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The Motorcycle Diaries / Part 15

Born without a clue. A lifetime later, situation largely unchanged. Nevertheless, one perseveres.....


Kawasaki GTR 1000

In the last year of my Bristol City contract, Georgie and I resolved to let out her little house and set up shop together at my place in Northampton. On the basis of a bit of a whim and the crude rationale that now, as I was still working in Bristol but weekending in Northampton, I would need fast transport that wouldn’t be affected by the inevitable traffic snarls between those destinations, I began looking at touring bikes. With the demise of the GPZ 600, I’d been hankering after a shaft drive tourer for some time and this seemed the ideal opportunity.

I spotted one on eBay, liked the description, and, as it was located a bit far away, paid for it up front before I’d even had a look.

Nevertheless, I was mightily impressed up close and in real time. It totally looked the biz. I could see myself touring endless miles on that thing just by sitting on it.

In reality, in use, as I started to eat the miles between Northampton and Bristol, I discovered a few drawbacks.

It was a heavy bike with a high centre of gravity and, occasionally, when the carrier box was loaded, top-heavy. Combined with the fairly high seat height this could be a problem. I actually dropped it when I stopped on a slight incline and it leaned downslope before I could catch it. Hugely embarrassing. I quickly learned to put only light stuff in that top box, and kept my laptops and batteries and books in the side boxes.

But it was a sweet ride. The flawless, soundless, maintenance free shaft drive was a revelation. And it would do ninety to a hundred absolutely all day if you wanted, with occasional jaunts up to 130, no questions asked and no lack of stability. On the downside, it whipped through the fuel like nobody’s business at those kinds of cruising speeds. I also learned that the “R” in “GTR” meant “racing”, which meant the riding position was a bit “sporty”, ie the foot pegs were set back and the handlebars were virtual clip-ons. The wide touring fairing was so good that I never got wet, but it actually generated a back draft, and this, combined with the sporty seating position, meant I tended to carry a lot of weight on my arms. Great for building up those biceps, but a bit wearing on the 240 mile weekend round trip. Having a tank bag helped of course, and I used to stuff it with clothing to make a soft cushion for my chest. Even so, my wrists used to get pretty achey.

Just like in the old Watford/Harston days, I began to explore all the different route permutations. It was just so much more fun cruising the bendy roads beneath the flickering trees, alongside the pungent farm fields, and through the smaller towns and villages with a few gear changes and touches of brake and throttle here and there. A stark contrast to crouching still in top gear and belting down the endless straight motorways packed with erratic traffic.

When my contracts finished I couldn’t really justify keeping the GTR on, especially as I was now also running a Honda Nighthawk (see below). With a heavy heart I posted it for sale on a free, dedicated GTR owners website (many thanks Chris). After a couple of weeks I got an enquiry from a very nice chap - in Norway!

Yes, Norway. Apparently it was cheaper for him to buy here, fly to the UK, and ride and ferry the bike back than to buy second hand in Norway itself. We skyped a few times which meant I could show him around the bike as per his requests. “It’s very shiny,” he said, more than once.

He came to stay for a couple of nights in August 2009 and, after a final look over and a test ride, he paid cash for it. I waved him and the GTR away from a wayside cafe on the road to the Felixstowe ferry.

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  • The Motorcycle Diaries / Part 14
    I’d just finished having coffee in a little wooden roadside cafe, complete with passing logging elephants, when I came across this guy waving me down by a gaggle of local people bunched up by the side of the road. I stopped and he asked if I could gi

© 2021 Deacon Martin

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