How I rediscovered the pleasure of motorcycling
Motorcycling, it is said, is often a passion that lasts a lifetime. In my case this seems most certainly true. My interest began as a young boy, whilst I was growing up in southern Africa, when my father decided to buy a beaten-up Suzuki “farm bike” – a 100cc two-stroke.
The first time I went pillion on that little Suzuki, I was hooked. Here was a bicycle that did all the work for you. Here was a sensation that felt like flying. I desperately wanted to learn to ride and eventually hoped to own one of these amazing machines.
By the time I was ten, my older brother had shown me how to ride in the nearby ‘vlei’, an Afrikaans word for an open strip of common land which is often a marsh. Here I was permitted to ride legally, and I did so until I was old enough to get my licence. In time, the Suzuki began to break down more and more frequently, and I would eventually tire of it, moving on to the numerous other motorcycles my brother and I would own, borrow or rebuild over the next decade. These included everything from mopeds to mid capacity road machines and large capacity scramblers.
At twenty I landed my first proper job and I soon acquired my ‘Beast’, a second-hand Kawasaki Z1000 built in 1982 for the American motorcycle market. The Beast was Running a performance cam which gave it a top speed of a little over 140mph, from an engine producing around 100bhp. This was plenty of power for me and still quite fast for the time.
By twenty-eight, fatherhood and other life changes were reasons for me to sell the last of my machines and concentrate on starting a new life in the UK. Almost two decades passed, during those years I would often long for the sensation and surge of power that a twist of the wrist can elicit from a well-tuned engine, the thrill of leaning into and executing a perfect bend, the sound of wind whistling past you, the way the motorcycle seemed to become an extension of your body, allowing you to feel the tyres gripping the tarmac and the suspension soaking up every dip and bump.
It transpired that, at forty-eight, all the pieces fell into place for me to get back on a motorcycle again. I began to look for a machine that I could afford and enjoy. Safety became my highest priority, my days of wanting to blast along dual carriageways at twice the speed limit, watching the broken white line blur into a single stripe, were a distant memory. Age, and the wisdom acquired with it, along with the old adage “There are old bikers and there are bold bikers, but there are very few, old, bold bikers”, meant that my view of motorcycling was now very different.
A sports machine was out of the question and a small machine was just no fun at all, I needed something with enough “grunt” to cruise happily at the speed limit, not something with which to attempt to break the sound barrier. After many months of deliberation, I narrowed my options down to either a cruiser or an adventure tourer. In the end, I settled for something that is almost a mixture of the two. It was an uncommon model in the UK: a Yamaha SCR950.
My SCR is apparently classed as a “street-scrambler” in homage to some of the British models of the 50s and 60s. It boasts enough modern features, like ABS and fuel injection, to be useful whilst it retains enough of a retro nature for me to feel that I am riding the motorcycle, rather than an on-board computer riding it for me and just providing me with a seat.
The power from its V-Twin motor is only around 48bhp, a far cry from my old Kawasaki, but with a respectable 54 foot-pounds of torque, delivered by way of a smooth belt drive, I find the SCR is great fun to ride. It puts a smile on my dial every time and I can reach the speed limit quite rapidly if I choose to.
The suspension and increased clearance of my SCR when compared to the XV950R cruiser from which it evolved, gives it the potential for a little gentle green lane or trail riding. It looks great, it feels great to ride and is agile enough unless you are into low, sharp, cornering.
I get my biking fix quite regularly now and I am absolutely loving it. Taking it out of my garage, firing up that motor with its unique, polite growl and preparing to ride off, I know I am starting off on a small adventure which will end with a feeling of complete happiness and satisfaction. It is so wonderful to be back in the saddle again.
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