Anyone who knows me, or anyone who doesn’t know me but has spent an unhealthy amount of time reading this blog will know that I have a history of riding, and racing motorbikes. It’s fair to say that this is a major part of who I am today. Most of my greatest friends, Sol, James, Scotty, I have met on the racetrack in one way or another. I have ridden motorbikes for pretty much all of my adult life, with the occasional break every now and then when Real Life got in the way, and I needed to sell something to make ends meet. By far the most popular bike I’ve had is the Yamaha TZR250. I’ve had 13 and a half of them in total, and have loved every one of them. Second on that list comes the Kawasaki ZXR750H. Three of them, and of all the bikes I’ve used on the road, these were my favourites. As much as anything else, because of the way they looked.
Anyway, back to the plot. A few weeks back, another of my great friends, Champ, posted the following photo that he’d taken at this years Manx GP:
Along with the photo, was a little hint that pre-1990 bikes were eligible for the classic F1 race. And that really should have been the end of it. I mean, I didn’t own a motorbike, I no longer have a race license, and I have no money. So really, I should just have agreed that it was lovely, and carried on with my life just the way it was. It’s not as if I’m short of things to do, and ways to spend money – climbing weekends, cycling around the country, and mainly and most importantly, being a dad. All of these things occupy my time, and I enjoy them all immensely, and I don’t want to lose any of them. Yet something about that picture was niggling away at the back of my mind. I’ve always said that I’d never race at the Isle of Man due to the danger, and I still stand by that statement. However, there’s nothing to stop me building a road-going version, is there? And I’ll probably want to take it on a few trackdays when it’s done. And, well, if ever anyone launches an endurance series for pre-1990 750 fours, well, I could definitely be tempted into giving that a crack, if I find a small pot of gold somewhere.
Problem #1 was money. As always. Problem #2 was a lack of space in my garage. However, seeing as I work for a Large American Corporation, I don’t see problems. I see opportunities. So I sold my mountain bike, thereby clearing the necessary space in the garage and increasing my bank account with enough to buy a project bike. And this is where the fun started. It seems that early ZXR750H models are starting to become collectable. So every time I saw one on eBay, it would either be snapped up before I could make a bid, or be listed for a ludicrous amount of money. I did a lot of phoning around, emailing people, asking lots of detailed questions, and ended up buying an H1 in Newcastle that I knew nothing about, and had never spoken to the owner. I then went on to break several more of the Golden Rules of buying a second-hand bike by not checking the HPI status, ignoring the fact that the VIN plate had been removed, not worrying about the previous 18 owners on the V5, and handing over a bid wad of cash before I’d even heard the bike running. My reasons for this are simple. 600 quid for a ZXR750H1 is bargain basement money. For that, I’d expect a box of bits, most of which fitted together, and came from the same bike. What I got was a running, roadworthy, taxed and MOT’d bike. OK, so it’s running a bit rough, bits of the bodywork are cracked here and there, and at some point the swingarm has been painted black (no, I don’t know why either) but it’s not that bad.
Also, it has to be said, that some of the damage was caused by yours truly not strapping it down well enough on the trailer. This doesn’t annoy me too much, as the bike just fell onto it’s side on the trailer, rather than falling off it completely. It’s still a bit irritating though, as it fell over about 400 metres from my front door, after a 400 kilometre trip home. I guess I should be happy that it fell over at 5mph whilst negotiating a speed bump in my town rather than hitting a pothole on the A1 at 60mph.
So, anyway, it’s now sitting in my garage, and the initial inspection reveals that while it’s never going to be a concours winner, it’s not a bad starting point for a project either. Some things are essential to fix before it goes anywhere near the road (for example, the exhaust hanger is completely missing, as is the span adjuster on the front brake lever, the clutch is goosed), others just need to be done to make the bike nicer (sort out the rough running, replace the fork seals ‘cos I think that one of them is weeping a bit), and others I just want to do to make it look better (replace that black swingarm, remove all the fake carbon fibre stickers, fill, smooth, and repaint the cracks in the bodywork). I don’t want to spend much money on it, so most of the work I’ll be doing myself where I have the tools and the knowledge. The engine and carb work will be entrusted to the marvellous Spike at Cambridge Motorcycles.
I’ve spent a few hours today patching up the holes in the r/h fairing panel, and fixing the leaky coolant overflow bottle. I really need a paddock stand before I can do much more, and also a front stand if I’m to do the fork seals too. So I guess these are the first things on the shopping list. Luckily I still have, and still fit into my leathers from my racing days, and so that’s one thing I don’t need to spend any money on.
Oh, and before anyone mentions the phrase “mid-life crisis”, I’d like to point out that buying a shiny red motorbike while I’m in my mid-40s is an entirely natural thing to be doing, and entirely in keeping with my character. I’m not having a mid-life crisis yet. When I *do* have one, you can be sure that I’ll go out and do something really silly. Climbing mountains and racing motorbikes are just the kind of things that I do in normal life. And yes, I can’t wait to find out what I’ll do when I settle into my mid-life crisis. I guess if another blog category of “BASE jumping” or “wingsuit flying” ever appears, I’ll have my answer. Or maybe just a new hobby.