We have different types of relationships with different motorcycles, just like we do with people and animals, and cars, and gardens, and vintage French cast iron cooking pots. OK, so maybe I went too far with the last one, but hey, we’re all into different stuff. Once upon a time, and about 5 years ago, whilst working in Switzerland, I saw an advert for a 1981 KTM enduro bike and it had an old Yamaha for sale with it. I was immediately attracted to the KTM, so I went to see it. Both bikes were crammed into a small garage with a load of other crap. In the end, I bought both with a view to break up the Yamaha and sell the parts to restore the KTM. Easy plan.
Neither bikes had been started for a few years so I started relationship building with the Austrian KTM first. It wouldn’t start so I decided to make a long list of parts, order them in one go and get it fixed up fast. Whilst the KTM order was ‘in progress’ and the bike now in organised pieces, I turned my attention to the Yamaha. It turns out that my Yamaha is a 1975 RD250B. It wasn’t the original colour, but underneath all of the years of grime, it looked in remarkably good condition. The battery was dead, so job number 1 was to get a battery because these bikes need a charge in the coils to make a spark. I found a battery seller at an auto-jumble and asked the Swiss man behind a table with a neat pyramid of batteries on it, if he had a 12N5.5A-3B battery. He looked at me and replied, “you’ve got a Yamaha RD250 haven’t you”. I admitted that I did and asked him how he knew. He said that the Yamaha RD250 was the only bike to have that type of battery. He had 2 original new-old-stock batteries left and I did a deal for both. It’s good to have a spare, sometimes.
Back at base camp, I fitted the battery, put in new oil and petrol and it started on the second kick and sounded fabulous. I rode it around the yard to check everything worked and then took it for a run down the road. It went really well and no sign of a 40 year old bike. Feeling pleased with my ‘one-ride-stand’, I put the Yamaha in the shed and focussed on the KTM. The KTM was where the gold was sitting in my view. I was wrong. Very wrong. To be fair, and in the end, the KTM looked good and went OK too, but only after nearly replacing everything and with a bucket load of frustration. Long story short, I sold it and probably made a bit of a loss if I added up all of the time as well as parts, but boy was I glad to see the back of it.
With the KTM out of my life, I could kiss goodbye to one relationship that was like walking around with a sharp stone in my shoe. You know what I mean? Everything seems perfect until that sharp stone moves in your shoe and then it’s fucking-well painful. This type of relationship isn’t restricted to KTMs either. I’ve come across a few people and experienced similar relationship symptoms. On a positive note, a new relationship was blossoming with the Yamaha. I made the decision to get the bike mechanically perfect, but not worry too much about aesthetic perfection. This bike was to ride and not polish. An honest and exciting relationship is what I envisaged. A few deliveries of parts later, a full roadworthiness inspection test and it was good to go.
The first few rides were amazing. We were clearly meant for each other. Clutch slipping out of corners, keeping the engine in its powerband and generally being like a 17 year old again. Some relationships make you feel like that don’t they? However, one sunny morning whilst riding to work, we had our first relationship issue. I was guilty of not putting in new filters in the petrol line to stop bits of crap getting sucked into the carburettors and the Yamaha was guilty of making me late for work. It stopped on the road, so it got left next to a kitchen shop until I could get it back home that night. Both the bike and I were not fully happy with each other, so after work, I introduced a new player into the relationship. Sometimes three really is a crowd and the intimacy of a twosome is smashed, but not in this case. Bessie, the 1948 Ferguson tractor was engaged to make the pick up, so off we went to meet the sulking Yam’. The Yam’, as it is now affectionately known was then tied to a long plank, which was also tied to the transport box on the back of the Fergie, and off the three of us went, back to base camp. We did get some strange looks from people as the three of us sped down the road, bouncing along at 15mph or 25kmh, dependant on what speed measure you use.
The Yam’ was duly fixed, given a gentle polish and rub down all over and all was good in the world again. Even Bessie the tractor wasn’t jealous of the times I disappeared with the Yam’, and returning with a really wide smile on my face. By now, I’m starting to think about a longer term relationship and decided to test our bond by taking the Yam’ back to the UK to meet the family. This can be a risk, but I was confident that whilst not everyone likes the smell of the blue exhaust smoke that the Yam’ so willingly produced, they would not be offended either.
Even the UK vehicle import and registration processes seemed to embrace a new immigrant, and one which had been born in Japan, lived in Switzerland and was now wanting a home in the UK in order for us to continue our relationship. I took the Yam’ to my local bike shop-two-stroke-expert for a tune up and even they hit it off together. Without admitting to jealousy, I brought the Yam’ back home before any serious desire could take place and I might find myself making a choice of ‘dumping the Yam’ for cash’ or being faithful to my intended long term relationship.
We don’t go out together often, mainly due to my time availability, but when we do, the Yam’ always starts first time and crackles it’s way down the drive to fill it’s lungs with gobs full of Yorkshire air and to swiftly go where other relationships have been, which is; two parts of a relationship seamlessly worked into one, and whilst having a great ride together.
I can’t see an end to this relationship I have with the Yam’. Maybe that’s naive, but it’s weird how the one bike I was going to sell-on quickly, ended up as the long-term mate. I often wonder if the KTM is just one of those bikes that never, ever achieves a steady and low maintenance relationship with anyone……
All photos by the Author