Everyone has one and, if all it is IS a dream then this article should be mercifully short. One sentence. “One of each, please.” But since we have to introduce some sort of boundaries to the search I have decided to make a few rules for myself.
The bikes have to be ones that I can ride and ride as often as I like. I see little point in having a bike gathering dust in the corner and being admired.
They have to be ones that I have, for whatever reason, coveted for a long time.
They don’t have to be rare, but rarity is a factor in choosing.
Racing bikes are excluded from this particular exercise (see #1)
As it is a “dream” garage, budget it not a consideration.
So, let’s get down to it. For reasons of convenience and for jogging the ailing memory, I am going to approach this exercise chronologically.
A good British single cylinder bike from the 1950’s. As a child I recall having an AJS 350 fall over on me when I was fiddling with it (against my father’s advice). Noisy, rattly and leaking oil problems nonetheless, a blast from the past, so one of them will do.
A BSA Bantam. A young friend of our family had one when I was a child and it fascinated me mainly because of its simplicity. Carry some spare spark plugs with you when you go out riding, but fun.
A Jawa 350 two stroke. Why? Because my first experience of motorcycling was being driven around the back streets of our suburb in a sidecar attached to one. No helmet, no protective gear and no parental permission. Smelly and slow, it was so much fun.
A Vincent. Doesn’t matter which model, just as long as it has the big V-Twin engine and it’s black. The seminal superbike, a friend in Canberra rebuilt a “barn find” one in the early 80’s and sold it for what he thought was a good price. It was UNDER $10000! Ah, regrets.
An original model Honda 750/4. No explanation necessary
An original model Kawasaki Z1. Reason? See above.
A Yamaha TX500. The bike on which I learned to ride. A much-maligned bike whose starting woes were easily cured by replacing the coils with coils from a Mercury outboard motor. The solution arrived much too late to save the model. Its sweet, balanced parallel twin, was everything that a British twin should have been.
A Yamaha XS650, the “D” model. Even more so than the TX, this Yamaha showed the British how they should have built their parallel twins. Without the benefit of the balance shafts of its brother, the XS could vibrate the stitches out of your shorts, but it was everything the contemporary Triumph should have been. Reliable electrics, bulletproof engine, longevity that has been proven over the years and a “set and forget” nature.
Honda 400/4. The successor to the boring 350/4, it boasted more power, flashy styling, a six speed ‘box and that spectacular “bunch of bananas” exhaust system. Is it any wonder they are commanding the prices that they are today?
1971 Honda 500/4. Acknowledged by most as the sweetest 4 cylinder of the Honda range at the time, it was smoother and more civilised than the 750 and streets ahead of the asthmatic 350. It was also lighter and handled better. More examples of it lasted longer as it didn’t attract the “hooligan” element as much as the hot-rod 750 did.
Ducati 900SS. Everyone wants one of these. After watching my well-heeled mates buy and ride them, and cheering on the many examples that ran in the Six Hour back then (La Peca!), I’ve always wanted one. Beset with all the problems that were part and parcel of all Italian bikes of the era, just the sound of the Contis booming and the intake roar was enough to make you want to forget all the “issues” and mortgage your soul to get one.
Suzuki GS100S. Yes, the one with the bikini fairing with the two gauges built into it. Erroneously referred to as the “Wes Cooley Replica” a name that the factory never issued, it was the superbike of the era. Smooth, reliable, blindingly quick (it even signalled the end of Honda’s CBX as the power king), it fulfilled the criterion that, if something LOOKED right, it WAS right. The “works” coloured one, blue and white, please.
An original Honda CBX1000. A technological masterpiece in its day, it had so many “firsts” to its name that I’d need a separate article just to list them. Smooth and fast and eminently rideable it won its first ever race anywhere in the world at the Calder Two Hour in the hands of Mick Cole and later the great Graeme Crosby put one on pole at the Six Hour. The later “touring” models were nice but nothing can beat the visceral attitude of that 6-into-2 exhaust system.
Yamaha RZ500. Called the “RD” in other jurisdictions to ensure that people caught the two stroke connection, the RZ was a wonderful road bike and a very competent race bike. The famous winner of the 1984 Castrol Six Hour (5 hours and 59 minutes) in the hands of Scott and Dowson, the little, nimble (thirsty) “smoker” took it to the “big” bikes and triumphed. A mate of mine bought one new and salted it away in his garage for many years expecting that he could sell it for a profit down the track. Even he was surprised at the amount of money he made when he finally decided to put it on the market.
Kawasaki GPZ900. No real reason needs to be supplied here either!
Honda VFR1000R. Another Honda “take that” model, it’s nowhere near as good a bike as it should have been, but models that come on the market today still command good prices. Heavy, hard to manoeuvre, and thirsty, the whine of the gear-driven cams makes you forgive it its idiosyncrasies.
Suzuki Katana 1000. The bike that dragged motorcycle styling into the modern era.Loved and loathed in equal proportion at its release, it now stands as an icon, providing a template for the “hunched forward” design that is now the norm for all sports bikes. Oh, and the engine wasn’t bad either. Given a choice, I’d take the very rare wire-wheeled version.
Suzuki GSX-R750. Gotta have one of these, the iconic 90’s sports bike, a bike that had had a longevity that not even the most optimistic Suzuki executive could have imagined. Again, I’ll take the original model, please, because of its rarity and the fact that it began a dynasty that has lasted more than a quarter of a century.
Honda 900 Fireblade. Regarded by many as the prototype of all modern superbikes, the ‘Blade brought back light weight to the category that had grown increasingly “lardy” Until the arrival of Yamaha’s R1, it ruled the streets.
Yamaha R1. The first real “race bike with lights”. About the size of a contemporary 250 but with a stonking 1000cc engine, the R1 made itself a legend almost immediately. Singly responsible for an alarming spike in motorcycle accident statistics, the fault lay with the riders who found that the bike exceeded their capabilities rather than with the bike. Equally at home on the road or the track, if you saw one coming up in your mirrors, you moved aside.
Kawasaki ZX9R. Known as “The thinking man’s superbike”, the “9” combined almost R1 performance with real-world ergos, civility and touring cred. I’ll take a post-2001 model if you don’t mind and avoid the unfortunate gearbox woes that afflicted the earlier versions.
Suzuki GSX-R750 K7. I could have chosen any of the iterations of this fine model but I chose the K7 because I have ridden one and fell in love with it instantly despite my Sports/Touring proclivities. Regarded by many as a preferable bike to the 1000cc version, I’d bet money that many riders who own 1000’s would be just as happy with the 750 were they to try it.
Now, a few “left-fielders” A Suzuki RE5. Weird in the extreme but memorable for answering the question that nobody asked. Honda NR500. Why? Because of its rarity and stunning technological specification. Kawasaki 1000 Eddie Lawson Replica. Not the modern copy, a real one.
There are, of course, more (how long is a piece of string?) but that will do. And my choices are probably wildly different to yours, AND I’ve left out stuff, too.
Finally, you’ll notice no mention of an original model (1975) Gold Wing. Always wanted one since the father of one of my students let me ride his when it was new (foolish man). It’s not on the list because I HAVE one! Intact and easily restorable, I hope to be riding it soon.
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