Since the day I turned 15 , I was destined to ride bikes. After convincing my parents that EVERYONE at school rode a motorcycle and that I too NEEDED one, my first purchase was a Yamaha DT175 two stroke trail bike. As we lived on an orchard, this bike also allowed me to practice my off road riding technique. Clipping Kiwifruit vines as I ducked and weaved underneath them was a source of frustration for my father, especially during harvest time. Little did I know that these off road riding skills would prepare me for my current riding skill on the road. This bike also allowed me to hone my mechanical skills, as it was broken down more often than not. Needless to say, the time quickly came for me to upgrade….
My upgrade was in the form of a Honda SL250.
This time I wanted the reliability of Four stroke power. Alas, this was not to be as this bike also proved unreliable. My mechanical skills seemed to improve at a faster rate than my riding skill (seems familiar to this day for those who know me…)
Staying with the Wing badge, my next bike was a Honda XR 250.
This was definitely a step up from previous attempts to own a reliable and fun machine (still no button machine though) Now I was able to do more serious riding off-road after school. Murphy had his way of showing his face at the most in-appropriate time when during School Certificate exam time I went for a trail ride after my first exam, only to go head first into a huge pot hole, going arse-over-kite and landing hard, causing a broken collar bone. For the rest of my exams I would be assessed on my year’s efforts instead. Luckily I had paid attention and passed. This was one of these rare occasions where having a bike accident actually offered some benefits.
Times were a changing. Girls came on the scene, so a trail bike was not much of a romantic mode of transport. The XR was sold to make way for a Fiat 125 and the bike hiatus began, or so I thought.
…until the day I was about to get married.
Whilst passing a Car dealership, I spotted the bargain of the Century (at that time anyway); a Honda XR 500 no less! This was the bike I coveted after my 250. How could I get away with buying this just a week before my planned marriage day. I saw that the opportunity to make a bit of money was presenting itself, so the purchase was made and I thought I would stay single for some time longer. Needless to say, my fiancée was ropeable; how could I do this to her 7 days out from a lifetime of financial commitments. I assured her that the main reason for purchase was to make some money for her dowry. The bike was spruced up and sold for a $ 1000 profit; healthy enough to allow us to buy a brand new Philips Microwave!! I redeemed myself, scored huge Brownie points for the future (they would be cashed in one day for sure)
After this episode however, my 18 year motorcycle ownership hiatus definitely started.
During this time, I enjoyed a return stint to trail bike riding when my young sons displayed an interest in bikes. Bikes owned during this period where a Suzuki RM125, Yamaha WR400F and a Yamaha YZ400F. The kids got older and wanted cars, so the bikes were sold. My brother-in-law Max was making noises about buying a road bike again after many years of suffering without one. I could not let him ride on his own now could I? The motorcycling spirit was awoken again and as a result, I bought my first road bike; a run-down Honda VFR700. Of course, Max had to go one better and buy a brand new BMW (but that is his story elsewhere on this blog)
The VFR700F gave me a chance to get stuck into another project bike, albeit a bit more involved than the Honda XR500 from years earlier. I enjoyed the newfound V4 power with it’s torquey, yet revvy engine. Handling left a bit to be desired however, as the rear shock needed some serious attention. These Hondas also enjoyed frying the regulator rectifier, which I experienced on a back road some 30Km from home, resulting in getting my recovery team (My wife) to collect me with the bike trailer. The bike did allow me finally to take my road riding skills to another level however.
V-Power had finally gotten a hold on me. When the opportunity arose to buy my friend’s much loved VFR 750.
A well looked after specimen that was faultless in every way. This was the first bike that allowed my wife to enjoy motorcycling as a pillion. She particularly liked the ergonomically placed grab handles (No, not what you are thinking…) We enjoyed some great rides together on this bike, but I felt it was a tad under powered for 2-up riding, so I convinced myself that WE needed another bike. Do you think I thought about this sensibly????
Practicality gave way to my need for speed and handling unlike anything I had experienced so far. My wife could easily get used to towering over the back of my head couldn’t she? Think of the view she would have as we approached corners; finally SHE would be in control, even if it meant having no feeling left in her legs after 10 minutes due to her legs bending in equal degrees. A ride to Piha would soon see me being read my rights. So, after a reasonable short affair, the ZX9R was moved to a more deserving home.
Since I had not shown the ability to know the difference between comfort and COMFORT, the next purchase was going to involve serious consultation…
….and this was the result. A naked muscle bike no less. I had always loved the classic lines of the Yamaha XJR1200 and now we had the opportunity to see if it worked as an all rounder. It didn’t disappoint. With enough grunt to pass a 40-carriage freight train downhill and a generous seat to boot, this bike means business. After nearly 5 years, this is one of my current rides and predominantly our 2-up bike.
TradeMe is the bain of my life. Why do we look at eye candy here, only to tempt ourselves with the inevitability that one day, we get ensnared like prey. The taste of the ZX9R however, left me wanting more.
The Ducati 916 has always been my most favourite and iconic Ducati. About 15 years ago we bought my son, Ryan a 916 poster for his wall and I often found myself coveting it’s womanlike form (Don’t think me strange please; it’s a biker thing) Never in a million years did I think I would ever own one, until one day, I spotted one on Trademe. It was being sold by a guy who had only weeks earlier purchased it sight unseen and rode it back from Hastings to Auckland. The fact he had his back fused didn’t seem to deter him as, like me, he was obsessed with the beauty of the 916. By the time he arrived in Auckland however, he realised that it was a bike that takes some getting used to. He had just lost a well paid job, so back on Trademe it went………Stay tuned….
Coming soon……Yamaha Virago XV750 Café Racer project (For tinkering’s sake)
Honda CBR 1100XX Blackbird (For a Super comfy Two-up tourer)
Hoverbike (The Future)
Love the post Andre – especially when it got to the XJR. I’ve had five of them if I count the 400cc model I bought in a moment of weakness. The VFR 800 was another we had in common if you don’t mind the few extra cc’s but my favourite VFR was the jewel like NC30 that I raced for a while.
I’m looking forward to the next instalment 🙂
Great read Andre.