Honda CD175 - my first bike!
175cc 180deg. twin.
It was a really dull plastic grey thing with valanced mudguards and looked like an ant, which I'd painted with horrendous lime green metalflake goo (I worked in a fibreglass shop. And the front of the shop was made with fibreglass). It buzzed in a slothful sort of way. I did some serious sliding around in the wet including one memorable aquaplane clear across a junction in the middle of the West End of London. It all went horribly quiet as I swooshed over the white line and on down the road. Curiously, it never occurred to me to change the tyres (original plastic Bridgestones). I ended up wedging it under the front wheel of a big Jag on the North Circular Road one night. It was drifting into the road while reading an A-Z (the Jag was an automatic) and I was heading towards him thinking "No, no, he'll stop, this won't happen...." right up until the point when it did. I went skating down the opposite side of the road on my knees at 40mph. My jeans didn't even rip, but my knees got burned! And the forks got rather bent. He ascertained I was OK at least, and kept saying "He'll be furious" (?? I bet it was his dad's, and he had some woman with him he was obviously trying to impress) and pissed off quick, the bastard. Looked like a very expensive dent though :-) I seem to remember riding it to Cheltenham the next day, though, and nearly freezing to death.
BSA Fleetstar 1 2
My first proper bike ie not Japcrap as it was "affectionately" known at the time. Fleetstars were police bikes, mine came from the Gloucestershire Constabulary via Bill Bunn in South Ealing. He had 2, mine was £40 cheaper (the other was sold) and the bearings went after 3 weeks. They cost £40 to replace. After that the bike was an absolute gem. I went all over the country on it and it never let me down once in any weather, and barely leaked any oil at all. Really. The chaincase was a pain and the rocker cover weeped a tiny bit - nothing that the orange rubber stuff couldn't fix (what's it called?).
I stripped the paint off the tank and found chrome! The steel mudguards went and the rod had a good polish, but apart from that it was standard. 8.5:1 and happy with it!
The silly bars were a late addition; don't know why I bothered really, but I found sitting up nice as I was employed as a courier by Binatone for a year or so and rode it around doing that for a while - Brentford to the Customs House and the bank in Wardour Street mostly.
My best friend John Gosler bent the forks riding it up a kerb, competely out of control at about 10mph. He told me afterwards (he'd been thinking of taking up courier work) that he couldn't actually ride a bicycle. Nice one John ;-) Incidentally, we're still friends!
I eventually swapped it for the Royal Enfield (see below) at Jack Demmar's shop in West Ealing, but not before I had bought the Ducati.
(Despatched on this for years, as well as riding it all over the country) - my first really good proper fast bike that handled. More to come with photos; bit busy at work!
Royal Enfield Meteor Minor. 1
500cc parallel twin.
I persuaded Jack Demmar to give me this bike in a straight swap for my Fleetstar, which he had a buyer for. Around that time he had a Vincent 500 single CHOPPER (can you believe it?) - very garish, and I wanted it. It sat on a shelf dripping tar for about 3 months, then it disappeared, and the Enfield popped up. I just loved the way it looked - very similar to the first big bike I ever rode, which was a Norton Featherbed (500 or 600 twin?). The similarity stopped there however. This had a manual advance-retard and magneto ignition, nil ground clearance and awful handling. Good brakes though - twin drum at the front, just like the later MkIII Ducatis. I had a huge amount of help from a real enthusiast named Dave who would do almost anything, including sawing the barrels free when the ali heads peened over onto the (hard steel) head studs. It also had terrible exhausts. I got a 2-1 from a shop in Chiswick for £10, which was a bargain at the time. This didn't help the ground clearance much though.
And the clutch! Don't get me started!
Norton Commando 1
750cc parallel twin.
I despatched on this at Delta for about 6 weeks, but it was definitely the wrong bike for the job.
This was a nice bike; lots of character, noise, presence, looked great, dead comfy and would rumble along all day at any speed. It had some mechanical problems though, being a bit fragile around the cylinder head area. The inlet valve guide holes were slightly oval causing the bottom of the guides to snap off and fall down around the valve stem. Ths resulted in 20 miles to the pint of oil and some great James Bond smokescreen effects. Another problem with the Commandos was that the pushrods tended to scrape ali off the inside of the head which could make a bit of a mess of the cams, which sit underneath (though this didn't happen to mine).
Also the Isolastic suspension was a pain. This system in effect rubber-mounted the swingarm (!) so when the shimming was tight enough to control the handling the vibration was outrageous (10.5:1(I think) 750cc parallel twin!), conversely when loose enough to absorb the vibration the handling was all over the place!
And the clutch - wow! It was a diaphragm spring type, like some cars - and it would have been much easier to operate with a foot pedal. I had to use my entire arm for leverage to get the thing open. There was a sort of "hump" in the spring so it was easy to hold the clutch open but getting it there was a job for Arnie. Not surprisingly it used to eat clutch cables for breakfast until I started using the heaviest duty ones I could find, with an outer as thick as your finger.
My favourite memory of the Norton is of using the headlight to charge up a glow in the dark frisbee for a midnight game along the road outside my friends' cottage in Owlpen at midnight, on the night of some spectacular meteor showers. And of blasting up one of the hills behind a Lamborghini on the way there earlier in the day.
Triumph TR6 Saint
650cc parallel twin.
I got this for £400 from a friend who lived nearby who was returning to Australia. I always fancied it so when it came up for sale I grabbed it. It was a great bike which never let me down. Sadly, it got stolen one dark night in Ealing. The police found it and chased the rider off, then just left it by the side of the road. So before they bothered to contact me and tell me where it was, the thief came back and rode it away again. Doh! I think I saw it being ridden around Ealing one night while I was on the Triumph but I'll never be sure about that.
Kawasaki 750 Twin
This bike's engine was a state; I had it rebuilt at Hamrax, and it siezed within 5 seconds of being started for the first time. I attempted to rebuild it round at Rob & Caroline's place in Bristow Road, Crystal Palace , a road consisting of squats populated with the likes of Anthony Ainslie and Miles McCullam - there were more racing bikes per square yard down that street than the paddock at Brand's (well, nearly...). When I brought the engine home (at 3am, naturally) I lost my footing on the steps leading up to my front door. I nearly managed to pull my hands out from under the crankcase as the thing hit the deck, but left the tip of my right ring finger behind. My hand went instantly numb and I knew I'd done something bad. But not as bad as buying the stupid thing in the first place.
Honda CB200 (yuk)
200cc 180deg. twin.
This nasty little item was a swapsie for the bike that took the end of my finger off - the Kawasaki 750 twin. It was OK I suppose, in that it actually worked. I rode it around for a while as cheapo emergency transport but eventually gave it away when the swinging arm snapped (yes, snapped). The pivot pin siezed in the arm and the only suspension movement, it transpired, was that afforded by the arms flexing up and down. Surprising it lasted as long as it did, really.
500cc single.(Despatch bike)
Not nearly as good as the XT; nil ground clearance, dog slow. I tried a "performance" cam which merely bent the exhaust valve at anything over 5,000rpm. I tried a new set of bearings in the head. I tried a beefed-up bottom end. Finally - success! - I tried selling it.
800cc boxer.(Despatch bike)
600cc single.(rubbish - despatch bike)
Honda 250 Custom
250cc 180deg. twin.(Despatch bike)
Yamaha DT 175
175cc two-stroke single.(Ex farm bike)
In no particular order...
(Doubled as a despatch bike for a year) owned by Ingrid Herscher and myself.
BSA Bantam 175
175cc two-stroke single.
BSA Starfire 1
seen here having a seriously low-level polish by its owner, Ingrid Herscher.
Laverda Alpino S
500cc 180deg.(?) twin
Owned by Ingrid Herscher.
Ducati MkIII 1
Early model with twin filler-cap tank - very pretty! Owned by Ingrid Herscher.
(horrible - used it as a despatch bike for about 1 week) owned by Caroline Williams.
Ducati 750GT 750cc 90deg. twin.(owned by Steve Hudson).
Triumph Daytona 500cc parallel twin.(?)
(Doubled as a despatch bike for 6 months) ...Steve Hudson again.
MZ250 250cc single.
(shudder - actually it wasn't that bad as a despatch bike)
BSA C15 250cc single. 1
owned by Des McDowell, seen here outside the Red Lion in South Ealing (Stage 6), with a very keen young girl on top. (Don't get too excited :-)