Is there an AA-type group for people like us - if there is, my wife would send me for sure?
By Geoff Stowe
Anyway, a little about me and how my illness started: I blame it on my dad. He always had bikes. Ever since I was a mere lad of around 10, I remember Dad coming home on his trail bikes from work as a mechanic. I would wait hours for the sound of the old thumper trail bike to appear and would rush out and meet him.
He had various bikes, XTs, XRs, XLs, and even a Kawasaki 500 triple ( H1 ), but my favourite was an 80s TT 250, and I had to be lifted up onto the front to hold onto the centre of the bars with my legs hanging down the sides. Around the house, we would go on our little track, off a small punga drop onto the drive and down the steps—a great memory.
He taught me to ride his XT200. My first bike was a two-stroke Kawasaki KE 125. I saved up from doing odd jobs and a paper run at 15. Loved that bike. I used to take the baffle out; neighbours loved that! I progressed onto other Dirt bikes, KDX 200, XRs, and KX 250… cut my teeth doing trail rides.
First Road Bike
My first road bike was an 80s Yamaha XZ550. V twin shaft drive. I thought it was terrific then, but it certainly was not! Still, I’d put on my Woolworths nylon jacket, Adidas track pants, sneakers and an old FFM helmet, and I’d go on adventures with my bike mates. Hard to know how I survived.
Another bike that stands out that I should never have sold was my Honda Rothmans NS400R triple two-stroke. Worth a fortune now. Bikes continued until I finished my Fitter Turner apprenticeship, and the travel bug set in and off I went to London for the big OE.
Dark Years and then Revelation
I gave up bikes for the best part of ten years of travelling and chasing the fairer sex before settling back in Rotorua. In my absence, my old bikey mates had progressed onto Superbikes of the early to mid-2000s. R1s, ZX10s, Fireblades etc. and once I rode one of these, it was like, holy shit, gotta have one!
So, my first real Superbike was a candy red Custom mapped 2004 Yamaha R1. What an introduction. Still one of the most beautiful and fastest bikes I’ve ever had - for a Jappa. They were heady days of pre-kids and a bit loose, to be honest. Those early morning hoons up the East Coast to Waihau Bay! Naughty. Pretty sure I’ve settled down since - mostly.
I owned a couple of R1s; the last one was a 07. I did lots to that with a full mapped Titanium Graves system, Ohlin’s and fork upgrades and countless track days were done over these years.
Now comes the Italian era
I always loved Italian bikes with their style and class, but they were usually avoided as I did not know the Italian stuff. That all changed when I was offered the crash-damaged 04 Aprilia Factory RSV1000. My old manager slid off it in first gear on marbles in Christchurch. It was written off with cosmetic damage. It didn’t hit anything, just gravel rashed.
bought this low-mileage bike in bits for a song as someone else had had a crack at repairing it before losing interest, where it sat in bits in a dusty shed for two years, gathering dust until I got my hands on it and began the rebuild. After about four months, it looked pristine. I instantly fell in love with this raucous V twin and sold the R1. The sound, the power delivery, the rawness, and the rugged good looks of the RSV still have me hooked after 30,000kms and six years of ownership. It’ll still frighten the modern stuff on occasion. Not bad for an 18-year-old bike.
The RSVs are so underrated; the Rotax 990 engine is beautiful, solid and reliable with an excellent chassis, lightweight forged wheels, Ohlin’s front and rear, Brembo mono blocks and no electronics. Race map, open-air box and open pipes make for a fun ride. It Will happily loft the front at will and be great fun on the track. She’s a keeper.
Next came the MV Augusta 1090RR Brutale. I still think MVs make the best-looking bikes. My bike is not very common here; I believe it is just one of three in NZ like this one. Despite the reputation for reliability, or lack thereof, I have had absolutely no issues with this bike. The in-line B4 motor is robust and a well-proven platform—the perfect balance of usable power. Like anything, it’s all about maintenance.
MVs have had a turbulent past, but they are still here and have a healthy following of enthusiasts here and abroad. A few subtle mods on mine, 910 race headers and open mid pipe (de-cat) made a big difference. Other cosmetic mods were Rizoma lower flatter bars, LED flasher and riding lights, and bar end mirrors. It gives it a nice stance. What’s it like to ride? Well, it loves to be ridden with enthusiasm, that’s for sure. What a nimble bike and that beautiful trellis-style chassis is art. I have never ridden a bike so intuitive on a twisty road. It absolutely loves the corners of the Coromandel. It changes direction like crazy, and if you’re feeling spirited will pop wheelies happily from bend to bend! It’s nice to look at over a cold one too.
Next up is the 2001 Moto Guzzi V11 Sport. Well, as I’m getting older (sigh), I no longer see the sense of 200 plus HP on our increasingly rubbish roads.
The V11 makes me feel like a 1960s TT racer, hilarious and fun with just 90 hp. One feels a bit cool hipster on it; unfortunately, I don’t entirely fit the image, but you feel it anyway. What can I say about it? This bike is all about feeling good. It simply puts a smile on my face. It’s that simple. Shake, rattle and roll. That’s not to say it’s slow; it can hustle when you want. I’ve even had my knee down, ha-ha. My good mate Nick re-flashed the ECU, giving it a nice wee surge of power.
I have noticed a very different genre of riders on Guzzi’s. An eclectic bunch of enthusiasts. No one is riding in matching bright leathers like sport bike guys. Usually, Guzzi guys are dressed in old, scuffed leathers with beards and are keen for a yarn and a beer. I’m generalising, but you know what I mean. 🙂 I probably ride the V11 more than the others. It’s easy and feels so good; there’s no pressure to go fast; enjoy the journey. Oh, and it’s lovely to look at too.
The Last Word
Suzuki might be a dirty word around here, but string me up; I have one! It’s an old 1990 GSXR1100 and a proper old-school beast I always wanted in my early twenties. I won’t waffle on about it with all you passionate Italian guys. But it’s still an animal and takes me back to the good old days. Nostalgia.
I hope you enjoyed my longer-than-expected biker profile and my not particularly expensive oldish eclectic bike collection. Ride safe, everyone. If anyone is passing through Rotorua and feels like a cold one or a coffee and a yarn, be sure to give me a shout!