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Monday, 22 August 2011

Old Flames: Part 6

The BMW had been sold and the CB200 was getting a bit 'worn', so the hunt was on for another bike. I'd looked at a few used mid range Japanese bikes, but hadn't found anything suitable. However, hope was just around the corner when I got a new job that paid 50% more money! OK, it was a longer working week (40 hours rather than 35), it would be a lot harder, and I'd have to commute across Glasgow rather than just walk for 20 minutes, but it was 50% more money! All my problems were over! Or so I thought.....
I resigned from my old job, worked my notice just in time for the Christmas/New Year Holiday, and prepared to start at the beginning of January. During the Christmas holiday I went round the bike shops looking for a good deal, and ended up buying the then new, Honda CBR600.






Mine was blue rather than red, but I couldn't find a picture of one.

So I had my nice new shiny bike and my new job. I turned up on the first day of my new job to be told that they 'couldn't afford' to pay me the rate of pay they had stated, and offered me a grade lower on a 'take it or leave it' basis. This turned out to be only £300 a year more than I had been earning, but as I had to have a job and had a mortgage to pay, I was left with no option but to take the job. Commuting would cost more than £300 a year, so I was actually worse off!
This was at the height of Thatcher's 80s, unemployment was rife, jobs were few and far between, the mortgage rate was soaring, the newly privatised utilities were hiking their prices (my gas bill trebled), and I had just bought a bike I couldn't afford! Oh dear.
Luckily, after a few months I managed to get a weekend job working as a motorcycle instructor in driving school, but this meant I was working 7 days a week to pay for a bike that I didn't have time to ride! But what a bike! Nowadays it's hard to appreciate just how huge a leap forward the CBR was. Not only was it stunning in appearance (one of the first fully flaired in bikes), but the performance, handling and braking were miles ahead of what was 'normal' at the time. Take a look at a Kawasaki GPz 550 and compare it to the CBR. Before the CBR came along the GPz was a cutting edge sportsbike! And what a joy to ride! Beautifully smooth and really easy to ride fast in a controlled manner. Everything did exactly what you wanted, and no matter how hard I dared to ride, the bike was well within its 'performance envelope'.
I even went a holiday on it. I fitted a tank bag, bungeed a sports bag onto the pillion saddle, and tied a pair of small haversacks together to make rudimentary 'throw over' panniers; and went camping in the Highlands for 2 weeks. I actually rode right round the coast of Scotland, camping in all sort of interesting places (Applecross, Durness, etc), mostly in brilliant sunshine. Other than the luggage carrying capacity, it made a superb tourer as the handling, braking and tyre grip made riding on Highland roads a joy and remarkably easy. No wrestling a slow handling heavy bike round corners like the BMW, much better fuel consumption as well.
This was probably the best bike I ever owned as it was so advanced, but I couldn't really afford it. I got 'Old Flame no: 7' as a cheaper to run 'winter and commuting bike', but after about 18 months I was really short of money and the CBR had to go. I sold it to a colleague at the driving school. I had tried to do a deal with him for a late model (Eurodesign) Honda CX500 with panniers he had, effectively offering him the CBR for £1000 less than its market value if he included the CX. He declined and gave me the full market price for the CBR. Too lazy to advertise the bike, he took it to a bike shop where they offered him £750 for it. Rather than ride it 3 miles to my house where he would have got £250 more for it, he accepted their offer. So I was left with 'Old Flame no: 7', and at another turning point in my motorcycling career!

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