One of my first loves was motorcycles. When I turned 16 in England, I got my license and promptly acquired a vintage moped that would do an asthmatic 30 mph max. Downhill, with a tail wind. Although not Easy Rider material, a flame was sparked that added excitement to my life – and almost ended it.
My first real bike was a 70’s Triumph 250cc Trail Blazer. A classic single-cylinder British thumper it was lots of fun to ride and was rather loud, often causing my unpopularity at various gatherings. I remember riding to college one frosty morning and, although I had appropriate gear on, felt that my jewels were a tad chilly. I looked down, and my fly was wide open, acting as a scoop, directing that nasty winter air straight where it doesn’t belong. As soon as I could stop, I promptly closed the barn door and carried on my way. Thankfully, I didn’t need the bathroom for an hour or two.
After I started working, I upgraded to a new black Honda 250N Superdream. Smooth, quiet, ultra reliable and pretty quick. I went everywhere on that bike. Even did a tour of Wales, with a tent and a couple of changes of clothes. I absolutely loved riding. One night, I had got home from work late. Had showered, had dinner and all I needed do was watch a little TV and go to bed. My impetuousness took over and I got dressed, pulled on my leathers and hit the road. I went to one of my favorite country pubs, had a couple of beers and had an altercation with a car on my way home. My sole attempt at unaided human flight didn’t go to well. Thankfully, I had a helmet on or I would not have survived that experience.
3 weeks in hospital, then 6 months in a full leg cast. I managed to survive without going totally nuts. As soon as I was relieved of the cast and cleared to go back to work, I found a deal on a new bike. A Benelli 250 2-stroke. A feisty little mount that was very quick and handled awesomely. There was plenty of country roads around me and I loved blasting around those green lanes. You had to be constantly vigilant as you never know when there would be a fresh pile of horse droppings in the middle of that tight curve. Or, the horses themselves. I always respected them and slowed right down to pass, before picking up speed again. I rode that bike for a couple of years than had to retire it.
When I came to the United States in 1984, I was out of the motorcycle game for a while. I didn’t really think about it that much as I was so busy enjoying life in general. In 1998, that changed. I was feeling the urge to get a little excitement in my life and I knew that getting back on two wheels would do it. I began reading the motorcycle magazines and was getting inspired by the awesome machines available.
I didn’t want to overdo it, so I focused on the 600cc category. I was reading a comparison of the top 4 crotch rockets – Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki. They were all impressive and what sealed the deal for me was the closing line of the Yamaha’s review: If you’re mature, judicious and have nothing to prove, this is the bike for you. Sold!
It was actually a bit comical. The Yamaha was the slowest of the group with a top speed of 150.2 mph. The Kawasaki was a the top with 156.4. Like I’m going to notice the difference?
I found a local dealer, struck a deal and made a trip to pick it up. Hello Yamaha YZF 600. It was an incredible machine. It really belonged on a race track, as it was so quick & nimble and had some powerful gear like Brembo brakes.
I got the adrenaline fix I desired. One day, I was out in country lane and came upon a car going a tad slow. I declutched, kicked it down a gear and opened the throttle wide. I blew past the car and when I glanced at the speedo, it was hovering around 120 – in just a few seconds. Needless to say I backed it off and proceeded along at a more sedate rate.
I loved making trips down to southern Indiana as the roads got hilly and twisty down there. My favorite stretch was Hwy 157 from Worthington to Bloomfield. It was a blast to throw the bike around that stretch of road. When I was coming back, it was dark and I was going at a good clip. I came over the top of a hill a bit too fast, to be confronted with a tight left in the road coming up way too soon. I grabbed the front brake and stepped on the brake pedal, leaning the bike hard left to make the turn. The Brembos held without locking up, the Yokohamas held their line perfectly, inches away from the gravel. I managed to stay on the asphalt and as I brought the bike upright and slowed down, realized how close I was to the 20 foot drop from the embankment.
The mature and judicious part kicked in and I knew it was time for me to get off 2 wheels for a while. I found a buyer and gave the Yamaha a new home.
Will I get another bike again? Possibly. I’ve long wanted a classic 70’s Triumph twin. Something that doesn’t go fast so I can just enjoy being out in the world on it. Perhaps someday.