Bikes I Have Had
Richard Tavener







     
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  Southern Section diary

A while ago, when I was chairman of the section, I suggested that we get members to let us know about the motorcycles they have owned.
I have now been asked to list the motorcycles I have possessed.  I have ducked this task due to my two finger typing limitations and fading memories. The list is surprisingly small.
My first, a BSA Bantam, a model responsible for many a person starting off motorcycling.
It was the competition model which was bought from my brother for £13.00. I have a photo of my oldest brother riding in a trial at Selbourne, in the early fifties, wearing his sports jacket and a tie.
I owned this for 3 years, along with a Cyclemaster and a Minimotor both of which were given to me. Neither of them went well. When in the RAF, I was posted abroad so I sold the bantam. The other two were dumped by my parents.
There followed a period of motorcycling drought while away with the RAF. I did not have another bike until about 1963. It was a James 197c.c. I used it for a little while but sold it on after a few months.
Next one was given to me. A Douglas, flat twin 350 cc Mk 5. My first four stroke motorcycle. The owner had spent a lot money having the engine restored. No matter what he did, it refused to start. So, frustrated with it, he gave it to my friend who passed it straight on to me. There was plenty of fuel and there was a healthy spark.  It should have run.
Further inspection, revealed that the magneto was firing on the wrong cylinders. The bike was offered back to the chap, but he said most vehemently, that he didn’t want the bl...y  thing and was glad to see it gone. I believe at the time they could be bought for £20 to £30.
It was a nice smooth running flat twin with comfortable but quirky torsion bar suspension on the rear and leading link forks at the front.  I was very impressed with it but only kept it for a short while due to financial restraints, having just got married. I gave it away to a London Douglas club member.
Following another drought on the bike front, I acquired a Honda step thru for commuting. Then, soon after, a Honda 175. This was a swap for a very early Zenith 35 m.m. camera. The dormant bug was stirring.  I rode this for a year or so and found it totally reliable and only disposed of it, as I now had use of a BMW R80. I had left my job and was in the process of setting up my own business. A local firm was recruiting riders for courier jobs. Just right I thought. Ride bikes and earn money.  It came with a company BMW.
I did this for six months from October round to March. That was the worst time of year to do such a job but, I enjoyed it. The bike was fitted with a full Polaris fairing which kept the worst of the weather off. I averaged 300 miles a day. It left me with an abiding respect and admiration for BMW motorcycle engineering. This was not extended to the powers to be at the company. That’s another story.
As my business became more profitable, I gave up working full time for the courier company. However, I was left with spare time.  I bought a Honda 500/4-K3 and carried on part time.
The road holding on it was somewhat entertaining and alarming to say the least. It had a tendency to weave at around seventy, which restricted use on motorways. However, the extra income came in handy and I saved money by not having to rent a company bike.
As I became busier I gave up the courier work and motorcycled for pleasure. I purchased a BMW R 750 which was a lovely machine. Better than the R80. The engine was smoother and compared to the Honda, the cornering was much more precise. It actually went where it was pointed. It was surprising when the Honda did that.
I sold the K3 on to my next door neighbour. He loved it. He ended up in Broadmoor asylum, a convicted murderer. I can’t be certain that the Honda was not a contributing factor.
In a badly considered move I swapped it for a BMW R100S. A real hooligan’s bike without any of the refinements of the 750.
On a whim, I also had until, I sold it to my brother, a 350 Honda twin. A nice bike which he and I have fond memories.
The next BMW was an R100R with paralever rear end. This was a really good bike, considered by some, the last and best of the air cooled machines. The only problem I found was a tendency to wobble at around 30 m.p.h. I got used to this and it was no real problem if you held on to the bars properly. I remembered I was at the BMW dealers in Brentford, when a guy was in there complaining about the same problem. The dealer was quite dismissive about it and said it was probably down to tyre wear.
I rode this bike to go to Berlin for the 75th. Anniversary of BMW.  What a bash that was.
Whilst idly looking at the front wheel as I was sitting by the tent, I noticed, that the wheel had been inserted so that the rotation arrow was pointing the wrong direction. The chap I bought it from had fitted new tyres and the fitters had obviously put the wheel back in the wrong way. This was quickly rectified and I looked forward to riding without that annoying wobble.
No such luck. It was still there. When I later went to get new tyres, the fitter told me I had the wrong tyres on. “BMW don’t recommend that brand and they are the wrong size”. I had a set of Metzelers fitted and they totally transformed the bike. Gone was the wobble and the handling was vastly improved along with the economy. I can only think that the old incorrect tyres were fitted at an astounding discount.
So, I had two BMWs. I wasn’t riding the R100S much now.  I needed to rationalise and I part exchanged both towards a brand new R1100R. I used this for my business. This covered over 65,000 miles trouble free.
Along the way I had a Honda Helix scooter. A very comfortable machine with which I won the skills contest at a BMW rally. I was denied the 1st. Prize. Apparently as I was on a scooter. Riding skills competition?
There was an element of anti scooter there. I never did find out why. Riding a ‘twist and go’ required more skill at low speeds than any bike with a clutch.
Meanwhile, I acquired more bikes.  A BMW R60 and a BMW R80ST took up residence in the garage. Later joined by a Honda 90 step-thru and another BSA Bantam, which was given to me by my Sister-in-law. I intended to use this for classic vehicle shows. Later nostalgia struck again in the form of another Douglas Mk5. A more practical classic that I use it for longer runs.
So, the stable now consisted of three BMWs, one BSA, one Douglas and a Honda 90.
As I write, I have now disposed of the R1100R and the R65, but now have a 1913 2¾ HP on loan from the London Douglas club which I use sparingly and for classic events like the London to Brighton Pioneer run. An interesting bike to ride but it keeps you busy.  It has two gears, no clutch, stirrup type front brake and an on or off rear brake. One must remember to pump the sight glass with oil every so often. Oh and it has to be push started.
My current interests are leaning towards the older classic machines. My R80 ST now falls into the classic bracket.
The latest bike another BMW R80 was mine for about 5 minutes. I won second prize at the National Rally in Wales last year.  I declined the bike but elected to have the cash instead. I can’t help feeling that somehow, it was due recompense for being denied first prize in that riding skills contest all those years ago.
Richard Tavener
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