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Thread: Icebreaker Ride After Years

  1. #1
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    Default Icebreaker Ride After Years

    When I first rode a motorbike Elvis was still singing. Seriously.

    For a complicated rea$on my velocipede has been in the garage for a year or six with damage just bad enough to keep it off the road.

    At last I get to send it in. Couple of weeks pass and back it comes, ready to ride.

    “Nice little bike”, grins the dealer. You can see he’s been having fun with it. Twelve hundred and fifty cubes of Suzuki Bandit is “a nice little bike”.

    I dig my kit out again. Exciting moment. If I hold my breath I can still get the zips on my leathers closed. (Know how it shrinks when it’s been stored for a couple of years? )

    Swing a leg over the saddle. Turn the key. The instruments blink as a whirr emits from the fuel injection system somewhere underneath me. Thumb the button and in Japanese-perfect fashion the engine barks into life.

    I’m about to take my first ride in years.

    My new wife looks on as my sort-of-new bike rolls along the driveway. Clutch in, gear lever down for first and with she engages with a clunk (the gearbox, not the new wife).

    And off we go, the Bandit and me.

    The Bandit is a detuned GSX-R. A typical Four feels quite mild until about 6 000 RPM, then comes on with a rush. Not the Bandit. It doesn’t have a rush. Instead it churns out gobs and gobs of torque from just about idle. Like an Escort with a 3 litre V6 shoehorned into the hole under the bonnet, if you’re old enough to know about them.

    Johannesburg. No soul, no curves, no scenery. Right?

    Um…

    Head south on the R59, turn off on the R557 towards Suikerbosrand and you’ll find yourself riding on country roads against a mountain backdrop. You can get quite lost here if you want to. These country roads will eventually lead you to the Vaal Dam if you let them, or you can just cruise through mile after mile of summer green or winter khaki drab landscape. If you’re in a daring mood you yourself can get quite mischievous.

    The miles rush by and invite misbehaviour. A little horned fella on my shoulder starts whispering in my ear. I whip it through the gears and give it the berries. The wind pulls at the helmet, seeming to make the horizon itself buffet. A glance at that silly digital clock (why didn’t they just stick to needles?) shows numbers I wouldn’t admit to in writing.

    Time does funny things when you’re going fast. It stands still and it compresses at the same time. You sort of feel everything is suspended. And yet before you know it you’re running out of road. Tap off and let the Bandit’s compression combine with the wind on my chest to slow things down, the exhaust pop-pop-popping on the overrun.

    Stop at some place with a funny name for a photo op and send the pics to my mates. In seconds I get a message: meet us at (time, place) tomorrow am.

    Wonder how New Wife is going to take this.

    I get home. New Wife buzzes open the gate for me. She videos me riding into the driveway. Asks me how the ride was. It’s as if she’s more excited about it than I am. Strike while the iron is hot… and get the go ahead with a big hug and a beaming smile. Jackpot!

    So, with a schpritz of chain lube on the still-warm chain (ah, for those old BMW days…) the Bandit gets put away for tomorrow’s big ride. First big ride in years.

    Up I get before the sun does, squeeze into the ATTGAT, and in the early hours of a cold June morning Bandit and I get onto the tarmac.

    Meet my mates at the garage. These boys are the financially-grown-up club; their kit is all new, all top drawer and all pretty damn pricey. Me, I’m a 60-year-old student. 2007 Bandit, ditto vintage kit, though it’s been laid up for years.

    A cup of outrageously priced hot choc, and off we go. It’s the Three Dams run. Hartebeespoort, and then the … erm… that dam over there, and another other one, on a ride ending up in Magaliesburg.

    The roads. Generally, they are narrow and bumpy, and, thankfully, deserted. You know the difference between riding with gentlemen vs. riding with dickheads? When you’re riding with gentlemen you can tell them it’s your warmup ride and, without any chirp, they wait for you at turnoffs. Nobody makes you feel uncomfortable of pressured. That’s when you know you’re in the gentlemen’s club.

    Not that the Bandit is shy. After some time I begin mixing it with the group. Me mate Brian’s done a pretty fair job on the mechanicals, and the Bandit engine has the guts to do the business. Suspension is a bit on the low rent side compared to the BMWs I’m in company with, though. Those boys touch a button on the handlebar and electronic fairies do magic things to make the shocks pliant on the bumpy stuff and firm in the fast, smooth sections.

    Me, I was still experimenting with the Bandit’s manual settings – which are quite limited to begin with – when the Bandit got laid up all those years ago. I’ve got to recruit and train my own little squad of suspension fairies again, right from scratch. First off, I’ve got to determine whether it’s too hard (or more likely, how much too hard it is) at present, then Google articles on all that compression and damping stuff, and then the trial & error part starts. That's the kind of homework assignment no overgrown schoolboy complains about…

    Was everything flawless?

    Um…

    Almost.

    I did say the road was bumpy. At a certain point the instruments, then the mirrors, then the screen begin bouncing up and down more than can be attributed to flexible mountings. I put a gloved hand on the screen, apply a little pressure and surely enough, the whole goddam fairing moves. Visions of a fairing getting swept away by the wind (can you see the irony?) play in my mind. Oddly, the fairing sort of settles and although it does bounce on bumps, on the whole is stays put.

    We stop and have a look. The T shaped bracket on the fairing floats up and down merrily when we shake things around. The bolt that secures the T bracket to the frame has gone MIA. Not major, but it’s rather embarrassing when it happens in front of your mates.

    At last one of them can no longer resist. “Go change this piece of shyte for a BMW!” comes the inevitable good-natured taunt.

    For the moment I haven’t got an answer. I still have first-date fondness for the memory of my Mandarin Yellow 1150 GS. I’m not in a position to get into a brand-loyalty argument.

    But... it’s as if The Man Upstairs has got my back. Read on.

    We go into Magaliesburg Wimpy, a favourite stop for Sunday runs. There’s a massive parking lot out back. It could swallow a hundred bikes and not be crowded.

    Some of the boys congregate around a certain bike. I don’t know what’s going on but – heh, heh – I will soon find out.

    We perch at a table. Five men on a Sunday ride; no money for guessing the subject of the conversation.

    Remember the crowd congregating around a bike in the parking lot?

    Turns out someone can’t get his XR to start.

    To an old goat like me what that should mean is, he doesn’t know the technique for kickstarting his 1980 Honda 500 Single.

    Ahem. That’s not the case.

    An XR these days is… a certain ultra-modern street fighter of Teutonic origin. And the one outside won’t start because of electronic gremlins.

    Some oke is going home on the back of his mate’s bike, or by car when the missus fetches him!

    (Smug Bandit rider face)

    Brekky over, before long the am will become a pm, and it’s time to get rolling.

    Will you be OK, the boys ask?

    Oh sure! I lie about having a whole jar of bolts and one of them is certain to fit. (The message: better a one-bolt problem than a roadside-rescue, workshop-intensive, warranty-claim problem.)

    And off we set for home.

    Cold, stiff, aching neck and shoulders, ears itch from the ear plugs, eyes tearing from the draught leaking in around the visor, sniffing because I can’t wipe that annoying drop of condensation from the end of my nose, knees sore, wrists sore, New Wife welcomes me home … man, it’s great to be back on a bike again!
    Last edited by Mustang; 11-06-2018 at 10:04 PM. Reason: Duplicated text

  2. #2
    N00b
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    Awesome read, thanks for sharing! And what a joy to see a broken BMW... Hehe. Only because I don't have one, that is!

    Sent from my ALE-L02 using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Only in Souff Efrica! Vespa 1's Avatar
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    Welcome and thanks for the write up! Be safe out there!
    Ride with the Eagles in Safety! Not with the Angels by Accident

    In Memory of Blackie Swart! A Man among men, and a true Friend! RIP!

  4. #4
    Hooligan Biker Dre77's Avatar
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    Awesome write up!! You should write a novel! Welcome back to biking!!

  5. #5
    crash test dummy


    AlexJ's Avatar
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    Incredible intro!!
    Glad you came back to our world

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQ...pD5zyLRFApEf0w
    @TB_Banners
    What I say is from me, nobody else, deal with it

  6. #6
    Evil Biker Scum
    hei ew's Avatar
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    welcome and thanks for sharing your story

  7. #7
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    Thanks; more to come.

  8. #8
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    Thank you; Article 2 in the works

  9. #9
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    Thank you; another one on the way

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