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My Great British Motorcycle Journey Part 3 - Possibly Influenced by Top Gun

September 20, 2017


Still a good looking bike 


Yes, its a pattern that is becoming as predictable as people looking at an eclipse without specialized eyewear no matter the warnings. The poor old CX had already had to suffer the indignity of being parked next to its younger, sportier replacement for the previous 2 months. Yes, sitting underneath the cracked window in the back of the garage was a blue and silver GPZ900R, looking slightly menacing in the low light and gently leaking fluid onto the floor from a perished front fork seal. No matter, it was mine. It looked great AND it was a nine hundred cc bike. It was seriously fast, as I found out from the certificable lunatic I bought it from. 


I had acquired the big Kawasaki from a guy who lived some miles from me, right out in the wilds of the countryside. I had always loved the way GPZ's looked and was aware of (and awed by) their banzai reputation. They weren't cutting edge at the time, having been around for at least a decade and a half, but my tender years and tiny budget precluded me from current generation machines. They still enjoyed a fiercesome reputation and of course had the added gloss of being Tom Cruses vehicle of choice, when on the ground, in Top Gun. Ahhh the 80’s.


My impression of the GPZ being a bit of a nutters bike was reinforced by the aforementioned gentleman I bought it off. He insisted on driving for the test ride and what followed was one of the most singularly terrifying experiences of my life. I held onto the grab bar behind me, as opposed to around his waist - as the unspoken code governing the conduct of the rearmost of two men on a motorcycle stipulates - and he took it upon himself to thrash the bike as fast as was humanly possible for the entire duration of the ride (this behavior from the foremost of the two gentleman on a motorcycle is also required by the aforementioned code). I JUST ABOUT managed to stay on through the first manic bout of accelerational savagery by locking my arms rigidly behind my back, and then, as soon as the G force abated enough for me to do so, I clamped my arms firmly around him for the rest of the journey. My self preservational instincts had temporarily overcome my adherence to the code our biking forefathers had passed down to us.


Now, I'm no choirboy when it comes to riding at speed. Part of the attraction of a big sports bike is that it can deliver the sort of acceleration that if subjected to too frequently, could probably permanently alter your facial features, but this kid was bloody insane. There was no point yelling 'slow down', as even if he weren't hunched forward in a racers crouch behind the windscreen, he wouldn't have heard me in the wind blast. Never have I been happier to dismount a motorbike when we finally got back. 


So, the deal was struck and I think I overpaid as I was still in shock. He then asked me if he could take it for one last 'farewell' ride. I said 'errr sure' (definitely still in shock). I then stood there making small talk with his father while the shriek of the Kawasaki being caned to within an inch of its life washed over us from various directions . We couldn't actually see it (the trees and hedges precluded that) but we definitely had a rough idea of its longitudinal and latitudinal location at all times.  After about 10 minutes of this, I started to get nervous. The conversation had dried up with Dad and we'd only heard bird song for the last minute or so. Then, just as I was about to ask his father for a refund, he returned, almost standing the bike on its nose as he came to a standstill and scaring the birds away with a final flourish of revs before handing me the keys. I still wonder if that last banzai ride had something to do with the fork seal leak...


You can read elsewhere about my fondness, respect and slight fear of big Kwakas, but this is where it all began. The Z was an unsubtle, slightly unruly and exhausting beast, but I really got a kick out of riding it. By the same token, I wasn't broken hearted to see it go either. We had had our time together and I needed to something more sophisticated and dare I say, sedate. Which, in a turn of events that will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, I had already acquired. It was big, it was soft, it was shaped like a jelly on wheels freshly quivering from a session in a wind tunnel. Welcome, the Honda CBR1000 (aka as the dramatic sounding Honda Hurricane)


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