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Kawasaki GPZ900R
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What have traffic cops issuing speeding tickets, a 1984 Kawasaki Ninja and a kamikaze groundhog got in common? Klaus Werr in Ontario, Canada, explains...

I had the turn signal on as I geared down and pulled into the left turn lane. A car turning right flashed his highbeams to warn me of the cop around the corner. I nodded my thanks, and cut the corner a bit tighter since I needed gas from the station right on the corner. I pulled up to the pump and shut it down. Flicking down the stand, I got off, and flipped open the filler cap. As the fuel began to flow into the tank, I looked farther around the bend and saw the cruiser. There was nobody on that stretch at the moment, so he was admiring the bright red paint job on my old bike. I noted that I had his attention.

I was on my way home from work. It was a warm... ok, it was a hot summer day for around here. I had a ways to go, and I wasn't nuts about the city part of the ride, glad that it was behind me. My old ’84 GPZ900R Ninja is the first year of that bike's production, and they're known to overheat. Riding that in stop-and-go, the attention I paid to the coolant temperature was second only to the attention I devoted to staying alive in a sea of cagers. I was running the minimum amount of glycol in the block for the water pump's sake. The rest was water and a coolant additive. It helped, but I still had to pay attention, and sometimes use the override switch to run the fan. This part of the trip, I was in that fringe area where rich folks choose to build their palaces, thinking that they're living the country life, and making life hell for the remaining actual farmers every time they get out their manure spreaders.

Is it a Gpz, a GPz or a GPZ? I can never remember which is which.... 1984 Kawasaki GPz900R

The fuel got to the top of the filler neck, I put the pump nozzle back, and slammed the cap shut. I glanced up at the cop without lifting my head, before turning to walk in and pay. Back at the bike, I got on and lit it off. I didn't blip the throttle. Never understood the need for that right on a start up when the engine oil pressure isn't there yet. The pipe on the thing can get loud and, right now, the last thing I wanted was more attention. I pulled my gloves on, and lifted the stand. The temperature had come down a bit, so barring the back-up of an accident on the bigger road I was headed for, life ought to be good. The sweat trickling down my chest inside my jacket was a strong incentive for forward motion, any forward motion.

That cruiser was there for a couple of reasons. The good reason was that there was a school just up ahead. The other reason was because a lot of folks coming off the highway from one direction didn't feel the need to slow down, and the ones coming from my direction wanted to get home, and were anticipating the on-ramp. Nobody much wanted to go at the low posted limit there. So this spot was a guaranteed money maker. I kept my bike in a gear higher than I needed to hush the pipe some as I rolled by and nodded to the nice man in the white police interceptor.

My eye was drawn to a bike pulling up to the edge of the roadway just ahead. Bright look-at-me yellow Suzuki paint. Hell, I've often thought of painting my bike black. I’ve never liked the ‘arrest-me’ red that it wears. This was a big guy. The suspension on that crotchrocket was earning its keep. And he was blipping the throttle as though he was on a starting grid. Great. I flashed my high beam to try to give the guy a heads up. He'd have to see the cruiser behind me. Nah. He didn't get it. He pulled out right behind me. I glanced in my mirror. The cruiser was pulling out to follow.

Our intrepid author, yesterday. Picture at the bottom of the page shows why he's wincing..

I came by here every day. After the school, there's a stop light, and a right turn puts me onto the S-shaped on-ramp. If there's nobody around, I'd accelerate, then roll it off and grab the brake as I pre-weight my footpegs, enter the last turn late, and then push the bars to snap the Ninja over for the turn with my knee out. Rolling on the throttle, I'd be out of there in a heartbeat about five klicks over the limit to merge with the traffic.

GPZs on

But not today. I had the Suzi on my ass, and he wanted to play. He was keeping it on the boil, and I could hear his pipe over mine. The cruiser was right behind him. Didn't he ever look in his mirrors? If I rode this the way I usually do, he'd probably try to turn inside me, and when I flicked my bike, he'd be right there. So I hung on the inside line, and rode like grandpa, accelerating smoothly. About half-way, numbnuts passed me, the Suzi right on the cams, howling. He shot by me, and I pulled farther over, actually inside the painted line. I didn't want any part of this.

There was a flash of white as the cruiser passed me, and then he hit the lights. The big guy still wasn't looking, so the siren started. I ended up right beside a group of Harley riders who exchanged nods with me before I tucked in behind them in the middle lane. A couple of klicks farther, and there was the Suzuki sitting on the shoulder as the cop walked up. Let's see, passing on an on-ramp, might be a careless charge, plus speeding for sure. For the cop, it was a walk in the park. Might even be a noise ticket if he wanted to push it. My pipe's probably just as loud, but with a close-ratio gearbox and some common sense, you can choose your moments.

Chuck - right - and his natural habitat...

I don't stay on here long, preferring to get off and onto the quiet blacktops. More relaxing. Except, that is, for Chuck the kamikaze ground hog. I'd seen this one ground hog scoot across the road every couple of days here lately. The little bugger made me nervous. We’d already had a couple of interesting moments. Usually, he'd dash from one side to the tall grass in the other ditch. Some times I'd seen him go the other way. I wondered if he got his thrills like that since I couldn't see any other reason for him to do it. I never saw anything chasing him. I'd taken to calling him Chuck in my mind. Although the area has caution signs indicating that the stags here leap majestically, and the road ahead looks like the piece of spaghetti, there was nothing to indicate that the area is used for high-speed groundhog crossings. But as I came to that stretch this day, I saw the roadkill, and knew he'd pushed it once too often.

A ways along my favorite road home, there's a downgrade with a left in the middle of it, but the area has had the limit signed down to 70kmh (about 45mph). Well, sometimes yes, sometimes no. There was a pick-up truck on my tail as I approached the top of the downhill, and as tempting as it looked, it's a blind hill, and my Spidey-sense was tingling something awful. What day was it? Ah, near the end of the month, and I hadn't seen a cruiser here in a bit. Remembering Chuck, I figured it was a good time to step away from the card table.

Radar trap, just out of sight around the corner...

So I up-shifted instead, and began to putter right at the limit. Mr Pick-up was in a hurry, and got closer to my back wheel. I dragged the back brake a touch just to get the brake lamp on. That was too much. He pulled out and passed on the solid line in the middle of the right hander just before the downhill to the left, and stomped it. I slowed down a bit more, took my time, and as I came around the bend, the officer, radar gun in hand, was already walking out to the truck that had almost stopped by then. His cruiser was hidden in an overgrown field driveway. Different force, probably the same time of the month.

I tootled on, staying off the throttle until I was far over the hill, and thinking about pulling over to use the cell to see what I had to bring home for dinner. I made the call from a coffee shop, and talked to two riders who told me about another trap on the far side of the saddle. I thanked them, and heading that way, I spotted yet another one at the bottom of the grade.

As I pulled into the grocery store lot, I thought about Chuck, and remembered a statement on the radio that I'd heard once that there were no ticket quotas. The memory made me smile. I don't believe politicians either…

Note the dent in the tank. Ooof.... 1984 Kawasaki GPz900R


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