Monday, 26 March 2018

Loose Lines [Issue 31]

l was in a dealer's showroom the other day. Not, I hasten to add, in the fair city of Cardiff. Some poor chap was leaping up and down about the way his nearly new Honda CG125 had blown up on him after only 3000 miles. Ranting away furiously that experiencing an engine seizure whilst on a dual carriageway doing 65mph was not exactly the best way to start the working week. That as well as getting the bike fixed, he should be paid compensation for work hours lost and given a machine until the Honda was back on the road. The dealer, to my mind amusingly dressed in a check suit that Oxfam would've refused, was patiently explaining that the bike had failed because the owner had forgotten to check the oil level in the sump.

His mechanics had torn the machine apart and found the tell-tale signs, although he didn't elaborate upon their exact nature. He waved a sheaf of papers under the owner's nose, almost gleefully telling him that he should have read the small print and there was no way his shop could accept liability.

l was pretending to take in the details of a mangy GS550 Katana with a fifteen hundred note price tag whilst eavesdropping on the conversation, although as voices increased in intensity with every passing moment I would have needed to be amongst the registered deaf to avoid its gist.

The dealer reckoned he could fix it up nicely for four hundred notes. the buyer demanded it done for free. the dealer intimated that they were talking at least £200 just to pay for the work done already. Threats of legal action, press exposure and, latterly, broken kneecaps failed to sway the salesman and only served to summon a couple of muscular mechanics from the back room.

I suspect that there is some evolutionary reason why some Homo Sapiens come equipped with hands that brush the ground, but I doubt if anyone ever broached the subject with that particular pair of grease monkeys. Should be good, I thought, taking out the compact camera I normally carried around to snap off pictures of any unusual motorcycles that I see parked - you get some very strange looks when caught in this act and the occasional owner gets pissed off for reasons that escape me.

Would that I could report that the customer was a master of Kung Fu, or some such oriental artistry, and with a few deft kicks rendered the happy trio defenceless and ready for a trip to the local NHS dilapidation. Unfortunately for him, he was quickly ejected and told only to show his face again if he had the bread to pay off his debts for the mechanical wizardry performed by their very highly qualified artisans.

Of course, I relate this in a rather more civilised tone than actually occurred and, after all, like The Happy Moron (regular readers may be able to work out the identity of this creature) do occasionally pander to the wishes of distressed readers (who write in to complain about the foul language employed by some contributors).

The CG owner lingered outside the showroom for a while, looking as if at any moment he was going to find a large brick to hurl through the plate glass window and only the paucity of available shotguns meant that bloody carnage did not automatically follow. The Bangkok trick of hurling a grenade through the door was, I could see, only a matter of time and accessibility.

Having quickly tucked away my camera before the stoat like eyes of the dealer could descend upon my form, and turned my attention back to guessing how many of the mangled engine case screws were held in by Araldite, l was somewhat amused to find that the salesman had decided to liven up his day by trying to sell me the Kat.

I had assumed that boyo would have retreated to the safety of his office to mull over the latest copy of Whitehouse or make obscene phone calls to rival vendors of two wheel splendors. There was about him a leek of such seediness that he would have been more at home in a Soho backstreet locking punters into a dubious dive and demanding a couple of hundred notes for a glass of fake champagne and the doubtful privilege of chatting with a worn out hooker.

This was not a characteristic by any means rare to those involved in the motorcycle trade and it came as no surprise to me to hear of one poor dealer who was sent 200 miles up into the Welsh mountains by one phone call claiming to have a big V-twin in the back shed with a name that started with a V... unlucky chap ended up knocking on the door of a lorry driver who had lost his livelihood after knocking off a motorcyclist and tended to act first and ask questions later when confronted with anything to do with motorcycles. This is a rather obscure way to get back at dubious dealers and not one the UMG could sanctify - I just mention it in passing.

The sun was shining, the dealer was keen that I take it for a test ride and I quite felt like wasting an hour or so of his time; besides it was probably the only way he would let me out of his showroom. I had already made a long mental list of faults with the machine and felt sure that a quick blast would add to the carnage. It did. I soon became convinced that rather than trying to sell me the bike, he was determined to get rid of any witness to the altercation over the CG.

A throttle that jammed open, brakes that rattled like an early CX's camchain, shot swinging arm bushes, mismatched tyres and various other misdemeanours conspired to turn what, new, was a stable, civilised if heavy motorcycle into a bucking, weaving eye popping monster with a death wish. I did a quick and fearful circuit and crashed the bike into the kerb outside the shop The dealer rushed around the bike like he had a stick of dynamite up his arse, claiming all kind of damage from my short test ride.

l rattled off a list of faults so numerous in quantity that they would take up the rest of this column and so expensive to rectify that I claimed he'd have to pay me to take it off his hands. Admittedly, the engine had the same punch as a GS550 I'd owned some years before, but who knew what potential carnage lurked within given its obvious long years of neglect? Not that l had any intention of handing over my hard earnt dosh to such a creature even if he were parading before my cynical eyes a jewel of a machine.

No, I just like looking at motorcycles and can spend many a happy hour wandering around showrooms fending off weird suggestions from desperate dealers. It tells you a lot about psychology when you mention a common fault with a particular model and the salesman denies outright that any such problem ever existed. Once you know when he's lying you can pick up some giveaway gesture and see the same thing happening time and time again as the eulogy deepens and the desperation to shift stock sets in.

The guy in the check suit gave a new meaning to the word shifty. Jigging about and waving his arms outlandishly as he got into his spiel, by the time I had staggered off the Kat he had used up a day's supply of calories. The story was that once the machine had been through his workshop it would emerge transformed and only a fool would miss the opportunity to own such a future classic at such a bargain price. He only barely refrained from insisting that it was a low mileage, one mature owner job.

The Katana stood there, chrome turned to rust, several layers of different, equally unsuccessful, paint jobs showing through each other, the seat foam gone west with a cover lacerated so thoroughly that it looked like it had done time as centre piece of a skinhead training course, and, to top it all, the remains of the 4-1 silencer slowly collapsed before our eyes as the salesman’s oratory reached its peak.

By the time I had managed to dive around the dealer and leap aboard my own vehicle the price was down to £990, or a bit less if I wanted to take it as it was. Before he could summon his assistants, fly into even more outrageous suggestions as to the damage I'd done to the Suzuki, or, worse still, begin the unsightly and disconcerting act of licking my boots. which, I felt, was only moments away, and resisting the temptation to give his Hush Puppy a farewell caress with my heavy duty motorcycle boot, I engaged gear and tore off up the road.

Bill Fowler

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