Recently, a stranger came up to admire my motorcycle and we had a bit of a chat. He rode a cruiser and he asked me what on earth made me think of buying a bike like the ZX14R Kwaka. The answer to this was pretty easy and I gave him a succinct reply “I rode a mate’s ZX14 and I had to have one” (A bit of context here, I’m a gray haired fella well on the wrong side of fifty years of age).
However, what that clichéd answer didn’t convey was just how profound the experience actually was. A few years ago when I was riding a VFR800 Honda and a few of us were on a multi-day ride in the Victorian High Country, my mate Bill most generously gave me a ride on his brand new 2009 ZX14. The experience burnt into my brain, so much so that I can still visualise the section of road near Myrtleford (Vic) where this ride took place.
Ergonomically the big Kwaka was much like the VFR to ride – but the smoothness, power and user friendliness of the big 1400 left me besotted – I had to have one! My brain went into hyperdrive doing mathematical calculations about my current bank balance, the market value of the Honda and my projected savings capacity and current status of my special motorcycle ‘slush fund’. My mate Marty, then riding a Kwaka ZX9R, had exactly the same experience when Bill gave him a ride as well. Our conversation then followed fairly predictable lines “ I wonder if we could get a great deal if we bought a pair of them?” It took a while, but the rest is history, I now own my second ZX14R, following on from the superseded 2010 model that I bought new in 2011 and then traded in on the 2013 model. Marty also went on to purchase a brand new Kawasaki green ZX14R in 2012.
The sort of profound impact that a motorcycle had on my psyche had occurred once before. And I can still visualise the balmy evening when I was about 16 years of age (early 1970’s) when a ‘fella named George Popa gave me a pillion ride on a then new, Honda CB750K1 Four – complete with 4 exhaust pipes – and the baffles removed of course. My senses were overloaded with a confusing mix of incredible noise, power (that seems laughable now) and effortless speed. I vowed that evening that I would own one of these magnificent, cutting edge machines – to hell with Suzuki T500’s, Yamaha XS650’s, Triumph Tridents and Norton Commandos – the Honda Four was the only bike for me! Anyway at that age, the prospects of owning a CB750K were about as achievable as flying to the moon.
As I dreamed of owning a ‘Four’ I had no idea that fate had some difficult times in store for me in my immediate future. A subsequent motor vehicle accident that resulted in multiple injuries, a near death experience on the operating table and four months confined to bed in hospital gave me plenty of opportunity to reflect on what I really valued and wanted out of life. My horizons were not particularly vast and my ambitions were limited by the constraints of growing up in a small, working class country town (John Mellencamp’s song “Small Town” has always resonated with me – though obviously I’ve never been as cool as him).
The roulette wheel of chance turned, and a year later (1975) I had mostly recovered from my injuries, met a wonderful girl (who I later went on to marry – now known in the blogosphere as Mrs Tarsnakes), had commenced the path to a tertiary education thanks to the reforms of Gough Whitlam, and you guessed it, I owned my first Honda 750 Four. That same girl, actually the term ‘woman’ better fits these days, my wife of more than thirty years, asked me just last week, “Are you obsessed by motorcycles?” I will leave you to speculate what my answer was!