An old friend dropped in this weekend, on his way back from an arse-killing 4,500 mile ride to Estoril and back to watch the MotoGP race. He has only ever ridden Harley chops and old stuff with the exception of his vague nod at practicality and modernity - an ancient, very, very high mileage R1100GS BMW.
I made him a brew and some pasta arrabiatta then made him ride my 2011 Fireblade. Unlike some Harley owners he is open minded to other aspects of motorcycle culture.
Off he went, lace up leather jeans, wallet on a chain, wraparound shades and an open faced helmet into a whole world of the completely unexpected. He's not a bad rider - far from it. I'd say he was one of only a handful of riders I'd go pillion with - but a Fireblade is about a zillion miles away from what he's used to.
He returned, fifteen minutes later, shaken and strirred and - for the first time in my living memory - pretty much speechless. Even at fifty years young he had one of those moments that you'll never forget for the rest of your life and I was glad I was able to oblige.
Three hours later when he was safely back in Kirkby Lonsdale his text read, simply: cheers for food and blast on 'blade. 'kin amazin'.
It is, they are.
But to someone who's had no experience of modern sportsbikes for the past twenty years, it really is a whole planet away from what you think it might be like.
And I've been just as keen to force the RM85 onto to people who have no idea how savage an 85cc two-stroke competition bike can be. It has never ceased to amaze, horrify and flabbergast anyone who's dared try it. At full throttle, when it's singing in it's narrow powerband your left foot can barely throw enough clutchless up-shifts at it to keep it on the boil.
Bit of a sad day yesterday, I had to give it a final clean and send it back to Suzuki. To be honest we'd had it slightly longer than originally planned (thanks Luke and Helen) but none of us wanted to see it leave the MF lock-up. Especially boy number two. The RM85 big-wheel has been one of the best bikes I've ridden all year - even if did break three of my ribs. I still love it to bits.
Boy number two (14 last week) was the real reason for the extended loan. He's had plenty of experience nobbing about on all sorts of different machinery but I knew that nothing would sharpen up his riding like a ferocious, small capacity two-stroke. To say it has done just that would be a massive understatement. We took the RM85 down to our local practice track last week for the last time and he was actually managing to ride it aggressively. Bossing it.
First time out on it about four weeks ago he was short-shifting and four-stroking round the whole track, barely ever making it into the powerband. He was totally and utterly fazed by the whole job. Five or six full tanks of pre mix later, he's got the thing lit up everywhere and was busting big air. Great to see.
As Dad-cum-crew-chief, It's been a nice bike to look after. Everything is easy to get to and easy to adjust. I've even enjoyed pedantically mixing expensive two-stroke premix, adjusting chain and suspension and warming it up super carefully ready for boy number two to thrash the tatters off it.
I've even enjoyed washing it.
That's the nice thing about crossers, though, isn't it? Soak them with a jet wash mist, spray them in detergent (S-doc is the best I've used to date), blast it off. I use an airline to dry it off then a liberal (but careful) application of silicon spray pretty much everywhere but the seat and the brakes to help the dirt fall off again at the next wash-time. After some serious use it went back yesterday looking literally as good as new.
I was amazed how much hammer the back tyre took, though. The leading edges of the knobbles were all rounded off - new tyre or turn-it-round-time. In the Dunlop's defence, the ground has been super-hard, pretty much like concrete.
A twenty five horse power 85cc race bike is never going to be boring, is it? The RM certainly did not disappoint. And you know what? Two-strokes don't deserve to die. Compared to the booming, snarling four-strokes that use the same practice track it is super quiet and on a closed throttle makes no noise whatsoever.
For off-roaders nose is a massive issue at the moment. I think we should completely ignore what Honda say here... two-strokes are the future.
Long live the stink wheel.
Long live the RM85 Suzuki.