Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow

So, further to┬ámy last post, a TRX850 is now sitting in my garage where there used to be a ZXR750. And while I’m immensely happy and excited by this turn of events, it’s not all beer and skittles. So, first, the good news:


It’s a handsome devil, and no mistake. But don’t be deceived by appearances. There is a long way to go before this goes anywhere near a road. First and foremost, the gearbox output shaft is, well, shafted. So the engine needs to come out to fit a new gearbox. And while it’s out, well, I may as well have a bit of a polish around the ports. The exhausts look to be sound, but really need a lot of care and attention to get them straight and looking good again. The engine hasn’t turned over in about 7 years as far as I can make out – last MOT certificate I can find with the paperwork expired in 2009 – so that engine rebuild becomes more critical I guess.On the bright side I stuck a socket on the end of the crank and turned it through a few degrees, and it felt smooth and free, so that’s OK. The tank is completely chock-full of rust. Not sure if I’m going to deal with that chemically, or with electrolysis, or both. First I’ve got to work out what to do with the three gallons of seven year old fuel that’s in there… And this has got me worried about the carbs – they’re going to be pretty manked up I guess. Bodywork is solid, but faded. Frame is rusty. Brakes work, surprisingly. But will be completely stripped and rebuilt before attempting to actually ride anywhere. Wiring loom seems OK, but needs the alarm chopping out. Battery is flatter than a slow hedgehog. Scottoiler needs removing and throwing in the corner. Instruments need new glass (well, plastic, but you know what I mean) as what is in there is cracked and discoloured. Shock damping has long since vanished. Fork seals are leaking. There’s certainly going to be other bits & bobs too, but I’ve run out of space on the list of things to do already.

So, did I do the right thing? Swapping a clean, roadworthy ZXR750H1 for this can of worms? Well, yes, I think so. I need a project to keep me busy, and I have a bit of history with this bike, so I think it’s a good swap. Financially, there’s no question that with both bikes in their current states, the ZXR is worth more. But there’s a lot more to it than money. I have a connection with this bike going back to 1998 – digging through the history of the bike, it was raced int he BMCRC singles twins and triples class in the ’98 season. At the time, I was racing a TZR250, and we quite often shared grids with the twins. And on at least one occasion I definitely shared a track with this bike, if I believe the scrutineering stickers on the race fairing. I’d like to find out a bit more about the race history of the bike if possible. The race bodywork that it came with is carrying number 67, but of course, that’s probably changed over the years. But it’s as good a starting point as any. If you campaigned a TRX850 with BMCRC in ’98, please do get in touch. I may be rebuilding your old bike.

Postscript: after a lot of digging around, mainly by the splendid Pete Bartlett, we came to the conclusion that the owner/racer back in ’98 was Trevor Powell, from Lutterworth.


Back in about 2001 or so, I was instructing at a trackday up at Cadwell Park with a group of friends. One of the benefits of having such nice friends is the freedom with which bikes are shared around. “Can I have a go mister?” is normally met with a cheery smile, and a set of keys being thrown your way. For instance, this year, I spent several sessions riding a Ducati 748SP. And a TZ250. And a Classic TT spec ZXR750. Anyway, on this particular day I wasn’t actually asking around for rides, as I think I was on one of my ZXR750s – and as you may have gathered from reading this over the past couple of years, I’m rather keen on riding ZXRs. However, my friend Mike was there on his TRX850, and without being prompted, threw the keys at me, and suggested I take it for a little whizz. I accepted gratefully, as it looked like a fun way to spend 20 minutes.

Now, whenever I borrow a bike at a trackday I’m always *exceedingly* careful with it. For obvious reasons. I don’t want to be trusted with a valuable bike only to give it back in a box. And more to the point, I cannot afford to. So, whenever I borrow a bike at a trackday, I pootle around on it, avoiding the redline, and riding around corners like I’m riding on Teflon. With oil on it. And a big spiky fence around the outside. With hungry bears on top. So, I pottered out of the pitlane, and tipped into Hall Bends. And had an epiphany. By the time I got as far as Barn I had my knee on the deck, and had to rely on the services of the rev-limiter on the start/finish straight to prevent me doing something expensive. I spent the rest of the session being decidedly un-careful. And enjoying myself hugely. And when I gave the bike back to Mike, he was smiling as much as me.

“Good, innit?” he said.

“I want to buy it from you.” I replied.

And I really meant it. However, time passed, circumstances changed, things happened. Mike sold the bike on, and I lost track of it. I still wanted it. But I knew I’d never ride it again.

And then a few days ago an email popped into my inbox. The bike had survived more or less intact over the years. And was sitting in a garage just over The Fen from where I live. And the current owner would be receptive to the idea of letting it go to free up space in the garage for a running bike. There were two problems. Firstly, space. I already have two bikes, and no space in the garage for a third. Secondly, money. Money is probably the only thing I have less of than space. I needed a plan. And it didn’t take long to formulate one. The owner of the TRX wanted a running bike. I wanted some space and the TRX. So a couple of emails went back and forth, we met yesterday, and shook hands on a deal.

The ZXR750 is going to be swapped for the TRX850. That’s how much I value this bike. I should probably explain, that it’s not an ordinary TRX. It was originally built as a racebike, with Ohlins shock, blue-spot calipers, thumpy exhaust cans, and FCR41 flatslide carbs. And then it was put back on the road with all these bits still in place. And they’re all still there. The bike is in a bit of a state currently, and will need a complete strip and rebuild. But it looks to be salvageable. I know it’s a bit of a gamble swapping a perfectly roadworthy ZXR750 for what is essentially a big pile of bits. But I don’t care. That’s how much I like this bike. So, the plan is to pick it up next week, and then spend the winter in the garage making it lovely again. And next year, I’m going to go back to Cadwell Park, and give the keys to Mike for a ride. And I damn well hope he gives it a good seeing to.