25 June 2005

My New Black Rocket


I started riding motorcycles in 1979. I rode three hundred and sixty five days a year, rain or shine. My fingers turned yellow with poor circulation. Everywhere I went I arrived cold, wet and asking for somewhere to hang my leathers. We did the weekly shop by bike and rode the bus when we took the kids out. Finally in 1987 I succumbed to the inevitable pull of four wheels and a roof. I sold my last bike, a Yamaha XS750 and bought a Ford Cortina.

Eighteen years later I am hopping nervously from one foot to the other in a Yamaha Dealership. The guy says I can test ride the FZ6 just by showing him my licence! Thank fuck I passed my test in’79. Nowadays it’s all Compulsory Basic Training, Practice and Theory and wiggling between traffic cones. Even if you pass they make you ride a miniature sewing machine for two years!

Slinging my leg over the seat I start to feel apprehensive, Eighteen years off a bike is a long time. These things go like rocket-ships now don’t they? What if I’ve lost my nerve? The guy thumbs the starter for me and the four-stroke burbles.

“It’s running in, keep it below 5,000rpm.” He advises. “See you in an hour!

I peer at the dial, hell this baby sings all the way to 14,000rpm!

With just a touch too much throttle and a precautionary glance over my shoulder I pull out onto the highway. For ten minutes I snake through a deserted industrial estate, familiarising myself with balance, weight and power at low speeds. This is all coming back to me...

Now I take to the main roads again. Two gear changes and its pulling seventy mph. I ease off for a roundabout and take it like a chicane, flick left, right then left and accelerate hard. I feel the old familiar buffeting of the wind and tears streak from the corners of my eyes. God this is fun!

Back to residential streets and I zip around the houses feeling the brakes and suspension working. After half an hour my gear changes are quite smooth and I’m at home again. Yep, I’m sold. This one’s for me.


That was two weeks ago. Right now a spanking new example sits in my garage. Nice new leathers, crash helmet and gloves too.

For the technical this is a 600cc four-cylinder fuel-injected, four stroke. Liquid cooling makes it nice and quiet and its fat 180mm rear tyre sticks to the road like glue. 98bhp and six gears haul it from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds. Disc brakes all round stop it from 130mph on a sixpence (dime.)

I’m gonna be a fair weather weekend rider. Sure I’ll slide a knee on the road for fast, tight corners that’s what you do! But I know I’m mortal and I have no plans to bring forward my departure date! I intend to have some fast(-ish) safe fun. Twenty years ago I had a huge ‘off’ which put me in hospital so I know the limits.


This is an old interest rekindled, a link to some good memories and happy times. I believe this is a good move for me. I have music and now I have a bike. Life is getting richer and fuller. Not a cheap investment at all but add up what a drinker spends. In a future post I’ll explain how I saved a small fortune in the last eleven years by quitting booze.

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