A big impression

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 It took a while, but the rest is history, I now own my second ZX14R, following on from the superseded 2010 model that I bought new in 2011 and then traded in on the 2013 model.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.

Below – Bill & I at Mt Hotham (Vic). His ZX14 in touring mode

Below – some months later! Arrived home with a brand new ZX14

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!

Mrs T with the second Honda CB750 K4

8 thoughts on “A big impression

  1. Hi Jules, A great post that brings back fond memories of my own CB750 K1. They were the superbike of their day and a great bike to own and ride. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Raymond

    • Thanks Raymond. I very much enjoyed your account of your first encounter with a “Four” when broken down on the side of the road with your Triumph.

      I seem to be getting more reflective now that my head isn’t cluttered with work!

  2. no speculation of the answer
    those zx14 look nice as I saw one live at a bike shop the other day while searching a new helmet
    have owned a few large tourers and that one looks like it would eat the klm’s up on a trip with ease

    • Yes Peter, a fairly predictable “Of course” was the response!

      I use it as a SPORTS-tourer and I think that it does that quite well. A GTR or FJR Yamaha would certainly be better as tourers, however, the big advantage of the ZX14R for me is the low seat height and the weight being down quite low.

  3. I was nodding my head in agreement reading your post. I don’t think Mrs T needed to even ask, I think she probably knew the answer. I prefer the term enthusiast or nutter. Take your pick.

    We have fairly similar back grounds, both from small country towns, love motorcycles and have very forgiving wives that put up with us, except my motorcycling starts a couple of decades later. The bikes might be different but its exactly the same in terms of the feeling of empowerment the bike gave me.

    • Steve, couldn’t agree more.

      Just watched a really interesting American motorcycling docco called “Why We Ride” in which the point is made that for some people motorcycles are part of who we are as a person. Beautifully filmed and some great interviews. It’s well worth watching if you get a chance.

  4. Great post Jules , I have experienced that “got to have ” feeling that transcends rationality time money and women on two occasions also ,firstly with Phil Martin on the back of his K2 and then on Andys Commando at Avoca . In each case it was power and torque that seduced me .Remember the best part of a jet flight is the take off ,I love that feeling .

    • Amazing isn’t it. I too can recall a pillion ride with PG Martin as well. Not sure which of his Fours it was, as he had a couple in succession at one stage. This one had Dunstall pipes etc. Remember him, Crab & another fella in the driveway of your parents’ place.

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