I am developing this page to write about some of the unusual
bikes I have ridden but not owned.
Most of the images are of the actual bikes I rode but in some cases
I have had to borrow an image from the WWW because I do not
have a photo of the actual bike.
Some of the memorable bikes I have ridden but not owned
Dad bought a 100cc Yamaha YR1 with an Upgrade kit. This upgrade
included new pistons, barrels, heads, bigger carburetors and high
level expansion chambers. The result was a 20 BHP twin in an FS1E
moped frame and she flew. This is the only bike I knew of in 1973
that would wheelie on the throttle. At school all my mates had
Lambretta's with 225cc conversions, amal carbs, ancillotti exhausts
etc. They use to ask me to take their passengers because 2 up the
little yam was much faster. Top speed was supposed to be 93 mph.
An absolutely mad, highly strung 2 stroke, no reed valves or anything,
just huge ports and a bonkers all or nothing power band. I sold it to
my French exchange friend who rode it round London when he lived
in the UK. Our bike was Blue in colour.
Dad bought a Norton 19S 600 from an old guy who we kept in touch with for
many years, a proper gent and old time biker. This bike is basically a 500cc
Norton ES2 pushrod engine which is "Stroked" by fitting a longer stroke crank
and longer con rod increasing capacity to 600 cc for hauling sidecars. Our
bike was solo. The engine was so tall the head occupied most of the space
under the tank. The bike had a manual advance and retard, 6v dynamo, a
magneto for sparks Ah, legendary British bike engineering!. I rode it for a 6
weeks into Central London and back. A real man's bike to start. I loved
accelerating away from roundabout's in top, opening the throttle and
advancing the ignition to get the best drive. The 19S was so full of character,
probably the nicest classic I have ridden, I loved it.
Dad acquired a Panther 650 Sloper in bits with a spare engine. This is back
in the day when £50 would buy a Panther as a non runner. Much heavier and
cruder than the Norton 19S. This bike was intended for hauling sidecars
and had all the necessary lugs cast into the frame. The Panther was
famous for having twin low level pipes on a single cylinder. I never really
liked it much as it seemed too heavy and had slow steering.
In the small town where I now a guy owns not one but two Panthers, one with
a sidecar. As they get older they become more and more desirable.
Dad had a friend Dave who owned a Builder's Merchant near
Maidenhead. Dave was a real character and always had 10 to
20 bikes in his garage at any one time. He let me ride one of
the first Yamaha RD 400's in the UK. These bikes were quick, I
found it hard to keep the front down when it came into the
powerband. The RD had disk brakes front and rear and a good
frame. Probably as fast to 30 mph as anything ever made. A
bike you can never forget. Lots of piston slap made the engine
sound thrashed even when new.
Name a desirable Belgian made motorcycle?
How about the 1967 Flandia 50cc Record 5
Special. I got to ride one while staying in France
with my French exchange friend. The bike I rode
was highly tuned and whizzed along at insane
speeds for a 50cc. In the Brie region of northern
France all the roads are straight with what seems
like a 2 mile run between bends. As a result
everyone, tuned everything to get the highest top
speed at the highest possible revs. I'm certain the
one I rode could do over 60 mph.
The Flandria had twin straight through high level
exhausts (on a 50cc single!) these were the
coolest thing I'd ever seen aged 14. The Flandria
had 5 gears, one of the best bikes ever made with
peddles for footrests. Still makes me tingle to think
about it. Eat your heart out FS1E lovers
My best mate Steve bought a Suzuki GT750A from Ken Heanes in Fleet. A stunning bike in it's
day with a very smooth 3 cylinder 2 stroke equipped with water cooling. I had my air cooled
GT500 twin at the time. I remember my bike stayed immaculate, mainly because following Steve I
was riding in a constant 2 stroke oil mist (read fog). No kidding I had to gunk my bike to get it
clean. I rode this bike and I also went pillion. A great bike in it's day with real road presence and
the ability to cruise at the 100mph. Steve could spin the rear Avon Roadrunner in 3rd on the
throttle and often in 4th (Way to heavy to wheelie). Following him I could hear the tyre squeal after
every gear change. Just shows how poor the grip used to be from tyres in the 1970s.
Steve crashed his GT750 in the middle lane of the M4 when it got into a speed wobble, broke his
wrist and still rode home. Looking back these bikes were heavy with vague wobbly handling,
poor brakes that failed to work in the wet, horrible shiny plastic seats, chrome that needed looking
after every weekend to avoid rust, poor grip and horrendous fuel consumption. Todays bikers
have no idea how lucky they are.
Ling's gave me a Triumph Rocket III as a courtesy bike when my Tiger 1050 went in for it's 6,000 mile service. Very nice, I want one
when I'm retired. Once I've grown a big belly and I have a ZZ Top beard to match.
I took this photo at Orwell Marina, afterwards I had to push the Rocket III backwards up a very slight incline. The surface was gravel and I
needed every once of strength. You have to plan ahead where you park these beasts.
These Rocket III's are wonderful and the power is amazing. The bike just burbles along and the speedo think's it's a rev counter.
Accelerating hard up a slip road feels so leisurely until you try and squeeze into traffic going 60 mph slower than the bike.
I have now ridden with Rocket III's and nothing can live with them on initial acceleration. For my 50th birthday I rode a Harley and these
Rocket III's are much better to ride. I have since ridden a Triumph Thunderbird which I like even more. Give one a try.
When Dad retired he bought a new RD400 and tuned it up. He
fitted clip ons, rear sets, a full fairing, Micron Race cans, Ledar
jetting kit all set up by Ledar on their rolling road. The founder
of Ledar was very helpful, unfortunately he was lost his life in a
This RD400 was quick from rest but it was no fun cruising on a
steady throttle with the usual 2 stroke ting, ting, ting, ping, ting,
ping, ting, ting etc.
Back in the early 1980s the RD400 was fast and handled as
well as anything made at the time. Definitely a weekend bike
Dad bought a Suzuki GT550 about the same time as I had a GT380. I think this may be a picture
of my bike because it has a single front disc. The 550 was a quick bike, smooth and it rode well
but the handling was not too clever, more like a middleweight tourer than a 500 sports bike It
could produce an awful lot of smoke when you opened her up.
Dad bought an ex Race Honda CB500 tuned by Jock Kerr and converted it back to road use. It
had bigger valves, skimmed head, high compression pistons etc. He commuted to Manchester
and back from Surrey for a couple of years. The exhaust was an open Piper race system and this
is THE loudest bike I have ever ridden. In the 1970s you could here bikes 3 miles away which
was too anti social. The Honda ran well unless it rained when it had the inevitable CB500 misfire
The CB500 was quick but it needed to be revved hard and as a result made quite a few vibes,
Typically for an ex-race bike it was fast but lacked bottom and mid range
Dad bought a Ducati 450 single. This is the bike that every magazine raved about as the ultimate
single. The Ducati certainly was beautiful to look at. The handling and ride was spoilt by rock
hard suspension, it would just skip over bumps so when cornering the tyres would struggle to
maintain grip. A real sheep in wolf's clothing the 450 was woefully underpowered and the engine
seemed delicate. To ride the whole package was no where near as nice as the starry eyed
roadtesters would have you believe.
The little duke was pretty but for me it was just a tick in the box. My Suzuki GT500 would pee all
over it and the 19S or Gold Star had much more charisma.
Just as I got into bikes Dad sold a 650 Triton (No photos)and bought an Ex Racer BSA 500 Gold
Star. It had a close ratio gearbox with the normal racing modifications (This is not a photo of the
actual bike). I learned the technique of starting a big single on this bike. Rule one, only attempt in
proper motorcycle boots, Rule 2 give it everything and keep your knee just ahead of your ankle so
if it kicks back your knee will bend to absorb the shock. (Did I mention Rule 1a, retard the ignition
or it will try to fire you over the bars!) . The Goldie was quite nice, full of character with a very long
first gear. On the move it was fun and sounded like a proper single but 35-40 BHP can only be so
interesting when you are a teanager. It probably took 20 - 30 seconds to reach 100 mph by which
time the stonking vibration blurred the road ahead.
Dad liked his RD400 so much he later owned two Yamaha 350 YPVS bikes, at different
times. Dad rode the black one to the TT with me and it was great fun but he needed to
refuel at every other petrol station. I took the white bike out for a spin and it locked up flat
out at 115 mph on me, fortunately the piston freed itself, not much fun at the time.
These Yamaha's were real hooligan bikes, great to ride, light, powerful with good brakes. It
is a shame that emission regulations have made fast, light, tunable 2 strokes a thing of the
Dad's Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans Mark II. Probably the most disappointing classic bike I have ever
ridden. The 850 Le Mans never made much sense. It was lumpy and uncomfortable below
85mph and over that speed pressure built up in the crankcase and it burned oil like a 2 stroke.
We were advised to fit a large capacity racing sump at huge extra cost. The seat was very shiny
and slippery and the warning lights were hard to read (If working)
I so wanted to have a ride on the Le Mans on my favourite route the torque reaction of the engine
made cornering unpleasant. It just never lived up to the dream. Both Dad and I rated this the
worst bike we ever owned/rode.
I'm sure when they are sorted a Le Mans can work OK.
Dad's Suzuki GS750 Café Racer. We went to collect this bike on my CB400N. It was cheap but
fairly tatty, on the way home it became clear that the sprockets had no teeth as the chain slipped if
the throttle was used.
The GS cleaned up nicely and it was quite a nice bike to ride. This one had an aftermarket
swinging arm and improved shock absorbers so it handled better than the version I owned.
This is the sort of sports bike we all aspired to until the original GSXR 750 came out.
One of my oldest friends had an abandoned Honda CB400F project bike in bits. He gave it to my
father. Dad built it up as a Café Racer. It ran well for a CB400F, not exactly my cup pf tea, being
all revs and not much power.
Dad tried to sell it in MCN for £175 and had no takers. Once I found out I took over. I advertised it
at £495 and the guy who bought it was so impressed he did not even start the engine before
putting it in his van.
The lesson learned is do not under value your classic bike because the low price will put potential
Dad's Kawasaki GPZ750. I confess that I never really liked the look of the Unitrack Kawasaki 4
cylinder bikes. The wheelbase was lengthened to fit the monoshock making the whole look too
long and low. Just look at the gap from the crankcase to the rear tyre. This bike was quite nice to
ride and well sorted. The engine performed well and I enjoyed the ride but a GSXR750 was so
This design lived on in the 900 Ninja for years and years.
Dad's Kawasaki Z650 Café Racer. Dad was looking for a bike to play with and he bought a basic
Z650 non running for very little money. The finished bike looked good. The Z650 was a heavy
lump weighing as much as a comparable 750 but without the power. This bike was late 1970's
technology which seemed quite old fashioned in the 1990s.
The main problem was it was really hard to maneuver round the garage with great weight,
sticking calipers and no lock. On the road it started to make more sense but the brakes, oh the
This picture is Dad racing his 1000cc Norvin in the wet around 1962. The best bike I
have not had the pleasure of riding. This engine was race tuned with Vincent Black
Lightning cams and a full Manx frame with Magnesium hubs, double twin leading
shoe front brakes. Absolutely the ultimate English bike. Only a Brough Superior or
Manx Norton could be considered more desirable. This is the bike that Ogri rides in
the Bike magazine cartoons.
When the M1 motorway opended Dad used to cruise to work at 120 mph, I seem to
recall he said it pulled about 4,200 revs at 100 mph. When I grow up I want one, if I
sell my house and I might just have enough cash, dad probably sold his for less than
£2000 and bought a 3.8 MkII Jag for £250. How times have changed!
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