About 3 years ago, I was listening to a presentation being given by a nutritional specialist, and she quietly delivered a fact that made me reach for the calculator immediately. Apparently, nutritional science and data is showing that if a person looks after themselves from a diet and exercise perspective, has access to good medical services, and is fortunate to avoid any bad accidents or diseases, he/she can budget for 1000 months of life. Firstly, I hadn’t ever thought of my own life in small, monthly bite-size chunks. I mean, how fast does a month go by? Scarily fast! It was at this point that I get the calculator out and see how many months I’ve spent already, how many I’ve got left to spend, and I’m obviously hoping to over-achieve on my future spend and go well over a 1000. These two numbers that my calculator display in succession get my brain whizzing and falling over itself trying to think about everything that has happened in the spent months and what needs to happen in the future months, and which I ‘may’ have in the bank, genes, fate etc. Remember, 1000 months is just a guide based on historical data and future projections, and it’s not a given.

I start to think about how I can spend my remaining months. Firstly, I’m not going to get any faster from a physical point of view. I will struggle to remember stuff, and assuming I keep my current cognitive ability, which my wife is questioning already, I may not be the smartest person in our village, let alone any other comparative benchmark. These things don’t spook me. I’ve always been the one in the room to sign up/volunteer for stuff, and that’s not going to change, so the big question becomes “what experiences do I want to have in my remaining months?”……

My answer, and not based on any logic other than ‘it’s gotta be exciting’, was to go and watch a speedway event again (I’ve not been for 47 years….), and seeing 4 riders poised and waiting for the race to start is a great sight. Anyway, this idea then developed into ‘I’ve always fancied a Czech’ Jawa speedway bike’, which obviously needs a speedway track to ride it on, so it’s not very practical. Further aspirational thinking then got me to ‘I’ve also always wanted to experience grass track racing’, and on a Czech’ Jawa of course. Thinking about this was obviously taking some of my 1000 months of budget, so a quick decision was required.

Enter into my shed, a 1984 500cc Czech’ Jawa long track bike in restored condition. It has a race engine (very fast), two gears, a clutch and no brakes. From a standing start, it takes 2.5 seconds to 60mph/96kmh in first gear, then second gear is engaged by pulling in a lever on the handlebars and then it’s another 2.5 seconds to 105mph/169kmh. No brakes remember😬, just keep turning left around a big oval grass track.

The engine is of the ‘total loss’ type, which means that it uses oil from held inside frame and what isn’t used, is spat out of the bottom of the engine. The fuel is methanol, which is another first for me. I like methanol as it doesn’t have a smell like petrol, which I don’t like the smell of, and unlike petrol or diesel, methanol can be bought online in small or large containers. I bought 10 litres in two 5 litre plastic containers quite easily. There is just enough oil and methanol held in the bike to do a 4 lap race. It is a quirky bike, designed for something very specific, and I do like quirky!

The first job after learning how to start it, which isn’t straightforward, was to make some sort of catch tank to take the excess oil so at least I can re-use it and it doesn’t end up in the ground. Having friends that are creative, have resources and are excited about using up some of their precious months by making something quirky, is what is needed for making part my remaining months also exciting. Three hours in his workshop and my friend Paul has created an amazing stainless steel oil catch tank.

The newly built oil catch tank during fabrication and fitted to the bike, snugly under the engine.

Riding the bike is thrilling to say the least. Accelerating fast’n’forward is easy and just like it’s easy climbing upwards on a mountain. Slowing down or coming back down the mountain without brakes or a safety net is less easy, so care is required to ensure that I have as many months left as possible. When my friend Bob saw the Jawa for the first time, he said “that bike has got A&E (accident & emergency) written all over it!” To date, he’s not yet had a ride on it. Yet.

Riding the Jawa is a complete attack on my senses. It’s does accelerate like it says in the manual and turning left hand corners on the grassy oval is actually better the faster the bike is ridden, which is very counter-intuitive. The sound, the vibrations, the hard suspension whilst harnessing the speed make this one exciting ride. The fact that there is only one main footrest for my right leg means that my left leg is hanging out and ready to stabilise the bike whilst it’s turning. This position means I’m not sitting on the seat whilst cornering either, but actually standing on the right footrest and with hands tightly gripping the handlebars. Quirky or what?

Life in the grassy lane, and taking it very respectfully

Looking at the Jawa gives me a thrill, as does preparing to start it, actually starting it, and then riding it. This is a great way to spend just a small part of my life budget, safely, obviously.

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