Europe 2014 – Choosing the Bike

The bike for this trip was always mean to be the F650GS I’d picked up for a bargain price while working in Darwen, Lancashire. Heated grips, nice windscreen and hard panniers and top box – it was tricked out for this sort of trip. It was still early days and I needed a lot more cash in the bank to contemplate going anywhere quickly, but bikes have always been my primary mode of transport (“how much for car insurance?!”) so I’d been using it to run to Leeds for work and weekends with the girlfriend. Sometime in April or May 2013 I had to make a quick drop off at Leeds University. I left my bike outside the front of the Clothworker’s building, opposite the union, and ran in for 10 minutes. I pushed open the heavy wooden external doors and descended the staircase to my parking spot. Then I stopped abruptly and scratched my head, wondering whether I’d had a stroke or something. It took me two whole laps of the building to grow my suspicions. Some fucker had stolen my bike... in less than 10 minutes! Site security told me that the CCTV caught it – 2 young lads broke the steering lock by throwing it to the ground, started it up with a screw driver. ‘Thief one’ got back on the scooter they arrived on while ‘thief two’ rode my bike 20 or so meters down the road before falling off, getting pinned down by the bike and being rescued by thief one. I despaired.

P1000905
Hard Luggage, Top Box, Heated Grips, Sat Nav and a bargain price? I should have known it was too good to last..

I took the insurance payment minus the voluntary excess (ouch!), which with hindsight seems pretty extortionate. Even ignoring this missing wedge of cash I couldn’t find another secondhand GS for a similar price and couldn’t really afford to replace it with anything interesting. I was relegated back to 45 minute walks into work, late night trains and buses. Back in my cage, subdued.

Come December ’13 and a couple of contract extensions had kept me working in Darwen to tie up loose ends on my project. I’d squirreled the money away, never spending when I didn’t have to and left the company with a sizable lump of cash in the bank and a burning desire to get up and go somewhere. I was back looking at motorbikes in January, trawling round eBay, local dealers and garages. Somewhere in the interim period I’d resolved the fact that any ‘getting up and going’ would be done on the back of a motorcycle. With this in mind it would have been sensible to factor it into my buying decision, right? Well… despite the GS range being much loved in the motorcycle universe I’d never truly gelled with it, it never felt very ‘me’. There was no top-end torque at all, it struggled to sit at 80mph and had developed an oil leak around some sensor on the engine casing.  The stock headlight was a piece of shit so I was always on the look out for fog lights (more £££). Whatever bike I bought for the trip would have to keep me interested long afterwards as well so I was looking for something fun more than anything else. I was trawling through local eBay dealers when a bike caught my attention and I checked the details to find out what it was – a K6 Suzuki GSR600.

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Cut forwards to the next available weekend. I’m standing in the forecourt of a motorcycle dealer/breaker in Walsall, eyes flicking between two bikes. A classic, 650 bandit streetfighter – gunmetal grey, all angles like a stealth bomber and a candy blue GSR600, standing there looking sporty. My mom and girlfirend were obviously getting impatient as their attempts to encourage rational decision making were getting them no where. I stood and watched, sat on and listened to the sound of each bike. I was convincing myself the bandit was the best option, more practical, might hold its value more. Everyone agreed. I asked Sarah to pull the dealer back outside. “Made a decision yet?”

“Yep. I want the GSR”… The words surprised myself.

On the way home I tried to justify the knee jerk answer by the way my boots would burn on the bandits exhaust – true I’d already ruined a pair of new boots on an SV650 and there were clearly marks on the bandits pipes. But that wasn’t the be all and end all. There was something about the bike that just said “you’ll feel like a bad ass”.

Pulling out of their forecourt a week later, saddled up with that sickly sweet ‘please god don’t let me crash in front of all these bikers‘ feeling I brimmed with anticipation. By the time I got home I was overcome with frustration. It kept fucking cutting out! Every time I rolled off the revs (i.e. every traffic light, round about, slow traffic) it died, bumping clumsily back into life with a dump of clutch. Day after, cutting out – day after that, cutting out. The dealer said the bike just needed warming up more. Still, it cut out. I had to grit my teeth, feather the clutch constantly and hope it improved. I was so close to taking it back to the garage… at least the headlights were good.

I took a month to buy panniers, swap out the chain, change the oil and get myself kitted out with a new lid. Unfortunately during this time I also bumped off a pigeon while tearing down the A5. Flying directly at me from a hedgerow, it felt like I’d taken the hit square to the chest but the sad, sharp remnants of the windscreen contested as much. I had to clean the shit off my new helmet.

I booked my ferry ticket to Santander with only enough time to squeeze in a two up test run to white scar caves and decided not to bother replacing the windscreen. Not like I’ll need it on a 3 month motorbike adventure anyway right?

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