My first steps on the slippery slope of motorbiking were in the summer of 1993, when I trained with the now-defunct Phoenix rider training school near Heathrow Airport. I bought a friend's old (1982) Honda CG125. and used it to pass my (second) test later in the year. Only now can I bear to tell people what happened on my first attempt at the test. Ever keen to finely hone my observation, balance (I hated those 180° turns in the road), and general riding skills, I practiced long and hard the day before the test. What I didn't think about was, practicing long and hard means using lots of petrol. Yes, you've guessed it, I ran out of fuel 10 minutes into the test. Even worse, my lack of experience meant I'd had the tap on reserve since I'd bought the bike, so I had a completely dry tank. Needless to say, being stuck in the middle of Weybridge on a boiling hot summer's day after piddling away the cost of a driving test was not the best moment of my life!
|Anyway, on what was supposed to be a Sunday ride in January 1994, this happened to the bike... thanks, of course, to a car driver. I was unhurt but none too pleased. The copper who took down my side of the story commiserated, saying 'at least it wasn't a brand new ZZR1100', and arranged transport for myself and my bike back home in a police van. The insurance company wrote the bike off, but I was determined to get it back on the road...|
|So, after I managed to get hold of a garage, September and October 1994 saw me stripping the bike down and rebuilding it back to its former glory. The photo on the right was taken after I'd spent about two weeks just removing the old bent forks, and around the time I discovered the yokes needed straightening too. Bugger.|
|Here's the finished product, the result of a great deal of time and effort, but only around £120, as I mainly used second-hand parts, and nearly all of the labour was my own. The most expensive bit was paying for an engineer to straighten out the front end, and I was very lucky to find a front wheel and forks in a local breakers yard. Although it didn't seem like it at some points, I really enjoyed the rebuild process, and was very proud of myself when the bike passed its MOT first time. I sold the bike to another friend, who later passed his test on it. If anyone knows the current whereabouts of DGC213X, email me!|
|Meanwhile, I bought a 1992 Kawasaki GPz305, and this was my main ride for the next 4 years. The only modification I made to it after taking this photo was to fit a dark tinted windcreen. Despite all the bad things I subsequently heard about 305s, I never had any problems with it. And I never dropped it once.|
|In August 1998, I traded in the Kwak and bought my latest bike, a Honda CBR600FW, from Blays of Twickenham. This was the first time I'd ever bought a brand new vehicle, and certainly the first time I'd ever bought anything capable of 160+ m.p.h... At the time of writing, I've only dropped it once, doing about 2mph lining it up to go in the garage. Don't ask. The only damage was some scratches on the side fairing, and a painful back (I sprained a muscle trying to pick it back up). I fitted a dark screen, and not much else. I sold the bike in summer 2008, as other priorities meant I hadn't ridden it in over a year! Whatever you ride, keep it shiny side up, people.|
Photos scanned by Karl Heywood
© Andy Holten 2001