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6th May 2005


Opinion: My Bikes - II

From R1 to T160. It's not an obvious development, is it? NVT explains how he made the change from modern superbikes to classic motorcycles...

I suppose the turning point in my riding life came when I did a track blast on my Yamaha R1 with Burn-Up Bike Tours at Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona. What an experience. I can thoroughly recommend track days to one and all. Where else can you experience 170+ down the straight then braking for the first turn back wheel skipping the tarmac then tip it in and feel the front going light on the exit? Unbelievable.

However the outcome was not what I expected. I found that after this I just didn't enjoy going out on the bike for a ride anymore. Once you've experienced what a bike can do in its element then road riding just doesn't have the same attraction anymore. On something like an R1 that is.

You *need* to try this. Old Git pottering around Circuit de Catalunya. Look RCers; a Power Ranger

The R1 then sat in the garage for 18 months hooked up to its charger like a body on life support. In the meantime I managed to acquire a Bultaco 340 Sherpa 6-speed, a bike I always wanted when I used to trial back in the 70s. The twin-shock trials scene was flourishing, and still is, and I did a couple of events and really enjoyed myself again. Didn't come last so that was encouraging. I then somehow also gained a Montesa 349 and an OSSA 350 'yellow gripper', and these two are still awaiting restoration.

I found myself attracted to the BSA B40 and Triumph Tiger Cubs competing in the Pre-65 class as these were far from standard and were a sort of trials version of the 'chopper' -- in as much as they were an expression of their owner and builders' ideas as to what a trials bike should be.

So you've guessed it -- a B40 appeared in the shed. This needed a bit more work than I expected and this is where the RealClassic connection begins.

Top tip for bike rebuilders.... The B40 trials as it arrived looking a bit sad for itself, but it had potential. Do you think the front tyre possibly need a bit more air in it?

...use the same wall for the before and after backgrounds. Classy. Looks a bit different now don't you think? Still got a little way to go but getting there.

Random B40 Stuff on eBay.co.uk

I stumbled across the RealClassic website and found it most entertaining, as I still do. I noticed the National Classic Bike Clubs Show at Stanford Hall advertised and assumed, wrongly as I was to find out, that this would be an easy source of parts I needed for the B40.

I had a great day out but was a bit too nervous to approach the RC caravan, don't know why. Everybody seemed to be having a great time and I felt I wanted a piece of this. When I got home I was full of the day and decided to acquire a classic. A concerted trawl of good old eBay followed.

A few weeks later I was collecting a 1976 T160 Trident in yellow. I really wanted a burgundy one but have grown to prefer the yellow now -- good job really!

Is that the world's shiniest seat? The old girl as I first saw her. That front mudguard still gets on my nerves and will be replaced along with the front disc for a twin disc set up, and a mudguard of the same radius as the front wheel ASAP.

The usual trials and tribulations, mostly electrical so far, of owning a T160 followed but I found very quickly that I enjoyed riding the Trident around my local Derbyshire roads more than I had the R1. As I couldn't spare the time and cash to do any more track days (I'd just bought a classic money-pit, hadn't I?) the R1 took a sabbatical.

The R1 just languished under its cover in the shed for the next few months. I used to love just looking at that bike almost as much as riding it but it was depreciating at an alarming rate and I wasn't using it, plus the insurance was crippling so it had to go. It was the wrong time of year I suppose but I had no response or interest in the adverts I placed.

Then I saw a Norton Commando 850 Interstate E/S advertised and the dealer would do a part exchange on the R1. So that was two birds killed with one stone, so to speak.

Hmm... I STILL don't know if I did the right thing? My head says yes but my heart says NO and if we all followed our heads then we wouldn't be riding bikes, would we?

Now I won't go into the ensuing problems I suffered, save to say that I was well and truly had by the dealer who shall remain nameless. I will say however that you should trust nobody's word and always if at all possible try before you buy. I thought that by paying a high price and buying from a 'reputable' trader I would be better off in the long run. I was wrong. Nice websites and pretty pictures do not a good buy make. I now realise its far better to buy a bike that you know needs work then at least you know its been repaired or restored properly and you will get a better bargain in the long run.

After replacing the entire clutch assembly, battery and front tyre, along with the braking system front and back, I have a bike that at least is useable but will still require an extensive restoration over the winter.

It's easy to make a bike look good in a low-res photo. The 850 Commando MK 3 Interstate as advertised. A few mods have been necessary since then.

So we come to where we are today. Six projects, some work in progress, some awaiting restoration, two acceptable and useable but will still require ongoing attention. Think that qualifies me as part of the club? We all have a lot in common. And a lot of projects! 'A gentleman can never have too many motorcycles', I remember seeing written somewhere.

I don't think I will part with any of my bikes (bet you've heard that one before) as they have too much of me in them now, bits of skin blood sweat and a lot of tears. That was also perhaps the part of the experience I was missing from the Superbike years. Modern bikes are just so reliable and the only area for stamping anything of yourself onto the bike is by customising it. Which is also why most Superbikes are covered in carbon fibre and anodised alloy.

Modern sports bikes are wonderful tools, however, and it really annoys me when I see some people knocking them and their riders. They may look like 'Power Rangers' to you but what do you think your 'uniform' of black leather jacket covered in badges, jeans, black boots, white scarf and pudding basin looks like to them? OK; I'm stereotyping but hopefully you see my point.

As for their riding styles? Come on I remember the 'Salt Box straight Café Races' and I'm sure you all had a biker café near you. The antics of the Boys on Tritons and Bonnies, Dommies, Goldie's etc were no different to the antics of today's bikers. So come on, don't be so sanctimonious -- give them some slack.

Until you've ridden one of the modern Superbikes then you just can't appreciate how phenomenal the performance is, and how addictive that performance can become. That is / was the problem. I just couldn't help myself. You start off going out for a ride with all the right intentions and after about half a mile you grow horns and adopt hooligan mode -- then again, I was like that on the YPVS!

I now enjoy going out for a ride at more sensible road speeds, well sort of might not be EXACTLY legal but seems sensible to me officer. I also own an asset that not only gives me great pleasure, and grief, but is appreciating not depreciating as the R1 was almost as I looked at it. Also I was very pleasantly surprised at the classic insurance quotes and I can put all the bikes on one policy with just a small premium extra for each. Almost like the old rider policy days.

Must say though that I do find myself looking at the Yamaha RD400 and Z900/Z1s on eBay, so I may just have to add one at some point just for those hooligan moments when the need arises. I'm very glad I went to Stanford Hall that first time, and only regret I didn't go up to the RC stall. I'm so happy to have rediscovered the bikes I never had when I was younger (but I would not have missed the Superbike phase for all the tea in China).

Hope to see you at the RC little blue van over the summer and if I ever finish the B40 then I may even see you at a Pre-65 event.

Proud owner pose No.43

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