This is a sort of blog of my motorcycles since about 2018. Re-reading it, it looks like my quest for my ideal bike!
A bit of history first
I got my very first bicycle when I was about 11. It was a very heavy 18″ Raleigh Roadster with Rod Brakes and no gears. I loved it.
I got my second bicycle when I was 14. It was a 21″ Raleigh Gran Sport it with 10 gears. It got stolen when I was 18.
I bought my third bike from a friend when I was 20. It is a Jack Taylor tourer with five gears.
53 years later I still have it and still ride it.
I don’t change my favourite machines very often.
Motor cycles, Scooters
My first motorbike was given to me by a friend. It was a 98cc Excelsior with two gears. It was horribly unreliable.
My next was a Lambretta LD 150cc which was my very first reliable motorised transport. I loved it.
Then followed : –
- a 500 Triumph T100, (horrible)
- a Lambretta GT200, (OK)
- a Triumph T110 (great),
- a Norton Dominator 88 (OK),
- a 650 Triton (made from the previous two bikes – wonderful)
- a 500 AJS (OK)
- a Honda CB450, (OK)
- a 750 Norton Commando, (horrible)
- a Kawasaki KLR600, (horrible)
- a Honda H100 (wonderful)
- a BMW R65LS (which I still have – wonderful),
- a Honda Deauville (OK)
- a Royal Enfield Bullet (great)
- a Royal Enfield Himalayan (OK)
- a Suzuki Address 110 (wonderful)
- a Honda SH300i (OK)
After the Deauville I was off bikes for around 10 years then I decided to renovate my BMW.
It took me a year to get the BMW back to roadworthiness. I had the frame professionally painted, and the cylinder heads soda blasted. Removing and replacing the engine single handed was quite a job. It is now roadworthy, but doesn’t get used much.
While I was working on the BMW I bought a 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet sixty-five, to keep me going. I really liked the Bullet, but I worried about it’s reliability.
I was not really expecting a lot from the Suzuki. I have had medium sized bikes (by modern standards – they used to be classed as big bikes) most of my riding life, around 650cc and 50+ bhp. So a wee 113cc 9hp scooter was not going to do much.
What a surprise. It’s quick off the mark and will touch 60mph on the flat without a problem.
In the area I live the roads are quite narrow and twisty and most traffic is tootling along under 50mph.
It only weighs 100Kg. my BMW weighs in at over twice that.
Speed on the flat is unaffected by carrying a pillion passenger, but the difference is noticeable on hills.
The seat height is quite low too and I can comfortably put both feet flat on the ground. This makes it so easy to manoeuvre or to use the human powered reverse gear (even 2-up).
The Address is as much a revelation as my first Lambretta. It is ideal for the roads where I live and the little 113cc 9hp engine is enough to keep up with traffic on the roads in Cornwall. It is so light and easily manhandled. It is a cheap but well made scooter.
I also bought a Honda SH300, which is a great scooter but it rarely saw the light of day. It was an impulse buy and I really didn’t need it. It is now sold.
So currently I have my Jack Taylor Bike – made in 1964, my 1986 BMW R65LS, and my 2020 Suzuki Address.
I thought about an older bike but people are asking ludicrous prices for old tatty bikes nowadays, as long as they are old. Basically you pay about half the price of a brand new guaranteed bike for something that has been stored in someone’s shed (or even in a back yard) for 10+ years, unwanted and unloved until the market prices got ridiculous. What may have went for £300 two years ago now has a £4000 asking price. So that is out.
What I really want is something about 20bhp, around 100-125Kg, and a seat height around 760mm, and a bit of weather protection and that doesn’t make a bloke in his 70’s look like he’s trying to be a boy racer. Alas such a bike is non existent at present. I thought the Honda 300 would do that. It scored on power and weather protection but was far too heavy and too high, and completely unsuitable for a shortish pillion passenger
Some other scooters have a lower seat, such as the Suzuki Burgman and Honda Forza but, to my eyes, they all look the same, and horrible.
Maybe another Royal Enfield may be an idea. My Bullet 65 had a seat height of 760 mm and weighed 168Kg. It was a nice bike but I worried about reliability.
The new Meteor 350 is. nice looking bike and has a low seat height of 765mm but weighs 191Kg. That is almost as heavy as my BMW but with only 2/5 of the power.
And no weather protection at all.
The Address has spoiled me for other bikes. Scooters like the Honda PCX125 or the Yamaha Xmax are slightly more powerful (12bhp vs 9bhp). That will give me an extra 5-6mph but also an extra 30Kg (around 5 stones in old money) as well as being longer and wider and with a higher seat.
Is 9 hp, or 12hp is enough for motorway driving? I’d be in the inside lane getting overtaken by every lorry, particularly on hills, and this is just plain dangerous. To keep up I’d need at least 20bhp. That takes me into 200cc at least. Scooters of this power weigh around 160-220Kg. That’s around the same as my BMW (188Kg dry, 207Kg wet) and it has 50bhp. (It figures – 25bhp from each 325cc cylinder). No weather protection though.
So it’s the Address for general purpose use, tootling around Cornwall and the BMW for the odd short old time nostalgic rides or longer Motorway or A road rides for the foreseeable future.
When I got my first scooter, the Lambretta LD, (1955) 150cc and 6bhp I never really thought about the lack of power. I remember on a long trip over the Pennines I was down to 25mph going up some hills, but it was cold and the old LD worked better in the warm weather. I didn’t think twice about taking it on the motorway. Neither did I worry about reliability – it never let me down. I simply enjoyed the bike.
The only time in my life I have been caught speeding was on the LD. I was doing 55mph flat out down a steep hill, which was unfortunately in a 30mph area. I only knew the speed because the policeman told me. My speedo was not working at the time. (I got a fine for that too).
I think really, I have completed the circle from one wee scooter to another another wee scooter. It has been a lot of fun and has taken 55 years. I think I’m done.
I have my ideal bike.
Back in the day, life was simple. I had a top box on my bikes before top boxes were invented. It was an old steel chest, slightly bigger than the biggest current Givi boxes. It was painted in light blue hammerite, bolted to the carrier and locked with a padlock. We went touring with that, and a pair of ex-army haversacks tied together and slung over the pillion seat. I don’t think I ever paid more than 20% of the price of a new bike for any bike until I got the Norton Commando.
The old bikes were not reliable though. Coming back from the Dragon Rally in February 1971 (I remember the day – it was Decimal day) my friends Bonneville lost power and was unable to climb hills. We took the barrel off by the side of the road to find all piston rings stuck in the grooves. (As the barrel came off, it began to snow). We managed to remove three compression rings and an oil ring intact. (we also broke the other three compression rings and the oil ring) We cleaned up the grooves with a nail file and built it up with two compression rings on one piston and one compression ring and an oil ring on the other. It was enough to get us home – around 200 miles. A few years later the cylinder head on my T110 engine cracked as we were setting off for the rally. That needed another head so I missed it that year.