February 22, 2018

Confessions of a Born Again Biker – Part 19 – Tea & Frustration

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Part 19 - Tea and Frustration

The weather up here in the Northern Hemisphere has changed for the better and Spring is slowly giving way to Summer. The past Sunday was no exception and one of the best motorcycling days of the year arrived. Warm temperatures, dry roads, sunshine and fields filled with colour. The sort of day you normally see in paintings – just perfect.

Such weather requires that a tour of numerous tea stops is undertaken, and with this in mind, I departed. As you might expect, I was not the only motorcyclist out there.

Having drunk the lion’s share of the first tank of petrol going nowhere in particular, although in the general direction of Squires Café near Leeds (UK), I decided to stop messing about and take a more direct path to my next mug of tea. If I found a petrol station on the way, then all the better. By using the country roads, it was always going to be likely that I would arrive at Squires before passing a petrol station. No worries, sitting on the grass in the sunshine, admiring the Trikes – strange things but fascinating engineering – while drinking tea isn’t exactly a hardship. I’ll get petrol on the way home.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Brother Simon's TrikeMy problem with places like Squires is the array of truly gorgeous motorcycles that there are to admire. Never mind a bike show, if you are wondering what to buy next, just go to Squires or the Super Sausage Café on a sunny Sunday. The selection of motorcycles to consider is large and constantly changing.

There can be unwanted side effects to such viewings though. Wandering through the motorcycles, I notice a red, “Y” registration Kawasaki GPz 1100, the same as the one I had. Mine only lasted six months before brake failure resulted in a twisted frame, a written off motorcycle, and a very sheepish look on my face. My definition of brake failure, by the way, is: “The brakes failed to stop me in the ridiculously short distance I’d given them to perform their magic before I arrived at the scene of the accident I was about to have”.

Chatting with the owner, who had bought an identical GPz to mine “back in the day”, we were both slightly unnerved to work out that all of this had occurred 34 years ago. Moving swiftly past this discovery, we returned to discussing the GPz he had acquired. It was in superb condition considering its age and that it was unmolested. Considering what he had got for the money, the GPz had been as cheap as chips.

The mono-shock version GPz1100 was the last of the air-cooled muscle bikes. About a year after the GPz1100’s release the alloy-framed, 16 values per cylinder, GPz900 arrived and pretty much defined the sports bikes we are still riding today, albeit with a shed load of improvements. The GPz1100’s 108BHP though is still respectable even if some 30 years later, that sort of figure is more aligned with a tourer than a sports bike. The 2017 Fireblade pushes out 189BHP.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Kawasaki GPZ1100 Cut AwayStill, in the days when everyone else was still using carburettors, the GPz1100 came with fuel injection and rumours that just removing the air filter would give you another 7BHP.

Having spent too much time ogling at motorcycles, short on fuel, and with a 70 mile plus trip home to ride, I made the mistake of opting to use the A1 – a major arterial road that runs north to south in England – rather stick to the country roads.

It is very easy here to just start moaning about tin can drivers, which I don’t wish to do. We have all sinned a little, and as there are more drivers than riders out there, the sheer weight of their number says they are going to commit more sins than we do – even if some of us seem to be trying to even the score.

All of that said, I need to have a rant about lane discipline. I must have followed the same line of cars for 20 miles and not one of them would pull into the inside lane when it was empty. It seems the “rule” they were following was that if you want to go faster than you currently are, then you don’t need to move over. Instead, you can just wait in a long line in the outside lane, thereby converting a two-lane road into a single lane traffic jam. For mile after mile, I sat on the inside of the same queue of cars with acres of empty road in front of me. Never once was I troubled by someone pulling into the empty nearside lane.

Eventually, my building frustration gave way to common sense, and I turned off onto the country lanes. Bathed in late afternoon sunshine I was once again never bothered by cars. I even snuck in a few extra miles, just to maximise the day.

Advanced motorcycle riding, I’m told, is a continual journey of self-development. I shall, therefore, develop my knowledge of every back road and country lane I can find. The cars can all sit in a long line, going nowhere.

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