I then bought a Raleigh Supermatic moped from a friend for £2. It had been
used as a field bike in a large Nursery. A spare engine was included. This
was basically a re-badged Mobylette with variable belt drive. I tuned the
engine, altered the porting , increased the compression etc. I rode 6,000
miles in a year. In spite of constant ignition problems I only holed one piston.
I could keep up with newer mopeds like Puch Maxi's and Yamaha FS1E's.
Not bad for £2. Sample photo, I did not have a camera in those days.
Ariel Arrow 250. Dad bought the Ariel for £35 and we did it up as my first road
bike. I remember going out on it on my 17th birthday, the sheer exhilaration of
being able to cruise a 60 mph and seeing 80 on the Speedo (with the aid of a
hill). I could buy piston kits from Pride and Clarke for 65p.
The Ariel handled really well but it smoked so badly the plugs always furred up
until I switched to Filtrate pre-mix oil. Those were the days! I was knocked off
the bike which wrote it off.
BSA Bantam D7 175. This was my first bike, I paid £15 when I was aged 15.
Mine had an orange racing tank, racing seat, black expansion chamber and
ace bars. I remember stripping it down and upgrading the gears from 3
speed to 4 speed. I also converted the head from 18mm spark plug to 14
mm. Before my 16th birthday the law changed and I could not ride anything
bigger than a 50cc moped until I was 17. I sold the Bantam to a friend. It ran
well but it was very noisy. I still remember the legendary Bantam overrun
pop,pop,pop, bang, bang, ting ting, ting, ting, bang, pop pop pop.............
Sample photo (Nothing like mine I did not own a camera in those days).
After the Ariel was written off I bought a Honda C95 150 twin completely
stripped for £5. Until I rebuilt the bike I did not even know what it looked like, or
how to build a 4 stroke engine. I also had my first go at paint spraying. The
Honda was engineered so much better than my Bantam or Ariel. I was still at
school so I kept the C95 for 2 years and I rode it to the TT in 1972. It ran like a
dream. I remember it being 10 mph faster in a cool evening compared to a
hot afternoon. Everyone else at school had tuned Scooters and my Honda
was so much quicker. The Japanese tyres were completely hopeless in the
wet and to this day I still don't trust Bridgestone's. I bought all my spares from
Frettons of Kingston-on-Thames who were a superb Honda main dealer.
Yamaha YR5 350 The YR5 was supposed to be a really quick bike, it was the
first of the reed valve 2 strokes before the RD series replaced it. My YR5
never ran consistently well. Occasionally it would really fly but mostly it
misfired over 5,000 revs. I stripped the engine completely and replaced
absolutely everything mechanical and electrical except the centre crankshaft
The YR5 convinced me that Yamaha's are poorly built, inferior quality and I've
been never had reason to change my mind. So very disappointing.
Dresda 500 Triton. (500 cc twin carb pre-unit Triumph engine in a Norton
Featherbed frame, built by Dresda). After passing my motorcycle test I bought
my first big bike and I loved it. This Triton was genuinely quick for a 500 and it
looked great. The wide frame/seat and long racing tank made the bars a
stretch and I was on tip toe when I came to a halt.
I remember reading loads of articles about re-balancing the crank to reduce
vibration in an a Norton frame. I stripped the engine, took the crank into
Dresda. They took one look at it and said it could not be done as I had a bolt
up crank. I was so annoyed with myself having wasted all that time stripping
650 Triton I bought the Triton from a friend of dads for £165. It had a wideline frame, pre-unit engine with
magneto ignition, centre plug head, 32mm Amal Concentric carbs, E3134 cams. The original condition was
poor. I bought a new polished alloy tank, centre oil tank, new exhausts and re-upholstered the seat. I stripped
and painted the frame, had the crank balanced and blue printed the engine. I even re-wound the alternator to
convert it to 12v. I must have spent weeks polishing everything and the finished bike was beautiful, it drew a
crowd everywhere I parked it. On every long ride something always vibrated lose or fell off. Once riding back
from a Transatlantic Trophy race meeting at Brands Hatch the bottom of the battery fell out I only knew because
my leg started hurting from acid burns, ruined my jeans. The brakes were hopeless. My best mate bought a new
RD 350 and the poor old Triton could never keep up with it. Like many British bikes it was gorgeous to look at
and sounded great but it was poorly engineered and totally unreliable. It would probably be worth more than a
new Triumph Tiger now!
Honda C90 Cub I worked for British Airways at Heathrow and I had no car. The Triton was not safe to park at
Heathrow so I bought an old Honda C90 and fitted a screen and top box. What a superb bike. Started first time
every time and I usually averaged 115 mpg. I could cruise at 55-60 mph. No wonder this design is the most
popular bike in the world, it is so practical. A real honest, wholesome bike that becomes your best friend.
When I retire I would be perfectly happy buying one of these and tour Europe all summer. The C90 lasted me for
years & years, eventually the bottom of the frame rusted out.
Kawasaki KH250 triple This Kawasaki came with a skull painted on the tank. When I resprayed it I found
lots of filler underneath! The Kawasaki ran well but it always jumped out of first gear. Boy it was quick. It
really flew up to the red line. This bike would easily top 100 mph. Not much torque and not really sited to
daily transport. It must have been tuned by a previous owner.
The guy who bought it was not really interested until he went for a test ride. When he returned he agreed
that the engine was special so he gave me the cash and rode off happy.
Suzuki GT500 Possibly my favourite bike from the old days. I bought the GT500 with 600 miles on the clock for
around £695 so it was my first expensive bike. It was red and gold. I fitted crash bars, rack and painted the
top box to match the rest of the bike. I used it for work commuting 60 miles a day for 3 years. In those days,
except for the Honda C90, you had to work on a bike every weekend. I greased the chain, cleaned the contacts
and reset the timing, after 600 miles the plugs refused to go past 4,000 revs unless I removed and cleaned
them. No spark plug worked beyond 1200 miles..
I fitted Boyer Bransden capacitor discharge ignition which improved maintenance and I used resistors to run
all the rear bulbs at 11v to help them last at least a month. I rode 28,000 miles on the GT500 and the bike was
still immaculate when I sold it. In the 70's and 80's Suzuki's were, in my opinion, much better finished than
Honda or Yamaha. Kawasaki also had a high standard of finish.
Honda CB360 Due to a lack of cash and a baby I turned to buying and selling bikes to make money. I bought
this CB360 as my first bike to sell. A very pretty bike, typical Honda, well engineered, superficially attractive but
look close and everywhere you will find flaking paint and rust coming through from the inside. The engine was
insipid and it has all the character of a Datson Cherry (Nissan).
I fitted aftermarket exhausts as the originals were rusted through. Until the late 1990's bikes never ran properly
with replacement systems exhaust until ECU's and Electronic Fuel injection came along.
I sold the bike having used it for weeks. When the guy came to collect it the Honda started and the throttle
cable snapped. Dooh!!
Suzuki GT380 What a lovely bike. The 3 cylinder 2 stroke engine was so smooth. A six speed box, decent
front disk brake, gear change indicator. The paint and overall finish were typical high quality Suzuki.
These GT380's were very special in their day. My dad bought a GT550 at the same time which was heavier
but seemed to have twice the power and made twice as much smoke, which is a lot of smoke! Possibly the
smoothest engine I have ever owned.
Honda 750KZ. Now were talking. This 750KZ was an ex finance company repossession, better than new
with a few hundred miles on the clock. In it's day absolutely stunningly beautiful. Twin disks, comstar
wheels, 4 carbs, 4 silencers, Fantastic. A very heavy bike. Quick engine with slow ponderous handling. I
felt like king of the road while riding it because it was so new and so flash. Like all Honda's the finish
would only have lasted a few days on salt roads in the winter.
A great bike and I wish I'd had the money to keep it.
Honda CB250N Back to reality. The Honda CB250N Superdream. Nick named the Wetdream in the UK.
Typical Honda, started first time, always ticked over reliably. The CB250 struggled to 85 mph and came
with a rusting, flaky paint finish. A good ride to work bike but very forgettable. At at least I made a profit out
Suzuki GT250A In the 1980's every new 250 was hailed as a genuine 100 mph bike unlike it's predecessors
which the year before had been hailed as a genuine 100 mph bike etc. With a tail wind I think 85 to 90 was
possible. This little Suzuki was quite tidy, it started and ran OK but was never a ton up bike..
Kawasaki Z750 twin Another great bike. I bought it for £175. I replaced the exhaust, fixed a starter problem
and replaced a missing side panel. I made £300 profit in 3 weeks. I used this to buy our first Betamax Video
player! The UK road testers never liked this bike yet I thought it was brilliant. It would pull top gear from 30
mph up to 110 plus. The brakes were good and the handling was fine if a bit slow. The Z750 was a
commuter / tourer not a sports bike. The engine had a balancer shaft and this made it smooth for a big twin.
I thought the Kawasaki paint and finish was even better than my beloved Suzuki's. A very under rated bike in
my opinion. It should have become a true classic in it's time. The trouble was after Kawasaki made the
KH750 2 stroke triple everything that followed was seen as being too tame, until the Z1 900 arrived.
Some of the other bikes I have owned - Page 1 of 3
I've owned over 60 bikes and I have ridden many others. The reason I got into bikes
was because of my father. Dad was always into bikes, home mechanics and home
tuning. Dad owned everything British from a Rudge Ulster 250 to a Norvin (1000cc
Vincent Black shadow in a Norton featherbed frame) as used by Ogri in the Bike
magazine cartoons. In later life Dad also owned many Japanese bikes. Every bike he
owned was stripped, tuned and fitted with clip-ons, rear-sets and occasionally a
fairing. I guess all my life I have been following his example.
To right is me on Dads Norton Dominator circa 1961 in Nairobi.
Yet another GT250 Suzuki which was hailed as a true 100mph machine to succeed it's predecessor
which the year before had been hailed as a genuine 100 mph bike. Like all the others it was flat out at
85 unless you had a 2 mile runway and your feet on the rear indicators, then maybe 95 but never 100,
such a shame. This was a light, nibble bike with good handling and a sweet gearbox but no power. I
often wonder how much the road testers were bribed to over hype 250's, or maybe they only got to ride
factory tuned bikes.
The X7 was quite pretty. My first bike with cast alloy wheels.
Suzuki GS750 This a bike that I had always wanted to own. You know what I mean when I say that
you've read all the road tests a thousand times but the reality of riding it can never quite match the
My GS750 did not seem to handle as well as it should. It would weave at speed and the whole thing
never felt planted. It always felt like heavy bike when riding it. I think that is a Marshall exhaust in the
picture. It was a good bike but it never had the performance, handling or sparkle I had been led to
believe. Dare I say I found that I preferred the CB750F2
Honda CX500 Ah the Plastic Maggot as they were called in the UK. What a surprisingly good bike. Ugly
but thoroughly charming and desirable at the same time (Not unlike the Tiger 955i). The V twin engine
would cruise anywhere from 30 to 100 mph. It had good torque and was such a pleasure to ride and own.
The CX500 had so much character in a world of Honda blandness. Like most Honda's in the 1970s the
CX500 had known issues in particular a faulty cam chain tensioner and a dodgy oil pump.
A great bike to own and ride.
Honda CB750F2 I test rode a new F1 when they came out and I always wanted to own a CB750. This is
an F2 with twin discs and comstar wheels. It came with two known faults, cam followers with faulty heat
treatment causing them to wear badly and a weeping head gasket so I had to do a top end rebuild.
The CB750F2 was a good bike, it was surprisingly fast and it handled well. The bike looked good on the
exhaust side but it was a rather ungainly from the left.
I remember being at my parents when my wife phoned to say someone had turned up to view it. I flew the
20 miles home in 15 minutes crusing at up to 120 mph on the way. The bike sat on my drive ticking over
perfectly and the guy's mate (You know, the one who knows all about mechanics!) said it had a bent
layshaft. What a plonker. Anyway the first sensible buyer paid cash and rode off with a great bike.
Yamaha XS750 triple Such a surprisingly good bike. It had an earthy quality and felt so much like a
Triumph twin to ride. I commuted 100 miles a day for a few weeks on this bike. On the down side the
brake calipers kept sticking and it was so heavy.
Once again Yamaha failed to supply a decent finish. The black paint just fell off the frame and every
poorly welded joint had rust showing. The black engine only looked good when wet. The XS750 was
definitely more tourer than sports bike.
Overall a good bike, this one had none of the usual XS750 niggles.
Honda CB400N The 400 Super Dream was much hyped by the press. It was a very sensible twin
that replaced the CB400F 4 cylinder bike, supposed to reach 105 mph and outclass the older bike.
You must be joking! I assume the road testers had never ridden a 400F. The Super Dream's
handling was good and I suppose it did everything well that my 650 Triton did badly. A shade too
heavy for a 400 and not that quick.
I enjoyed riding the Super Dream but it was no where near as good as the CX500.
Honda CB550K I had always wanted o own a 500 Honda four. The CB550K was a very pretty bike.
It felt light and handled well. The engine was super smooth, willing to rev and felt typically Honda. I
thought the finish much improved on my previous Honda bikes.
The guy who bought it turned up an a Gold Wing. He went for a test ride and was gone ages. It
transpired that he had turned the fuel tap off thinking it needed to go on reserve. He came back the
next day with the cash and his girlfriend on the back. It transpired that the CB550 was intended for
her to ride, what a lucky fella. I hope she enjoyed owning the bike.
Honda CB200 When I was 17 my best mate had a CB175 and this was it's successor. After the
frame on my C90 rusted through I thought it would be good for my 6 mile trip to work. Somehow
Honda added 25cc to the CB175 and managed to reduce the power at the same time. The cable
operated front disk was hopeless. Honda were usually able to make such good, sensible bikes and
it is a shame that R&D occasionally managed to cock up the face lifted version.
The CB200 was small and light it needed a bit more mojo to match it's predecessor.
Honda CX500 I took voluntary severance from British Airways and had to earn money as a
motorcycle courier for a few months. "Delta One Zero" was my call sign. The CX500 seemed like
the perfect tool. I remember sitting at some traffic lights in North London when the engine started to
make noises. By the time I pulled away the big ends had gone. Oil pump failure was one of many
issues with the CX. Over the years I have been lucky, I have owned so many bikes and this Honda
CX500 is the only one to fail mechanically apart from the holed pistons in my moped and jumped
push-rods on my 650 Triton. Oh and the dropped valves in my Guzzi Monza. (Maybe I wasn't so
Suzuki GS425 As a Dispatch rider I needed wheels to earn money so I quickly sold the broken
CX500 and bought the GS425 to continue earning money. The GS425 was a very sensible bike.
The Suzuki was good to own and ride, it needed a bit more Ooomph but as a day to day transport
round London I liked it.
Some other riders had the new YVPS350 LC Yamaha's. I watched in amazement as they
performed stoppies and wheelies. I had no chance on this low powered heavyweight -
middleweight of a bike. But it ran reliably which enabled me to earn a living.
Yamaha XS750 triple in silver with a 3 into 1 exhaust system. The finish on this bike was very
poor, probably the worst quality finish of any bike I've ever owned, still it was a Yamaha and so I
should have expected the worst. When I washed it paint just came off in the sponge. The bike ran
OK but it never ran well as the carburation was completely upset by the aftermarket exhaust
system. I fitted a Ledar jet kit but I could never get a main jet big enough so I bought some model
engineering drills and experimented by drilling out spare jets. Eventually I was able to get the
engine to perform reasonably well.
As with my previous XS750 the engine in this bike had a lovely Triumph like earthy quality.
Suzuki DR400 I was so keen to try an off road 4 stroke. I had spent a few weeks riding an XL185
belonging to a pilot friend of Dads. The DR400 was a good bike, really fun to own and ride. It ran
well but I never had a bulb last more than a week because of the vibration. I tried so hard to wheelie
the thing but it felt like someone had fitted a slab of concrete over the front axle.
Many years later I got into Enduro bikes and Moto Cross. Possibly because I enjoyed riding this DR
Honda ST50 Dax In 1992 I saw this bike lying in a hedge at a breakers yard. I paid £2.76p for it
(All the cash I had on me). 22 years later I still own the Dax. Lovingly hand painted in hammerite it
continues to run like a dream. Both my sons learned to ride it and I have often lifted it into the back
of the car on days out at Racing Circuits. I have changed the oil a couple of times and maybe
replaced the spark plug once. My sons absolutely abused it when they were teenagers.
I can leave the little Dax all year and start it 3rd kick. It would make old Mr Honda very proud. Every
kid should have one. This picture was taken at Snetterton, my son (sitting in front on me) is now
Suzuki GSX750ESD (My first new road bike) I finally landed a good job and treated myself to my
first new bike. It was either this or a Z1000 Eddie Lawson replica. I remember when I went to
collect my Suzuki the rain was pouring down and I sat outside Motorcycle City in Farnborough for 4
hours waiting for the roads to dry. The GSX had a new, light, modern, 4 valve, oil cooled DOHC
engine, modern Michelin tyres with a 16 in front wheel, anti dive brakes, rising rate monoshock
suspension and a nice fairing. This bike was a quantum leap in design over anything I had owned
previously. I could take bends I used to find fast at 60 mph at 80 on the GSX with plenty in hand.
I absolutely loved my GXS750 but after a couple of years it had to go due to a second baby
To make some money I bought an old Yamaha Scooter. I think it was 125cc 2 stroke and all the
bodywork was purple plastic. It was seized absolutely solid and rusting like only a Yamaha can. I
managed to get it going and made a few pounds. It wasn't even worth a photo.
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