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Gremlin's Tall Stories

10 Years On

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I joined KiwiBiker in late March 2005 as I researched motorbikes and the forum kept coming up in results. Member #2710. In early May (first few days) I gained my Class 6 Learners and so started my passion for motorcycling. Yesterday I realised that in the next few days a decade will be reached and passed… time has flown by.

Shortly after gaining my learners I picked up a ZZR250 from TradeMe, crashed and not road legal for just under $1500. I bought a new top fairing and other parts required before tentatively heading out onto the roads. I think I stalled the bike at least 5 times on my tricky driveway and the first corner wasn’t taken… luckily there was another road in front! 40kph felt fine in suburbia. Why would anyone want to go faster I asked myself? In 7 months I did about 9000km before selling at the end of the year after I’d passed my restricted licence.

After the longest period I’ve ever been without a motorcycle, 3 weeks, I returned in the new year after a P&O Cruise to the islands to the sad news the learner I’d sold the bike to had died, running wide on a corner into an oncoming car. A valuable lesson was learnt. Small mistakes at the wrong time can be fatal.

With my restricted under my belt, I’d also applied for a capacity exemption (no LAMS back then) and was granted the exemption with no restriction on capacity. I test rode a 1995 ZX6R and a 1996 ZX7R (first year of the P series). Probably no surprise, but the ZX7R won. In a year I did over 21,000km and sold it after I gained my full licence in January 2007. I still credit that bike, with its brilliant front end as teaching me how to handle a bike as it required far more work than the modern 600s to ride. I only found out years later that my mates had had bets on how long I would last.

There was no other bike in my mind for an upgrade than the first release of Kawasaki’s litre bike, the 04-05 ZX10R. I’d lusted after one since I’d had the 250, rocking up to the shop and seeing them. With its aggressive look and reputation to match, I could feel it mocking me but as said… it was lust at first sight. There was a gap between the 7 and 10, but my boss had provided a CB919 Hornet for work a few months earlier, so I could still ride, and I hadn’t started driving.

In March 2007 I finally found a black 2004 ZX10R with 5k on the clock, the owner barely riding it and the mutual friend commenting he’d babied it, which was a rare find. His only regret was that he’d “only” done 270kph, I’m horrified, thinking there was no way it had been babied, until I noticed the inch wide chicken strips on tyres with a flat profile. Cash changed hands and I gently rode it home. Dad had given me a lift to collect… don’t think he was too pleased to hear the 270kph comment

What followed in the next 18 months could be summed up as naughty. I was one of those young males, treating the road like a racetrack. Most rides had a top speed in excess of 200kph, often simply because I could… easily. Other mates also had litre bikes… we tried to find the differences between them. We all agreed mine was the most rewarding to ride (and most difficult). You were often on edge, the bike feeling like if it killed you, it would sit there laughing at your stupidity. This was typical Japanese at the time. Monster motor, sharp chassis, quick handling, the best of the best in all pieces and as a package unrideable in competition due to its unpredictable nature. As a road bike, it was a massive thrill.

However… in the 18 months of ownership, more people were crashing, several mates died, more left motorcycling due to the deaths and injuries and I found myself running out of mates to ride with. To cap it off, I lost my licence for 3 months due to collecting 120 demerits in 20 months, and needing my licence to work and travel around the city… the impact was real and sudden.

It was a moment for reflection, especially the moment in front of a judge pleading for a work licence (which I was granted). Other riders I considered slower than myself were also crashing and I began to question how close to the limit I was. Obviously it’s a little late to find the limit after you’ve passed it… In a culmination of factors (and after I got my licence back) and covering 17,000km I traded it on a brand spanking new 2008 KTM 990 Supermoto.

The re-adjustment speed wise was painful and took several months. I’d gained the bad habit of treating speed limits as mere suggestions (this included tripling the speed limit once or twice on the ZX10R). This was replaced with strict discipline. I’d been on a short leash with a limited work licence and recognised that while fines hurt financially, it was the demerits that would be my comeuppance.

The only problem was the KTM was well… a KTM. With a hooligan toy at my hands, I learnt wheelies. I liked wheelies. Mates were even quite familiar with this. I was never good at wheelies however. Anyone good has written off or decently crashed at least one bike, which I hadn’t… so I was no good. In between 3rd gear power wheelies and hooking 2nd gear mid wheelie (I was very proud of that) I started exploring back roads, gravel roads and anywhere that looked less travelled.

This was a slippery slope and the more I explored, the more I asked the shop to get better economy from the bike and allow me to carry luggage. The more I asked, the more the shop thought I was crazy and started reminding me it was a Supermoto. Along with the exploring came long distance riding (yes, looking back now, it’s somewhat funny in the country of NZ, with two small islands).

After 27 months and hatching yet more ridiculous ideas (custom designing a larger fuel tank anyone? – luckily this wasn’t executed) I finally concluded I was on the wrong track and needed a more suitable base for my modifications and needs. The dealer was a bit stunned that a 27 month old bike had 63,000km on it… he thought I said 6300km.

I was creamed on the trade in, two thirds of the bike value was lost, but in return I got the new shiny I really wanted and no messing about with tyre kickers. I picked up the only 2nd hand R1200GS Adventure I could find in the country, an ex-demo 2010 complete with the HP2 sporty upgrades for that year on and 4000km on the clock in January 2011.

I quickly set about rectifying the low mileage once again travelling the country and indeed, even the USA and Canada in 2011. After a year the GSA had 40,000km on the clock. Over the subsequent years the annual mileage has dropped but I’ve done almost everything I could imagine on it and still enjoy it. Since the darker days of the ZX10R I’ve more suitable riding buddies and speed is no longer the source of enjoyment and rather the execution of a safe ride with fantastic scenery.

In the last year after joining IAM I’m also working to raise motorcyclists standards of riding, which some mates enjoy describing as putting the fox on guard of the hen house.

Adding the mileage across the bikes together, along with the work Hornet, it’s in excess of 310,000km and 200,000km of that is on the current bikes I’m riding, the Hornet and GSA.

Roll on another 10 years… but NZ does seem smaller than it used to be

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  1. Erelyes's Avatar
    Great read. I've just stumbled across this and I'm gonna have a read through your previous blog posts. Thanks for sharing.
  2. insomnia01's Avatar
    Great read Alan
  3. KoroJ's Avatar
    You're just a bloody larrikin!! I would never have guessed.
  4. gijoe1313's Avatar
    I can't believe how much he left out! I guess he is going back to his old ways and trying to cut down on the ASCII use ...
  5. Gremlin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by gijoe1313
    I can't believe how much he left out! I guess he is going back to his old ways and trying to cut down on the ASCII use ...
    And a quote from gilarrikin: I laugh at how much and how little you said

    Yeah, he's a real strange one Besides, I just wrote some thoughts down one evening... I've mostly finished a long term review of the GSA and that's 4 pages I think

    Quote Originally Posted by KoroJ
    You're just a bloody larrikin!! I would never have guessed.
    Whatever gave you that idea?!
  6. STJim's Avatar
    Great read .
  7. Richard Mc F's Avatar
    Even more fun when you do it all twice .............thank god for mid life crisis, may even make a third trip through as a getting old crisis, I am back where I started as a teenager on a metallic blue 250 ( first time a Suzuki T250 now on a CBF250), dont't need to look for a bigger bike, they are parked together
  8. ratast's Avatar
    Keeping a spot open for you to next years Alaska adventure.
    Cheers Ken and jan
  9. Gremlin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ratast
    Keeping a spot open for you to next years Alaska adventure.
    Cheers Ken and jan
    Is that the 8 week tour Ken? Y'know... I think I might ponder over that...

    If you've done the route in previous years, can you flick me some details? You should have an email address or two on file

    Shit... It's such a good idea...
  10. Grashopper's Avatar
    Great read.

    I'm looking forward to read your blog from your Alaska trip.
  11. Gremlin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Grashopper
    I'm looking forward to read your blog from your Alaska trip.
    Haha, well, ne'er a truer word said in jest.

    I started doing some digging, pre-lim planning, and I now have to defer to at least 2017. They're building an extension to a Canadian Highway that ends in Inuvik. While there is a winter road to Tuktoyaktuk, it doesn't exist in summer, so they're building it to be a year round road.

    No point missing out... so I'll delay the trip instead.