taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
Mine was for all intents and purposes the same as the image above

 I traded the XS750 in at Sapphire Motorcycles for the KTM 400 GS, a full on off road racing motorcycle. Mine was used, but not if that makes sense. I'll explain...I'd called and asked Sapphire if they could get me a new KTM 400 GS, they couldn't. Off road bikes are introduced as new models/versions every year with the latest innovations and modifications learned from the previous seasons racing. They told me that the importers, Comerfords in London had a bike which had been prepared and run in for their sponsored rider Vic Allen to ride in Enduro's. I can't remember why he'd never used it...perhaps injury?

 I agreed to buy it...they sent it on the train! to Oxenholme. So I now had 2 off road bikes. I think looking back I'd lost the plot. The KTM was a thoroughbred racing machine...ridden by the human equivalent of an old nag! The 2 stroke engine had more power than any normal rider could cope with, top quality suspension components a very capable fully road legal machine in the right hands. It was also fully road legal

 I had a love/hate relationship with the KTM, it wasn't a bike to potter about on. But if you were in the mood to press on it could certainly do it....70 mph off road feels quick believe me. It was very well made and adorned with neat touches to make "in the field" maintenance.

Probably not the most practical bike I've ever owned....

MZ250 Supa5
(This photo is taken from the internet apologies for any copyright infringement)
Mine was the same as the image above

 But this one was! Massively underrated at the time and an object of fun to many. In the Spring of 1979 I realised that owning 2 off road biased bikes was silly...so part exchanged the Honda SL125 at James Walker's in Kendal for this MZ250. An East German (Crikey...before the "Wall" came down!) very  well priced 2 stroke single cylinder engine tuned for torque and long life rather than performance. Having said all that, there was at the time a one make race series for them! 

 I really enjoyed owning the MZ it was very reliable and economical on fuel (as you'd expect). The only failure was on the kickstart lever, which was an easy fix. I used the MZ both for the daily commute, day trips way and as transport to the hills for walking trips. I think from memory I rode it for about 12000 miles. 

 I hadn't bothered with car ownership or even had lessons to take a car test up to this point. It was whilst I owned the MZ that I felt owning 2 motorbikes and no car was perhaps a bit limiting when away from bikes I enjoyed walking...and skiing in the Winter. But these posts are about motorcycles not cars....
Well done if you've read this far..and if you've kept up! I'M struggling to remember dates so goodness knows how anyone else make anything of it.
Tak Care and Stay Safe

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