Bikes have always been my freedom. Right from the word go and my 1977 Puch Maxi “S”, they have allowed me to go places and do things. The Puch propelled me to British Aerospace in Weybridge where I did my apprenticeship in aeronautical engineering. Following on with a 1975 “N” reg Honda C90 step through. The further you went on this thing the quicker it got, and regular 60 mile plus trips ensued as the freedom expanded. Passing my test on a semi auto bike seemed at the time like a cop out to me and I was bricking it when I purchased my first new machine, an 81 Honda CB400NA sporting a clutch. I wobbled around for a while but generally got the hang of it, until I decided a “real bike“ needed four cylinders. At this time (early 80’s), when I visited Boxhill near Dorking, all the big bikes were either Zeds or GS Suzuki’s and whilst I had my eye on a Z650, a combination of no money or lack of used bikes in my price range, so I ended up with a GS550ET on a “V”reg in red which lasted the next 14 years. I’m not a chop and change kind of guy so the GS was pressed into service going anywhere and everywhere running up 50k miles in my ownership until a friend purchased it off me for a resto project. I really wanted to tour and felt the small GS wasn’t up to the task so spent six months finding my next steed (a 94 FJ1200). This was another long-term ownership story. Being now in Formula One as a career, I had access to some nice deals so in time it got stage 3 Dyno-jetted, K&N filtered, Aeroquipped and even R1 front callipers in blue. I loved that bike until I didn’t anymore. The thing that made me sell it in the end was I got fed up plastic welding the fairings back together where the sun propagated cracks around the bolt holes. The five (yes five) belly pans I went through in my ownership also pissed me off, eventually running it without one. Fast forward till 2012 and I was ready for a change. BMW K1300GT had all the things on it the Yamaha lacked. Cruise control, Xenon headlight, a lazy man’s shaft drive and electronic everything from suspension adjustment to grips and seat warmer. This bike I still own to this day and its my go anywhere 160bhp stallion.
Three years ago, I got the Mer and chroming itch, and revisited my desire for an 80’s UJM. What would it be? There was really only one choice which I stumbled on by chance whilst getting market awareness on Ebay. Thinking they went for around £4000 I bid on a red 1980 Z650F1 and was amazed and delighted when my £2000 punt was a winner. Strangely the owner of the bike worked for a previous colleague of mine (one Ross Brawn of Brawn Grand Prix fame). I knew he had a place near Winchester, and being a good sort, used to lend out his home and fishing waters to charity fishing club matches twice a year. Ross being a decent type, would lend the clubs his house keys so they could use the Khazi and make Tea and Coffee during their days. Turned out the guy I was buying My Zed off was his fishing estates manager – small world. Having worked with Ross at two different teams I’d like to think I was on first name terms, so the small world syndrome struck again.
I had decided the first year of ownership, all I'd do is ride the thing and enjoy my good fortune. I had acquired a box of spare parts with the purchase so was very happy with the deal. You know what its like . You sit down and think about your ideal bike and how you want to modify the beast. My excel spreadsheet is ongoing and believe it or not, Covid-19 has accelerated my workload and its stupid, (the pleasure in receiving another parcel in the post from Ebay is amazing).
So, what have we done so far recently. Everything from the fuel tank to the cylinder head is new. New tap, hoses, original airbox (with K&N filter), back on instead of four pods, new rubbers on the airbox side. The carbs were stripped for the first time in 38 years and all internals replaced. Rubbers to the cylinder head are replaced too. Just synchronised and colour tuned and the original Harris performance 4-1 (which is being kept), got changed for a Vance and Hines. Along the way I bought a Delkevetic 4-1 which has never been run (and could be yours for £250 as new), fitted but never started as the V&H materialised. Every bolt has had the casting marks polished off. Braided lines fitted to the front brakes, and now I’m doing electrics. She has Boyer Bransden Electronic ignition and coils; new NGK spark plugs and 7mm copper HT leads should help. My box of bits has furnished a new starter motor which will be fitted and the other will be renovated.
I’ve sold two sets of pods, an old set of crash bars, the oil breather K&N filter, and have under my bench in my garage a cylinder head which can go shortly. Emphasis has been on getting her running right before going onto “Tinsel and glitter”. A new battery was fitted in June 2020. Various bits and pieces from both Z-power and Kawasaki Heaven have helped but the front end has now titanium bolts on the discs and calipers and my list of things to do is still as long as my arm. The Facebook pages also help.
I’ve acquired a second set of fuel tank/ side panels and tail duct which are going to be repainted in Candy Apple red pearl with the badges done in stickers under the lacquer. The original set can stay for purists, but as you can see the “bug” is never ending. I have a second swinging arm (£15 Ebay) so that when I do the original (blast paint, bearings etc), I can still roll the chassis. The winter chroming jobs include hard chroming the fork inners, and all the usual fodder like grab handles, chain adjusters, chain guard and so on.
Biggest bitch of a job? Fitting the Vance and Hines. Firstly, the downtube flanges are totally different to the Harris so the half shells are different sizes .Then the half shells supplied were 8mm too long so needed cutting down to suit. Then trying to mount the damned thing using plastic bands to keep them together, I got three header flange collars on, suddenly realising the fourth won’t go past the down tubes on the frame, so off it all comes again. Cup of Tea and study before returning to the job. Equally as baffling is the vacuum tube for the fuel cock. Who specifies 5.2 mm tubing? Another ball ache and waiting for 5mm tube to arrive having already tried 6mm and 8mm on the fuel line.
So, in Three years, this “work in progress” is increasing not diluting. Avon Roadrider 2’s are next and a MOT and its last ever tax.
However, everytime I go to the local bike meeting place (Newlands Corner near Guildford) Vintage Jap machines are taking centre stage with real love for the old girls being expressed. I think like the BMW, this one’s a keeper. The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride(DGR) awaits the pair of us.
Steve Roake July 2020.