WHAT'S IN YOUR GARAGE: JO D
Where do people find the time? As well as having led a full motorcycle life since the age of twelve years, and, like most of the population, having to earn a living, Jo D has qualified as a 3rd Dan black belt karate person and crewed on one of those ocean racing yachts that skim the waves at remarkable speed. She told me this after we'd finished chatting about the rare Hondas she has acquired, restored and rides.
Like all good stories, we should begin at the beginning. Jo stepped on a bike at twelve years - a Honda C50 step thru field bike that her mum bought for her. How rare is that?
Then at sixteen, she graduated to a Suzuki OR50 - a two-stroke custom-style bike. She remembers the registration number, BTR62W, and if it's still out there, would buy it back.
She did all the grades in Star Rider (a training scheme run in the 80s), Direct Access in '98, and gained her car licence at 17 too. No holding this woman back.
It's always a help to have members of the family involved in riding. Jo recalls a trip to Ireland and the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival as a pillion on her uncle's Commando Interstate 850. It was the final one of these models off the production line, apparently. Now, this festival is held in late October; not necessarily a good time to be on the road. She recalls it being so cold her leathers went completely stiff.
Her uncle featured again. When they were felling a tree in granny's garden, they found a Triumph Tiger Cub buried underneath a pile of garden detritus and covered with a tarpaulin. It had belonged to her uncle's one-time girlfriend and had since been forgotten. Jo managed to get it firing. This was the beginnings of her mechanical expertise. But her uncle claimed the bike because of the sentimental memories it conjured.
Jo now has three bikes in her garage; 'Elmer', 'Brutus' and 'Spartacus'. They are treated royally, standing on carpet, and kept cosy with covers.
The first to come along was 'Elmer' in 1999, a Honda 400 Four. The one that is called, quite rightly, a classic. It was one of those bikes that changed the way we thought about motorcycles. You could go two-up touring with luggage, and know you were going to get there and back without mechanical mishap. Jo's has taken her two-up with camping gear to rallies.
Before any riding could happen, a bunch of restorative work had to be carried out. The exhaust gaskets were baked to the cylinders and had to be 'chiselled' off. So the bike had a complete strip down.
The frame was re-stoved, the tank repainted in the original Honda livery. The forks were rebuilt, the wheels respoked onto new rims, and the ignition upgraded to electronic. Jo taught herself how to balance the four carburettor set and tune the cam chain. This bike is now her most regular ride.
Having got the taste for Hondas, so to speak, Jo acquired 'Brutus', a GB400TT - that's right, a GB, not a CB. It came with a substantial dent in the tank. The previous owner didn't realise how rare this model was in the UK or Europe, as they were only sold in the southern hemisphere.
It's a 1986 model, and because the engine is a sleeved-down version of the XL600 engine, it has bags of torque. The tank was repaired and a new paint job awarded, and the bike looks lovely.
Bike number three, 'Spartacus', is arguably even rarer; a GB500TT. There were only a couple of thousand of these bikes made, and they were never available in the UK.
Jo bought it, sight unseen, while it was in a container on a sea journey. The bike was intended to be a tribute to the TT races. So it's even more of a mystery of Japanese motorcycle marketing that it was only available in the USA. Jo's bike, like many others, had stood in a showroom for a couple of years before being re-shipped to Japan. Some also went to Germany.
It's a gorgeous little cafe racer, and the black and gold paintwork brings to mind Velocettes or the AJS7R. A friend who paints custom cars brought the paintwork back to the original design and Jo had replaced the kilometre speedo with a converter. New chains and sprockets, levers and cables – all from Wemoto, she wanted to mention.
The bike started first time once it was in her hands. But Jo has given it an oil change and replaced the fork seals and springs. There's some oxidisation on the forks and engine, as a result of being in storage and transported. Easily dealt with by a confident self-taught mechanic and bike restorer, who often gets the call from mates to bring along tools and advice on how to keep their machines in shape.
Jo's grandson, seven years, already has an eye on her bike collection. He could do worse. They'll surely be accumulating value cossetted as they are in their carpeted home...there's a GB400 for sale in Australia for $6000.
Our thanks to Jo for her time, and 'disturbing' her bikes from their cosy winter shelter. Now that the earth is warming up, and the rain (hopefully) staying away, she will once more be tossing a coin to see which bike gets an outing.
Tell us what you thought of this What's In Your Garage? episode by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
12/04/17 - Lovely collection, nice one Jo
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