My first motorbike was a Yamaha YB90 which my dad bought for me in 1979 in Sri Lanka. It had a single cylinder two-stroke engine and was quite ugly, with that one cylinder hanging forward apparently without any support. I used it for many years and travelled to most parts of Sri Lanka with my school friends. This bike had a super third gear and could climb hills much faster that some bigger bikes. It was excellent for riding in the hills that occupy the central part of this beautiful island.
I also rode my brother’s Kawasaki KX100 after he was involved in a motorcycle accident. I was jealous that my dad had bought him a bigger bike and it certainly looked sexier. But it had a peaky engine that sometimes didn’t offer sufficient power.
A Suzuki GS 125 was my next ride and this too took me on many trips about Sri Lanka. It had a lovely exhaust note but strangely I missed my old Yamaha YB90 and I wonder where it is now.
For a short time I used a friend’s Honda XL 500 which he had left in at my house in Colombo as it was for sale. It had the badge of an XL 250 and it was a delight to watch the faces of other riders who were left for dead at traffic lights. That was particularly wonderful when taking on Honda XL 250 riders who were left wondering whether there was something wrong with their machines.
After going to America for studies in 1984, I bought a Honda XL 500 from a family friend and used it around Dayton, Ohio and the surrounding region. I then travelled on it all the way from Ohio to Kingsville, Texas, when I changed universities. On the way I stopped to visit a school friend in New Orleans. That was a fantastic ride near the east coast of America but sadly I only have a couple of photos which can bring back recollections of that trip.
In 1986 I traded up to a four cylinder Yamaha 550 which I used in Texas. This machine even took me back to New Orleans to see my school friend. It never missed a beat and then carried me from Texas across America to Los Angeles. What a ride that was with my Thai roommate Tim Chandrabha as we went through the Rocky Mountains, the flat and arid lands of New Mexico, the Grand Canyon and then to Los Angeles. Tim’s ride in Texas was a startlingly quick Yamaha RD 400 but he accompanied me on this trip in his dilapidated Toyota single-cab ute.
I enjoyed riding around Los Angeles and the surrounding countryside on the Yamaha 550 until some bastard stole this bike from outside the shoe store I where I was working. Yes, I was selling women’s shoes and I wasn’t particularly good at it. The bike was found by the police about a week later but the mongrel had dropped and damaged it and was now too expensive to repair. I sold it to my motorcycle mechanic for ‘peanuts’ and I was very sad to part with her.
Sometime in 1987, I bought a lovely four cylinder Honda CB 750 with four beautiful stainless steel exhausts. It came with a fairing and a stereo system but I removed this because it was sure to attract thieves. I travelled on this around Los Angeles and to many places in California.
Sadly, I had to sell this beautiful bike before I left America in 1988. I was migrating to Australia and had no money. But if I had known how much these motorbikes were worth in Australia, I would have shipped it ‘down under’ with all my other meagre belongings.
Marriage and kids kept motorcycles out of my mind for many years although I looked enviously at other riders on bikes that I previously could never have been able to afford. But the kids eventually grew up and the wife turned to religion which left me bloody bored.
It was 2005 when I bought an old Yamaha DT 175 which had been partly restored. I spotted this in a second-hand shop while hanging around while my son was at baseball practice. I snapped it up and soon re-learned my riding skills on this bike and even used it to teach my 16 year old son to ride motorcycles. This was not road registered and was only used in the reserve near our house and at motorcross parks.
I gave my son a car when he got his drivers licence and he hasn’t needed his father as a taxi driver since then. So, in 2005 I bought a new Yamaha XT 250 and used this to get on the roads again. It could reach 110 km/h but that was virtually at full throttle. It certainly wasn’t sufficient to go riding on the open roads of Australia.
I needed a bigger mount, but something that wasn’t too powerful and which wouldn’t get me into trouble with the police. In 2006, to celebrate my fiftieth birthday, I purchased a new BMW F650 GS which was equipped with top box, panniers, heated grips and ABS brakes. It has only one cylinder but can reach over 170 km/h. I bought it was because it has a very comfortable riding position and also because it was one of the few bikes with a larger engine capacity where I could put my feet on the ground. I am known to have ‘ducks disease’ as they call it in the motorcycling community.
At the same time I joined the Ulysses Club whose motto of ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’ sounded really good to me. This was one of the best decisions in my life as I now have friends with whom I ride. Even better was that the Ulysses Club has Annual General Meetings (AGM) around Australia which provides the opportunity to travel around this wonderful country.
The Ulysses Club AGM in 2010 was at Albany in Western Australia. I had always wanted to drive across the Nullarbor but this never happened. Now I had the chance of riding across the Nullarbor which was even better. I joined up with Ulysses Club members John Eaves, Loraine White, Trish Timmins, Edward Settle and Teresa Garner for this trip of a lifetime. My little F650 GS took me across the Nullarbor in comfort and safety in 2010 and we travelled from Sydney to Albany, Perth, Kalgoorlie and back with a diversion to Coober Pedy. What a fantastic trip I had!!!
Then in 2014, the Ulysses Club AGM was been held in Alice Springs. My ‘bucket list’ also included driving from south to north of Australia. That too hadn’t eventuated so I now had the opportunity to do it on a motorcycle. But I didn’t have anyone to join me on this ride. My Ulysses Club friends John, Loraine and Edward were flying to Alice Springs and I didn’t want to ride alone.
To my surprise, my Thai motorcycling friend from my university days in Texas, Tim Chandrabha, said he would love to join me on this epic trip. But I needed a motorcycle and I went on eBay and soon owned a 1993 BMW K75 RT. This 21 year old bike and my 8 year old F650 GS took us 4,000 kilometres from Sydney to Alice Springs. Tim had to leave back to Thailand and I was joined by Wally Jenkins, another school friend, who rode the K75 RT from Alice Springs to Darwin.
During this time, I visited Sri Lanka a number of times and again travelled about that ancient isle on a modern Royal Enfield Classic which is still being manufactured in India. I am a member of the ‘Royal Enfield Riders Club’ of Sri Lanka but have only had the opportunity to go with them on one of their rides. The Royal Enfield is only 350cc but that gives enough power for the Sri Lankan roads and riding environment.
I have been busy riding with Tim Chandrabha in Thailand too. We have visited many places in the north, north-east and north-west of the country where mountains provide motorcycling bliss. Tim has a Honda V75 Magna and a Honda VRX 400 which are older bikes but utterly reliable. I normally ride the VRX 400 and I consider it as one of my own motorcycles.
This means I have owned 10 motorbikes from 5 manufacturers in 36 years of motorcycling (as at 2015). They include Yamaha (4), Suzuki, Honda (2), BMW (2) and Royal Enfield. And I have ridden motorcycles in 4 countries; Sri Lanka, America, Australia and Thailand. I have many more bikes to ride in many different countries. I am certainly 'Growing Old Disgracefully’ and proud of it.