Tuesday, 30 November 2010


After a fabulous few years hacking around East Devon  my now crunched MZ 150 lay pathetically in a back street dealership in Ottery St Mary.
I needed wheels and I needed them fast, and fortunately parental insistence on fully comp insurance meant I had enough for a deposit on another bike on the never-never.

All the tiresome fiddling around with two-stroke oil had got a bit dull,  so this time I decided I would buy a four stroke.
Only Honda had made four strokes at the time that I could afford and ride on L-plates. And so I signed my life away on a Honda CB200.
And this was in all probability the dullest motorcycle I ever owned.
It was devoid of character, fragile and handled abysmally.
Where the MZ had been taut, the CB sagged. Suspension was squishy and it lurched into corners.  It had next to no ground clearance, and no get up and go.
Just 5 mph faster than the MZ, despite its extra 50cc, twin carburettors and two cylinders, it did what Hondas do. It burbled along unspectacularly and reliably. I was alright, I suppose, had an electric starter and the switches hadn't been made out of redundant military components, and took me happily on a couple of youthful jaunts to far away pubs, but it didn't imprint on me the way the MZ had.

It was good for one thing and one thing only – passing my test.
This was not quite as arduous a task as it is today. No part ones and part twos and written theory stuff.
Effectively what I had to do was turn up one morning to an Exeter side street.
There I was met by an examiner, who stood by the side of the road, watching as I rode round the block,while he studied  a stopwatch to make sure I didn't speed. I had to ride round the block five times, indicating, looking behind me etc as he looked on.
I had been informed by the kerbside examiner before I wobbled off that at some point he would would wave his clip board front of me to test how good my braking was.
I had been the case that the examiner would step out into the road, but were many tales of flat-capped examiners stepping out in front of the wrong bike and being flattened, so they tended to be a bit wary you had at least twice the required distance to stop in.

Amazingly, I managed to fail first time round, because I used my mirrors to look behind me instead of looking over my shoulder But second go, I passed, ditched the L Plates and never looked back. except to make sure the filth weren't on my tail.

With pass certificate in my hand I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to buy a proper motorcycle, I just needed an excuse. Nobody seemed likely to nick the CB200, And I didn't fancy binning it.
I really fell out with the CB200, though when the front brake stopped working.
I dismantled the cable-operated disc caliper only to find a puddle of rusty water inside and lots of broken springs.

I spent a few quid on parts from a breakers, inexpertly reassembled the brake, and rode it, very carefully, to Fred Hutchings Motorcycles in Exeter.
There amongst the mopeds and old scooters and jap lightweights were two possible replacements.
For £700 I could have a virtually new Suzuki GT250 - 95mph of screaming three year old two-stroke twin with just 700 miles on the clock, which had been bought by an old geezer by mistake - he thought he was getting a sensible replacement for his old BSA 350, rode it, scared himself half to death and shoved it in the shed, according to the dealer, anyway.
But the GT had just been superseded by the X7 - which was 5mph faster, and so much better looking.

Plus there was an image problem. I wanted to fit in with my new chums at the local motor cycle club, (thats MCC not MC) where everyone had very sensible big chunky four strokes. Howling 250s were for kids.

Fred Hutchings had another bike for £700.
It was a chocolate brown Honda CB500T. In the end cubes and respectability won out over blue smoke and exhilaration.  I chopped the 200 in against the 500T. Well, we all make mistakes.

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