Sunday, 29 April 2018
A Suzuki AS50 was the first brand new bike I ever bought. OK, you're saying, so why write about it in a used motorcycle guide? Well, have no fear, it quickly became secondhand - ten days to be precise. l had it more or less flat out (55-60mph) in a built up area (never a good one for the niceties of the law), rain lashing down, when two old crones stepped on to a zebra crossing.
I had been vaguely aware of two shimmering orange things shining through the murk. I hit the brakes and it just shot away from under me. The Suzuki seemed to go even quicker on its side than upright. Laying in the road, propped on my elbow, l noticed that the two crones, burdened with their shopping bags and who had been imitating two snails on a go-slow, were now transformed into two schoolgirl-like creatures with satchels who upped and skipped away.
You don't half feel a prat walking fifty yards down what had previously been an empty street but was now full of folk staring at you. Memory, like my eyes at the time, is a little blurred but there wasn't anything on the bike that hadn't been bent, broken or scraped. First thing seemed to be to phone my newly-wed and give advance warning of catastrophe since a kind of premonition warned me that this was something she should get used to fairly quickly.
The other thing to get her used to was my liking for working on motorcycles in clinical conditions. Access to running water, devices for cooling inner bearings and alternatively heating casings or baking on proprietary parts, acres of worktop for spreading the intricate parts of a five speed box - yes, you’ve guessed it, the kitchen! Mind you, I had plenty of time to work on that one. The bloke in the shop that sold me the AS50 was aghast when I handed him a huge list of parts.
I had apparently bought the first one in the country and they hadn't any spares. He had been quite unable to understand why I had wanted to buy it in the first place and had whisked me off on the back of a new six speed 250 to get me to see sense. When he saw the damage I had managed to inflict on a 50cc in ten days, he graciously acknowledged the correctness of my choice. The truth was the Suzuki was a perfect device for my needs at the time. Its performance and price was not all that dissimilar to the elderly James Cadet I had been using as a commuter and it was light enough to be lifted up and down the steps to our cottage. The only drawback was that it was a single seater.
However, my aforementioned inability to get over-concerned with the small print of the statute book meant a tube through the swinging arm and two push-on rubbers provided footrests when the occasion demanded. Admittedly, pushed so far up the tank and the wife sitting on the hump of the seat, our faces may not always have conveyed the smiling joys of motorcycling.
However, the real disadvantage of the footrests only came to light one day after my weekly lunch with my father. He and his butcher friends would habitually stroll back with me to where the Suzuki was parked. On this occasion, the homemade footrests were still in place. No problem, I would just have to bump start it. I ran a few strides, banged it with my hip, then swung aboard. Unfortunately, I was wearing one of those loose bottom oversuits and the kickstart went up my trouser leg. As I struggled to get my foot on the peg, I began to fall off backwards, pulling the throttle wide open as I did so.
The front wheel came up and I shot across the road straight into a stone wall on the other side. It happened so quickly that, as I looked up from laying on my back on the pavement with the bike on top of me, my father and his friends were still smiling and waving goodbye on the other side of the street. As a result, the Suzuki had one of its many rebuilds in the kitchen. My wife had established an incredible rapport with a spares firm in Newcastle who did COD, and once, achieved the incredible feat of getting a part to us the same day in the afternoon post. The whole system had become so well oiled that it was impossible to consider disposing of the Suzuki.
The AS50 was a fairly simple and very robust device. Despite slinging it down the road too many times, the press steel frame remained straight, and despite much abuse of the single cylinder two stroke engine, perhaps made necessary by the paucity of low speed power, it retained a level of reliability that was the envy of most British bike owners and some other owners of Jap two strokes. At that time, Suzuki and Yamaha were about equal in the technology of producing two strokes, Suzuki tending to go for durability above all else and Yamaha slightly more devoted to high speed kicks.
My wife soon started to learn to ride on the Suzuki. On one occasion, going up a steep hill, she tried to nip round quickly in front of the oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, she gave it too much throttle and the Suzuki reared up and dumped her in the road. I had been following a few cars behind and by the time I got to her a young scooterist had got her helmet off and was helping her to her feet. I was so relieved to see that she was okay, that I went up and gave her a long hug and a kiss. By the time I turned to thank the scooterist and explain the relationship he had got back on his machine and ridden off shaking his head. I've always worried since that l may have given him some sort of giant complex or, worse still, that he might get done for assault in the event of some other lady motorcyclist falling in front of him.
We became financially stretched maintaining two properties, one being in the process of renovation, and for four years there was never any thought of replacing the bike. It had to do incredible mileage and take me daily to and from work, to the cottage and back at nights and weekends. In dire emergencies, it was expected to carry the odd concrete lintel, roll of lead or steel angle tied to the tank.
On one occasion, when in need of a break, I rode off to watch the Senior TT. It was the longest single run i ever did on the Suzuki. Not really to be recommended unless you're trying to develop a silly walk.
The bike began to decline after a rebore. I handed the barrel into a guy who I had used when I ran a racing Bantam and played about with a tuned 197cc Villiers motor. I knew I was in trouble when he handed it back and said, just how you like it. I had never thought of his remembering me. The piston would barely go into the barrel and l was expected to run it up time after time until it tightened and carefully work off the seizure marks with oiled emery cloth.
Needless to say, I didn't do this with a lot of enthusiasm and lthe Suzuki responded by throwing my sister and me up the road one night when I was running her home. I've never actually confessed this to my parents but as they are in their eighties I shouldn't think they still take the UMG. The bike finally ended up utterly tatty and worn out. It was given away to a young enthusiast who thought he could do something with it. I sincerely hope he did as it deserved a break.