2012-09-10 11:18:14+0000

Let me get something out in the open: I am a bike snob and I've always been drawn to bigger bikes.

My first ever ride at about age nine was on what (I think) was a Honda CB750. It was my friend's dad's bike and in truth, I was probably only friends with him because I was drawn to the machine. I remember whenever I went over the play at his house, most of our games consisted of me sitting on it - "Let's play Cowboys and this can be my horse" and "You be Superman and I'll be Lex Luthor trying to outrun you on a motorcycle" were just two of the phrases I can remember saying to this day.

It clearly didn't go unnoticed and one day he offered to take me out pillion. I think I said yes even before he finished asking. I pretended to run home and ask my mom, who almost certainly would have said no had I actually asked her and parental approval "received" he gave me a helmet designed for the elephant man to wear. While I certainly had no idea what was going on, it was exhilarating. We probably only went about 30mph, but it was still scary to that eight year old boy, but the memory of flying down country lanes has stuck with me. He crashed it a few weeks later and so ended my only chance to experience motorcycles in my youth.

That was the only bike around where I lived and I didn't encounter another until the "hair dryer" (as my father called it) that my sister's boyfriend rode. He was a nutcase and I, too, fell into the "he's a boy on a death machine" mantra as he rode everywhere in what sounded like first gear. I think he crashed it at least three times before they split up.

Fast forward to my early twenties and my interest in bikes is rekindled. It happened due to a colleague buying one of the first Honda Fireblades in England. As with my childhood friends father, he offered to take me out. This time, he was in pink and highlighter yellow leathers (it was the 80's) but at least his wife's helmet fit properly, but it was the same rush I'd felt as a kid. Two weeks later, I had my learners papers sorted and to this day, I still lust after a mint CBR900RR.

I was poor at the time and was fortunate that yet another friend had an old CB125T in his garage. After spending a few quid on it, it looked (and most importantly ran) reasonably well. That summer I rode it everywhere.

On a few occasions I went out with my Fireblade friend and another guy, an ex- racer, on an FJR1200. I'd like to say I was following them down the Cat 'n' Fiddle, but in truth, they were just waiting for me to catch up at every intersection. As I pulled up, I'd look at them and I'd look down at my borrowed bike and see the problem. Clearly, my lack of horsepower was the real issue.

I passed my test as soon as possible and took a trip with Mr. Fireblade to a dealership nearby. While I returned home on my CB125T, I drove back the next day to pick up the heavily customized Yamaha XJ900F I had fallen in love with. I wish I still had pictures as it really was a beauty and nothing at all like the image below. All the body work had been removed, it had flatter bars and a wicked, massive headlight that looked pure evil. It also had all its marques removed and was painted a flat black. Obviously, in retrospect, it sounds like a piece of crap and what we might today call a rat bike, but it really was a labor of love and it rode well. At least, Mr Fireblade told me it did. I had no clue, but it made me feel like Mad Max and that was enough to lay down the cash.

My First

My First "real" bike

First up, mine didn't look like this. It was (probably) a post-crash cafe race rebuild, but with wide bars and not clips on. It was completely devoid of logs (i.e. the crank case was replaced, fur ...

Riding it back home was about 40 miles of back country English roads. Initially, I was gassing it like the 125 and probably looking quite the idiot hooligan with the front wheel in the air and the back end sliding round corners. I wasn't fast, just reckless, and it's probably a miracle I made it home alive.

Over the next two years, I put some reasonable miles on and never came so close to crashing as that first time out. I still rode with Mr Fireblade and Mr FJ and they were still waiting for me as they had when I was on the 125 before. Not quite as long, but this time I blamed it on me riding a custom and them on "real" sports bikes. Leaving the country for New Zealand is probably the only thing that stopped me trading up but it's worth noting that even when I borrowed a friend Ninja, they were still waiting for me.

The next few years were a hiatus for me. I couldn't afford to own another bike until years later when I was here in Canada. Remembering those earlier days, I went straight to the dealership and ordered the then new triumph Daytona 675.

When it arrived, I think I'd not ridden a bike for something like five years. I was going to do a safety course, but the bike arrived first. Pulling off the lot, I managed to spin out the rear and almost high-sided it before doing even 100 yards. Mistake? No, I just needed practice. Happily I made it and had many wonderful miles on that Daytona. While I sold the sport bike for something more touring, I ended up getting bigger and bigger bikes. First a Tiger 1050 and now a Tiger 1200. I even bought a KTM 450EXC dirt bike as my first off- roader.

Fast forward to 2010 and i've now sat on the grid at Canada's five top race tracks, courtesy of Honda Canada where I am riding a CBR250R and loving it. The old me is making jokes: "it's too small", "I was almost going backwards during that gust of wind". The new me is in awe.

My entire history is telling me this bike is not for me. My current experience is telling me I missed out. It handles in a way that defies it's size. It does require some compromise and you quickly learn fast is not only about the throttle. Passing, for example, needs to be planned far more carefully, but wind it up and it will happily flick side to side with a confidence that allows me to focus on the route and not the bike. And if you go too hard, the brakes have enough bite and feel to tell you what is wrong.

Of course, the reality check is that I am riding this on the track and Canada's roads will form a completely different experience. I'll soon find out what's that's all about as I'm borrowing one from Honda this week. For now, I'm just seeing if I can make permanent space in the garage. I think this has the potential for long term written all over it.

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  • Jordan
  • 2012-09-17T08:02:29-04:00

I remember my first motorbike experiences as well. My dad's cousin had just moved from Germany to Canada. He had shipped his BMW R75 to the east coast and was riding across Canada to his new home in Vancouver. After a crash in northern Ontario he spent a few days recovering at my parents house, where at aged 5 or 6 I convinced him to take me for a ride on the morning he was scheduled to leave. I hopped on and held on for dear life, but it was amazing. My next encounter was when I was 9 or 10, my brother and I were climbing all over my cousin's BMW R65 and we actually knocked it off the center stand. We somehow managed to pick that monster and get it back on the stand before anyone noticed... My final pre-ownership motorbike experience happened when I was living in Finland, my friend's brother had just arrived home from his national army service on his Honda 1100. He quickly agree to take me for a spin. I had no idea it was possible to go fast, so quickly. It was a thrill. I remember peaking over his shoulder just as the speedometer needle crossed the 180km/h threshold on its was to 200... I was sold. It took quite a few more years to finally get my first bike, but those early experiences really made a life long impression on me.