Ah, the Mk1 V-Rod. I wanted one of these when they first came out. Saw one at the bike show; not so sure, but fancied trying one.
Couldn't get a test-ride, let alone buy one for love nor money. Which was a good job, cos I kinda went off them over the next few months; I really prefer the air-cooled big-twins. The following spring I put my money where my heart is.
But it was worth a look....
...and there were other distractions at the show....
After 13 months in the Omani desert, I had put a few bob in the bank. I was only back 2 days before I blew it on a new 80 cu in. FXRS Lowrider, in Sept 1991. To be fair, I had pre-ordered it the previous year before I left the UK - no HD dealer could produce a new bike that fast, I'm sure.
This bike travelled far and wide with me; around the UK, across most of northern Europe, and I even had it shipped to the USA in 1993 for the Harley Davidson 90th anniversary.
Thus you'd think I could find a better photo than a b&w shot of me, the bike and my Billy Connely hair-do!
More pictures to follow once I've got handy with the scanner.
OK, not really a bike at all. But for a year from August 1990 I had to give up 2 wheels for 4WD. Being posted in the heat of the Omani desert, a big traily would have been nice - but I'd have got shredded to mince-meat if I'd come off wearing shorts & flip-flops.
Check out the barnet
Thankfully, the company provided a pool of Land Rovers to play with.
The real beauties were Defender 90s with 3.5l V8engines. On a good day you could get 11 mpg.
And, thankfully, the company provided the fuel; but being a local product it was pennies per gallon.
Part of the fun was to go out with a mate and get lost in the desert - before sat-nav. Then play chicken seeing who could drive down - or up - the most outrageous slope, or through the tightest wadi.
Would we do a bit of off-roading?? There was no road to go on-roading!
Here we are on a Bundu bash in a wadi. BBQ and eskis of beer not shown. Spot the Chelsea tractor. A Nissan QuashCow wouldn't last 5 minutes out here.
The year 1987 saw me finally accepting some responsibility in life, when I bought my first house, and saddled myself with a mortgage. Thus in May 1988, with this cloud of debt hanging over me, it was only right that I went out and bought my first ever brand-new bike.
The Guzzi had turned me onto V-Twins, but I fancied a change. But what to buy next? For some reason I fancied the idea of a Harley. This was prior to the time when Harleys became fashion symbols and rich boy's toys.
Harley dealers in the UK were rarer than rocking horse shit. However, an Italian bike specialist, Moto Vecchia in Dorking, Surrey, were expanding their range beyond Guzzis, Dukes and Cagivas. They were advertising used HDs brought in from Texas. Thus they wouldn't have seen much rain, let alone road-salt. A late 70's iron-head sportster was advertised in one of the bike mags, so I called them and arranged to drop down to see it.
When I arrived, I was told the latest consignment had been delayed at Heathrow (yes they air-freighted them) and had only just arrived. So the bike was in a wooden crate, forks off and still on the back of a truck. It was a bit grubby looking, having been stored some where in the USA for Lord knows how long. Worst of all the tank had taken a dent. I'm sure the workshop would have fixed it fine, given a chance. But seeing the bike in that state didn't really turn me onto it; and I wondered if it was worth the £2995 price tag.
Harley had undergone a management buyout in '81, and then done battle against the Japanese stranglehold. By the late 80's they were only just spreading their wings beyond the US market. And in order to hook people they were offering brand new 883 Spotsters for just £3995.
I had a nose around the showroom, and the salesman came in for the kill. So let me see, for a grand less I could have a ten year-old iron-head, of unknown heritage. Or for under four-grand have a brand-new bike, zero miles, and a full year warranty. And a choice of colour; and to my mind it had to be black.
It didn't take me long to decide. The fact that the dealership were Italian specialists, and gave me a good price on the Guzzi clinched the deal. All I had to do now was wait about a month whilst they got the bike in.
When I collected it is seemed tiny compared to the Guzzi. Riding without a fairing for the first time in 4 years was odd. It had no tacho (so I was over cautious and never really revved it out in the 2½ years). And it had a narrow filler neck on the petrol tank. This was before unleaded was generally available in the UK (though common in the USA).
The handbook said use unleaded only; but you couldn't get it. Moto Vecchia kindly handed the bike over with an egg-cup full of fuel in it (though on a Sportster that's called half a tank-full ). Anyhow, I got down the road to a filling station, and hoverred the fat leaded petrol pump over the little hole. When it was nearly full, the whole-lot blew back in my face. I learned the hard way to fill it gently.
The Sportster did around 12,000 miles in 2½ yrs, got me hooked on Harleys (and I've never recovered). And got me hankering after a Big Twin. But first I had to make some money. Time to sell the Sporty and leave the country.
I have yet to find a photo of this, though there was a nice one of an ex-girlfriend sat on it topless.
What was it?? A porky Honda CB750F1 engine shoe-horned into a custom rigid frame by some ham-fisted butcher. Thus Chopped Ham & Pork. Or should that be Chopped Pork & Ham ??
I bought it as an unfinished project, off a fairly heavy dude in Stafford, he was just out of nick (for GBH I think). He needded some money quickly, and a mug to take the heap off his hands.
It had Triumph forks off of lord-knows-what, and a KL125 17" front wheel; you can imaginge how effective the front brake was at stopping around 400lb of Soichiro Honda's finest lard on two wheels
I actually got it on the road, even MOT'd. In order to get the ticcket I had to fit a horn; a bicycle horn. You know the type with a rubber bulb you squeeze.
I ran it on and off for a year, though the oil consumption and blue exhaust haze was a continuous nag of something amiss in the engine. When eventually stripped down, I found only about half the cam carrier bolts were fitted, and many of those were loose, since the steel of the bolts had eaten into the ally head casting.
Oh, and the cam-chain tensioner hadn't worked for quite a while, thus the cam-chain tunnel was half eaten away.
Following the purchase of a Harley, I soon lost interst in this shed. It sat in boxes for a couple of years before I sold it to a pal for a fraction of what I'd paid for it. he promtly sold it on for a tidy profit, and it was back in the breeze within a year.
Shows you what can be done if you know what you're doing. Which I didn't!
This is when the clock reset; the beginning of time; my discovery of the V-Twin.
This 1980 beauty was bought at a BMW dealership in Tunbridge Wells. He did me a real favour and took the XJ650 for scrap value; 20,000 miles in under 18 months had reduced it's value by 2/3rds. Ah the joys of Jap-Crap.
The Guzzi was a revelation. For a start the faring kept the wind off the upper body. The torquey engine allowed you to be lazy with gear changes; point and squirt. It would genuinely cruise at 100mph all day long, in a time before speed cameras. The handling was superb - the only problem was the non-folding foot-pegs tended to dig in during adventurous cornering.
Ok, so the switchgear looked like lego; the gear-change action more suited a Massey Furguson, and the electrics were, well, Italian. But at the time of writing (2008) a DVLA check has shown that this baby is still taxed, meaning someone still has it on the road.
After a winter in the Midlands slithering around on my new UJM, I picked upa cheap CD175 as a general all-year-round hack. And what a great little bike.
This thing was bomb-proof. It got me to work during the foul winter of '84-'85, temperatures as low as -8°c,and thick snow full of coal dust - this was the winter of the miner's strike and I lived in a mining town. I plastered it in grease in about October, and washed it all off with Gunk® in April.
Even when the cam-chain tensioner came apart it kept running. It just rattled a little. Well, a lot actually. A routine oil change revealed the sump contained what appeared to be metallic silver paint. Since the poor bike was run on a shoestring, the replacement tensioner was second hand.
I parted with it after about 4 years to friends of a friend who wanted a field hack for their kid. Hard to beleive these are collectors items now.
This is where it got silly for a bit, and life beyond 21 seemed higly unlikely. I bought this Yam from Colwin Motorcycles, of Frederick Street, Sittingbourne, on New-Year's Eve 1982. I had to wait a week and a half till my 2oth birthday to insure it. And for the next 18 months rode it flat out everywhere I went.
Hard to believe now, but in the early 80's 73 bhp was a lot of power for a 650. OK, odd to see a shaft-drive, on a sports bike, but it worked; and there was no filthy chain lube to worry about.
Yamaha heralded it as the 'first in a new generation of lightweight superbikes'; it weighed a good 15kg less than the porcine Kwak Z650, had 10% more power AND twin discs. So it had a rear drum; this was launched in 1980 remember.
Mine not being the YICS model, it had a peaky motor, with an almost 2-stroke like power band. Fitting a Piper 4-into-1 exhaust added a flat-spot, but ensured I could be heard at full-on scream for 2-3 miles.
It got thrashed up and down the country, got used for commuting at a time when I lived in Birmingham, but often worked elsewhere. It even did 2,500 miles around Europe in 2 weeks; mainly at speeds over 150kph.
And after 18 months it was tired. The cam-chain rattled, the valve shims had been swapped to the largest size. Even the carb-linkages had worn the carb bodies so they leaked and couldn't be balanced.
Somehow, I had survived the lunacy; the poor old Yam hadn't quite. Time to retire her for something steadier; with a better life expectancy. For both of us.
The photo doesn't do this old lady justice. Bought once I got a 'proper' job, on credit in January 1982 from a dealer in Stratford Upon Avon. It was four years old and, so I was told, was previously owned by a careful middle aged guy, a banker or some-such. I didn't beleive what the dealer told me, but she was a bute, so I bought her.
A couple of weeks later a middle aged pipe-smoking type of chap was walking his dog past the filling station where I was buying petrol. He came over, admired the bike and asked how it was running.
Then told me it had been his!!! He'd traded up to what was a bit of an animal at the time, an XJ650....
Eventually tiring of having to decoke the engine and exhaust, snapping piston rings as I put it all back together, I discovered the four stroke engine.
BHP per litre may be down, but it was goodbye to the blue haze for ever.
This one was bought in early 1981 from a young farmer, a pal of my brother. Frankly, it was a heap of shite when I handed over the £70 for it. My dad took one look and just walked away. It was caked in mud. Mud filled the insides of the mugards. The handgrips were knackered so the handlebars were full of mud. Even voids in the frame were filled with mud. And it had no stand. But I hada little cash to spend rebuilding it; which is what I did.
The little OHC single motor was bomb proof; so required little more than a good service; new air-filter, points & plug, fresh oil & oil-filter. And a ton of mud removing from the fins.
The frame was stripped & repainted. I replaced the many broken and worn-out parts - levers, mirrors, grips, stand, cables, chain, spokets, brakes etc. Then gave it a good polish and it looked like a different bike.
It spent much of the summer, after I'd left school, thrashing around the local country lanes. Great at night with 6v electrics. Applying the brakes meant the brake-light came on. And the headlight dimmed. So best thing was to avoid braking for corners.
Oh, and applying the air horn (honest!) would stall the engine.
And of course this little bike got me through my test. First time. When I sold it as part-ex for the CB400, the dealer gave me £170 for it, which chuffed me no end. The only bike I ever made money on.
This is where it all started for so many spotty youths back in the late 70's and early 80's.
The one and only Yamaha Fizzie. Mine could do a ton, yeah honest.
I bought this off a mate of mine; it had belonged to his brother before him. Even though it had been thrashed in it's time, it had been lovingly cared for; new parts where needed, the frame repainted.
This was the first bike I ever rode. My mate let me have a go in his garden, and I rode it straight into his mums rose bushes. But I was hooked, and I had to have it when he said it was up for sale. When a savings policy matured, I spent the whole lot on the bike.
Which went down lik a pig in a Synagogue at home.
And never looked back since (well, except when pulling out. And the 'life-saver' of course).