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My Great British Motorcycle Journey Part 1 - The Little Screamer

September 14, 2017

The RD125LC - little, light, red and very, very smoky.


My ‘on again, off again, on again’ path through the motorcycling world has been documented elsewhere on this site, but I thought it might be quite interesting to name check the machines that have borne me through the years. Not because any of them are particularly newsworthy in their own right, but more because it is 2:53pm on a Tuesday afternoon and I have lots of real work piling up. So, I need something a little more substantive to aid my procrastination than the usual suspects (Twitter, YouTube and Steven Wilsons new album).


It all started with a classified ad I saw in the Blackmore Vale (a local free magazine). The seller had a rather promising Yamaha RD125LC and he wanted out. When we arrived at his house in my brothers old VW camper van, he met us at the front door with his exposed left leg (which was black and blue) strapped into a flexible and complicated looking hinged splint and his head held in place within a metal cage. This incorporated four head stabilizer struts that seemed to bore into his skull at the point that they connected with it. He wouldn't have been out of place on the set of Hellraiser. Seeing the horror on our faces, he cheerfully informed us that he had just had a bad motorbike accident and had only recently been discharged from hospital. This really was not an ideal start to proceedings from my perspective and seeing the dismay on my face, the seller cheerfully told me “don't worry, it was wasn’t on the bike you’ve come to see, haha, ouch!”. Then after a few seconds to recover, “No, there's not much left of that”....


Rather buoyed up by his infectious geniality, I followed him through to his garage and the bike that was to be my first ever ride. My brother and my buddy Chris helped me lift it into the back of the camper for the drive home. Even though the deal was  done and the bike was mine, I had no idea how to ride it. 


As I got to know the bike, I discovered that at some time in its life a  previous owner had considerably increased its power (if not its longevity) by re-jetting the carb, fitting a less restrictive exhaust and raising the gearing to reflect the new pulling power of the engine. However, when I got it, the bike had been returned to normal, save the gearing. The result being that the bike maxed out in 4th gear at about 60 mph. You could only use 5th if you were going down a hill and 6th if you had just driven over a cliff. This was a ‘sub optimal’ situation. I had no money for remedial modifications and was impatient for adventure. I decided to ride from my home in Sherborne to my girlfriend’s in Seaford (both in southern England) which was a four hour drive and included a fair amount of motorway miles (where the speed limit is 70mph - but everyone does 80). I mean what’s the point of being young if you can't be stupid? 


The ride across was ok, it rained and cars were wooshing past 15-20mph faster than me, but I was loving the novelty of traversing familiar roads but seeing and feeling them for the very first time. It's a kick I get from biking that has never receded. I got there five hours later, wet and cold but exhilarated and buzzing. I seem to remember that even as I was pulling into her driveway, I was looking forward to the journey back home - oh the indomitable spirit of youth!


The journey back was less successful. I was meeeeeeeer-ing along the motorway with the throttle pinned to the stop, trailing a blue gray fug of two stroke fumes, when, about one hr in, the motor coughed and the bike juddered, then started to fishtail alarmingly. I pulled in the clutch, the engine died immediately and I free-wheeled to the hard shoulder. A helpful guy who was traveling behind me pulled over and asked if I was ok - apparently there was a plume of sparks from the exhaust to accompany the little LC’s death throes. I finally arrived home many hours later in the cab of a truck with the stricken Yamaha on the back. It turned out that the single tiny piston (think of a baby's arm with a closed fist) had had enough of being flung up and down 9000 times a minute and had decided to disintegrate (hence the sparks), with predictable results. Shame. All this would have been far more distressing if I didn’t already have the little Yam’s replacement sitting in the garage…..


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