I remember as a kid in high school, watching some of the cool “seniors” arrive on their Yamaha RZ50’s or 50cc Passola scooters whilst the rest of us pedaled our bicycles or walked. They were admired and almost feared, to a degree. I befriended one of these guys and he took me for a spin on the back of his dad’s Honda CA100 Super Cub scooter through a desolate field. It was so much fun. I remember going to ask my mom for some change so we can buy petrol. He made me walk all the way from his house to the petrol station which was about 10mins walk, to buy him petrol and then he’d take me once or twice around the field and that was it. I’d have to ‘pay’ him again before he’d take me out for another spin. I was around 14 years of age and that’s where I fell in love with motorcycles.
The fasted bike in town was a Honda CBR 400 Aero. It belonged to manager of the local tyre dealership so obviously he didn’t mind doing a burnout everywhere there was a crowd. 400’s, 250’s and small capacity ‘superbikes’ were all the rage back then. That’s before the R1 and the GSX-R1000 even existed.
For the next few years leading up to my 16th birthday I read Bike SA every month religiously. I can remember how I even read though the text smalls to see what motorcycles people are selling and how much they’re going for. In the town where I lived, we had a Engen service station right as you enter town, they usually received new magazines about a day earlier than the rest of the shops and I got my hands on the latest Bike SA always before my friends would and they could never figure out how.
I had dreams of owning an Aprilia RS125 or maybe a Cagiva Mito 125 but my parents eventually settled on buying a set of 90cc Honda Dio scooters. A far cry from what I wanted, but still, that was a great day in my life. I pestered my dad to take me for a ride as often as I could. R20 could fill the 5l tank to the brim. Those were the days!
A few days after my 16th birthday I wrote my learners license and got it first time round! It was my first taste of independence. I guess you can say that that little blue Honda 90cc scooter was my gateway drug and as with any other addiction, you’re always looking for something bigger and better. I managed to trade up for a 1987 Yamaha TZR250 1kt which I got in my matric year. I could not believe the power that a 2-stroke 250cc engine can make! Ty to imagine climbing off a 90cc scooter onto a 250cc 2-stroke, I nearly killed myself a dozen times.
Just outside of town, we had a twisty section of road that goes past a few farms and merges onto the highway. I used to ride this road everyday after school to try and sharpen my riding skill. There was this one sharp left hander that had sign that said you should not go faster than 90km/h. I was doing 110km/h. When you’re 18 years old, you always know better. But not today. I panicked. Instead of turning I went straight off the road and hit the brakes hard – on gravel! The bike lost control and slid away underneath me. Luckily the bike landed in a soft bush and I rolled to a stop. I got up, did some damage control and I had not even as much as a scratch on my body, I was wearing jeans, sneakers and my trusty leather jacket. I dusted myself off, walked over to the bike and picked it up. To my surprise, the only damage on the bike was a broken screen. The left mirror bent inwards causing the mounting it was attached to, to break the screen. That was the extent of the damage! No scratches. I could not believe it. I swung my leg over the seat, kicked it into life and rode back to town very slowly. I couldn’t believe what had just happened, the worst part was yet to come – explaining the broken screen to my mother!
Needless to say (and without going into too much detail), my actions had consequences. A few months after that, I convinced my mother to give me money to replace the screen and my bike was fixed again. I rode it to school a few times and I used to park in a quiet part of school where nobody usually goes. One day, just before break, I got the devastating news that a little kid climbed on my bike and it fell over. Breaking the screen yet AGAIN! I was upset, but nothing I could do, the little kid was living with his grandmother and they had no money to help pay for the damages. I had to beg my mom for more money for repairs.
After I got the bike fixed up for the second time, I thought all my problems are over. I had so much fun riding my TZR and my girlfriend at the time loved it too. She worked at the local video shop after school. One afternoon I went to visit her at the video shop and upon my arrival I noticed another mutual friend of ours was there and I parked my bike right behind her car. As I walked in, she was on leaving. I greeted my girlfriend and as we started talking, I heard this loud thud. I knew immediately what had happened, I ran outside to see that she reversed into my bike, pushing it over and grinding the left side as it slid along the tarmac. They say third time’s a charm, but in my case it was three strikes, and you’re out. The screen was obviously broken. The damn screen – again. But not only that, there were some very deep scratches on the left fairing. I wish I could articulate my feelings at that stage. Utter despair. I knew she wasn’t going to pay for the damages and my mom was probably going to disown me.
I picked up my bike, started the engine, and rode it home once more. I rode it straight into the garage and proceeded to take off the damaged fairing. Then and there I made the decision to respray my TZR. First thing, is to sand down all the fairing panels. I’ll worry about the money later, for now, I just need to hide the evidence by sanding away all the scratches, and besides, I actually wanted to respray the bike anyway.
It took me a few weeks to sand down all the fairing panels, and in that time I worked my magic and my mom agreed to pay for the respray. I took my panels down to the local panel beater to respray, I had a poster on my bedroom wall of a blue Triumph ST1050 and the description of the colour read Candy Tahitian Blue, I fell in love with it and decided that it will be the next colour of my TZR. The panel beater said it will take a few weeks to respray, but I’ll have my panels by the end of the month. This was almost around November of my matric year, if I remember correctly.
After collecting my fairing panels, I put them back on the bike and, man oh man, was she a beauty! I could not believe what a great job the guy did. My bike looked awesome. In the back of my mind, I just hoped that this would be the end of my bad luck with this bike.