A Motorcycle History of a Tour Guide
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
In my day job as a motorcycle tour guide and owner of GS Motorcycle Tours here in Spain I am often asked about my preference for bikes and even what bikes I’ve owned over the years, so I thought I would write a little blog about my history of motorcycles.
My earliest memory of a bike is in fact a Lambretta scooter that my father had for a short while when I was about 5 years old and even today I remember going on the back of the bike and attached to him via a large leather belt round the two of us, and since helmets were not compulsory until 1973 it goes without saying that we had no helmets as well. I look back now with horror at the thought of what would have happened if we had fallen off.
I suppose it was in my early teens that my passion for bikes really took off with Barry Sheene making all the headlines in the mid to late seventies and my friends and I would visit all the motorcycle showrooms whenever we could dreaming of riding the bikes and gathering posters and memorabilia which would then cover my bedroom walls.
My first experience of riding a bike was a Raleigh Runabout 50cc moped that my father used to commute to work, and when he wasn't around I would start it up and race around the garden quicker than Barry Sheene (or so I thought) but it wasn’t long before I took it further.
One Friday night when my father was out and not long after my 13th birthday I put on his helmet and ventured out onto the road and went round to my friends to show off my new found bravery. In fact it was that bravery that became my downfall as I let my friend sit on the rear petrol tank and off we went round the estate looking to see who we could race against. It wasn't long before we were seen by a Police patrol car which of course is no match for "Barry Sheene" on the most powerful bike in the world and we were amazed we couldn’t outrun it and the result was we were dragged in front of the local Chief Inspector by our outraged fathers for a severe warning.
Even to this day I can't help hearing the song Funky Moped by Jasper Carrott without a smile on my face and remembering the two shocked policeman's faces in the panda car when they saw us, and thinking my father probably had a smirk on his face on his face when he found out, although he would never let on.
A years or so later I was working in a local supermarket stacking shelves after school which gave me a little money and I came across a neighbour who had a Honda C70 in his garage which has been there untouched for 8 years. So my friend and I bought it for just £8 and wheeled it back to his garage, and after some restoration managed to get it going, then stripped off the fairing and we would tear-arse around the fields until inevitably it fell apart, but that didn’t put me off.
I’m afraid my earlier run in with the law didn’t end there for I then bought a rather old and knackered Yamaha FS1E 50cc , and although many things were broken and it was not really road worthy it actually ran well after a good clean and service and was more than good enough as a dirt bike on the fields.
It was then I was caught by the police whilst riding on the fields who to my surprise informed me it was illegal to ride on council land and charged me accordingly. I then had to appear in court a few weeks later in front of an enraged and sympathetic Judge who said it should have never been brought to court by the police, but nevertheless I was guilty but he only fined me the lowest amount possible of £1.
Anyway a year or so later my 16th birthday arrived and I had saved enough money to buy my first road legal bike and staying loyal to Barry Sheene it could only be the Suzuki AP50 and considering I had experience of an Yamaha FS1E on the fields it was definitely quicker. The amount of fun and freedom I had on that bike was out of this world, especially when I passed my test on it which was unheard of then and it allowed me to take pillions.
And so it began a life on 2 wheels, fun, freedom and independence and although I passed my motorcycle test quite early I never progressed to bigger bikes until later in life as 125's, 250’s and 400’s were so abundant in the 80’s and 90’s and truth be known you never really needed a bigger bike, in fact it was not until I started getting involved in motorcycle clubs and touring I ever had a bike bigger than a 650cc.
So what bikes have I owned and what is my favourite bike? I hear you ask, well that depends on the time and the circumstances and what effect they had on myself, so I’ve decided to mark all my bikes out of 10 and the pros and cons of all of them, and remember whether you agree or not it’s only for fun and not to be taken seriously.
Suzuki AP50 - 9/10 Amazing bike mainly because of the experience of it being my first legal bike and the freedom and joy it brought to myself at 16 years of age.
PROS - Great performance for a 50cc and would touch 50mph no problem, even with a pillion and it felt like a real motorcycle.
CONS - Didn't have the same attraction or looks of it's main rival the Yamaha FS1E.
SUZUKI GT250B - 8/10 My first "big" bike as I bought it straight after my AP50 and I was able to ride it on a provisional licence and what a difference in performance.
PROS - Plenty of power and grunt and what a soundtrack from the 32bhp engine and could match any of it's 250 rivals for performance.
CONS - Sluggish at low revs and poor handling at high speeds and looked dated in comparison to it's rival the RD250.
HONDA CB100N - 2/10 Horrible bike, but I bought it at a snip, and as a commuter bike you could not fault it, but I only ever rode it to work and never for fun. Well you wouldn't would you.
PROS - Super reliability and economical
CONS - Poor looks and poor performance
HONDA CB250N - 5/10 Another Honda I bought at a snip as a commuter bike with a full fairing which was great for those winter commutes to work.
PROS - Super reliability and quite a good looking bike even after I fitted the fairing.
CONS - Just didn't have the excitement or performance of it's other 250 rivals.
SUZUKI GT250C - 6/10 After two Hondas I went back to what I liked best and had a little upgrade on my previous GT250B albeit there was very little difference apart from the tank styling, but as they say "you should never go back".
PROS - Plenty of power and grunt and what a sound from that engine, and could match most of it's rivals for performance.
CONS - Sluggish at low revs and poor handling at high speeds and definitely looked a lot more dated in comparison to the newer SUZUKI 250X7 or the Yamaha RD250LC.
Honda XL125 - 4/10 Time for something completely different when I purchased my first trial bike at a really good price and it was a great introduction to off-road riding.
PROS - A good looking bike, easy to maintain and great off-road. Also quite a tall bike which was ideal for the taller rider.
CONS - Although it was great off-road bike it was poor on the road and lacked performance and handling on the tarmac.
Kawasaki KH400 - 3/10 This was probably my most disappointing bike as I had been after one for many years and I had such high hopes, but it constantly let me down.
PROS - Such a good looking bike and blistering performance and handling for a 400 and sounded amazing.
CONS - So temperamental and unreliable, and in the wet it was a nightmare, in fact if there was a hint of rain I left it at home.
Honda CB650Z - 8/10 I like to think of this as my first big bike as it had that feel about it and it felt so much bigger than a 650
PROS - A good looking bike and it had such a smooth power delivery and it seemed so sophisticated.
CONS - There is not a lot of bad things I can say about this bike other than it always felt uninspiring and left me wanting more.
Suzuki GSF600S - 7/10 I suppose no collection would be complete without an obligatory Bandit and the phrase "It does exactly what it says on the tin" always come to mind when I think of this bike.
PROS - A reasonably priced bike with good performance and handling, and also a great availability of parts.
CONS - Not a great looking bike and why there are so many customised versions.
Kawasaki ZZR1200 - 9/10 The first bike I did any serious touring on and travelled all over Europe and a serious contender for my favourite bike.
PROS - A great touring bike with fantastic performance and great handling and all in great comfort even with a pillion rider.
CONS - A very heavy and large bike so not ideal for the smaller person and if touring the stock seat is so uncomfortable.
Kawasaki ZZR1400 - 10/10 My all time favourite bike as it blew my mind when I first rode it. So quick from the 190 horses and so smooth all at the same time.
PROS - The performance of a sports bike and the comfort of a tourer, what more could you ask for.
CONS - The temperature has a tendency to run high when idling at low speeds and luggage options are quite expensive.
BMW R1200GS - 8/10 I never thought I would like this bike, but it grows on you and it surprises you with it's handling and it is a really good touring bike.
PROS - A reliable and comfortable bike with wonderful build quality and you could ride all day long without missing a beat.
CONS - Expensive parts and accessories and if truth be known a little boring and lacks in performance when compared to other 1200's, also too heavy to be good off-road bike.
BMW F800GS - 8/10 A good looking bike with relatively good performance for an 800 and a really good off-road bike, a great adventure bike.
PROS - Very comfortable and great riding position and being a tall bike it is great for the taller rider like me and that wonderful BMW build quality.
CONS - Expensive parts and accessories and lacks the supreme assurance and confidence on the road of the R1200GS.
Triumph Explorer 1200 - 8/10 I found this to be such a surprising bike as I thought it was actually a better ride than the BMW R1200GS and a lot quicker, and in fact I had a speeding ticket within the first week.
PROS - Again a very comfortable bike and a great riding position, and the power delivery from the 1200 triple is wonderful and smooth.
CONS - A very heavy bike and not a great off-road bike and lacks the build quality of the BMW's
The opinions above are only applicable to myself and should not be taken seriously as what may be a great or poor bike to myself may not be so for other riders, and as we all know I could have just been unlucky or lucky with regards to the reliability of the individual bike.
As for now I have taken my passion for motorcycles and riding to the next level and started my own Motorcycling Touring Company here in Andalucia which gives me the opportunity to own and ride many different bikes and as the saying goes "It's not what you ride, but that you ride". So if you wish to join me and ride here in the motorcycling haven of Andalucia please visit me at www.gsmotorcycletours.com.