Thursday, 16 December 2010

A series of unusual events

After the death of the Honda, a mate lent me a Suzuki TS250 trail bike to get about on and visit the posh bird, which was huge fun. As was the Suzuki.
It looked cool as hell, too, or would have done except the owner had decided to stick enormous peace dove stickers on the petrol tank which rather ruined its hard as nails image

more on a lovely TS250 here

There was a bit of an issue with the exhaust pipe as well.
One can almost imagine the design discussions in Japan when they put this baby together.
"What shall we build Michio-san?"
"Let us build a trail bike, with a powerful engine of our own construction. Let it be rorty and rapid with a comfortable seat and a cool looking petrol tank, and good ground clearance, and a silencer with a funky chrome heat shield as well."
"What shall we make it out of, Michio-san?"
"Let us use the best quality steel and aluminium. Except for the exhaust pipe. For that we shall use the scrap metal we've got left over from those Zero fighters rusting in the scrapyard. Bash it as thin as you can. Then bend it in a ridiculous curve, and stick it right at the front behind the front wheel, where it'll catch all the crud from the road. Don't bother to rust proof it either."
The somewhat perforated nature of the exhaust meant the bike was a bit conspicuous. I tried to fix it with buckets of gun gum, jubilee clips and baked bean tins, to no avail.

After a while the owner took it back – so he could posh it up, and sell it to buy baby clothes, which was a depressingly common event among my chums, and I bought a Kawasaki Z400 twin from another mate for £80.

This was pretty much worn out and very sloppy – the handling was best described as approximate and it didn’t so much accelerate as inexorably gather momentum.

The brakes didn’t.
A curious bike, the Z400 twin. There's Kawasaki making balls-out mental double overhead camshaft fours and insane two stroke triples and they also manage to come up with this rather pedestrian overweight single cam twin. 

The Z400 would not have had much impact on me but for an incident one summer afternoon.

I had been out on the bike and parked it up outside my local, just a quater-mile from home. After a mildly boozy lunch involving the quaffing of three or four pints – on a weekday too, those were the days – I was intending to leave the bike and stagger home on foot – but for some reason I decided not to and got on the bike – stuffing my gloves inside my jacket as it was high summer, and jamming my helmet on without fastening it.

Five yards from my house, travelling at 10mph, I wobbled, hit a patch of gravel and the Z400 spat me off. My hands were ripped open as I hit the deck, and my jeans torn open at the knees.

I was covered in blood and went to hospital where the somewhat unsympathetic nurses plucked gravel from my wounds with tweezers, told me to stop whimpering and patched me up. I still have the scars on my left hand and left knee.

It was August 1984 – the last time I used a motor vehicle with any measurable quantity of booze in my system.

In September a series of curious events drew me into a strange bit of business  involving several members of a religious cult who declared that they wanted to kill me.
They were upset that I had loudly and drunkenly told a crowded pub one night that their preffered conversion technique of filling their targets with LSD laced herbal tea and telling them about the mysteries of the universe wasn't exactly kosher, and that I felt you couldn't buy enlightenment for £2.50 a tab. This angered their guru.

Threats of violence towards me were made. My flat was invaded by menacing figures at strange times of the day and night. A fire was started in the hallway.
And so I stiffened my upper lip,  summoned up all my courage, and I bravely ran away.

Stopping off only briefly to tell the posh bird that her parents were entirely right, and she'd be better off without me (which didn't go down too well), I rode off on the Z400 and hid myself away working in a Dutch tulip bulb packing plant  for five weeks, before returning home in the dead of night, gathering up my meagre possessions and heading for a bolt hole in North Devon owned by a platonic lady friend.

The Z400 was pressed into service as I hacked backwards and forwards to Exeter during a pretty nippy winter once a fortnight to sign on, and I learned the virtues of a hard days graft chopping wood for the AGA and the benefits of a four mile walk to the pub.
This is my actual Z400 and is the oldest photograph I have of one of my vehicles. Note the blown fork seals, rusty-o-matic exhaust and broken headlight glass from where I'd dropped it outside the flat.

After a few months of this pretty bucolic existence my welcome was exhausted so I decided it was time for a new start.
I loaded the Z400 again and headed for Bristol.
The Zed's sloppiness had been fairly easy to cope with on Devon country lanes, where the worst things one might come across were a tractor or an unexpected cow. In the big city, a sluggish, lurching, heavy beast with approximate braking and a dodgy ignition system was something of a deathtrap.
A burgeoning career in the music promotions business was beckoning, so I flogged the Z400 to a secondhand shop for £80 and spent the money on venue hire, gig posters and wallpaper paste.

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