The story of Jens’ Yamaha XJ900 was, along with Aussie’s story of his Suzuki GS1000G, what really inspired me to start this section. I had asked Jens for some comments about his XJ900, as it was the same make and model featured in the article “Oldies Can Be Goldies.” I also asked Aussie for some words about his bike, as that was another example of a bike that is often mentioned as one of the “Golden Oldies.” The stories they wrote were too interesting to be left just as a mention in an article; they deserved their own section! And of course, the stories of other readers’ bikes are just as interesting. So I thought we should start a new section… And here it is!
Jens’ Yamaha XJ900F is a 1981 model. Unlike Aussie, he hasn’t owned the bike for a long time, having acquired it from his son about 5 years ago. As he describes it, the bike was “thrust upon” him, but has since given him “many hours of pure joy and exhilaration.”
His association with motorbikes goes back a long way. And the story of his life with bikes and cars is a fascinating one. I found it particularly interesting because, like me, he is interested in cars as well as bikes. I’ll let him tell you the story.
In 1955, in the Norwegian army doing compulsory military service, I was posted to the Military Police, and that was very interesting to a young fellow. We learned all sorts of things that policemen should know, be it traffic control, unarmed combat, driving off-road vehicles and motorbikes. It was a hard first 6 months, but intensely enjoyable.
Another year followed which was very boring, posted to a garrison near Oslo. The motorbikes I rode were Norton 500 singles, and also some BSA singles. They seemed heavy at the time, but in retrospect not as heavy to handle as my present Yamaha XJ900.
When I arrived in Australia I bought myself a Vespa 125. This was in 1960. The scooter was near new, with a windshield, and it cost 112 Pounds.
I soon figured out how best to ride it. On one occasion I was booked for having my girlfriend sit sideways at the rear, something all the girls seemed to do in Italy where I first saw these wonderful things.
Eventually the Vespa was traded on a car; a Ford Popular. For the next 10 years I was without a bike, for the usual family reasons.
Then I bought a new Yamaha 175 2-stroke. It was fast and very exciting, but there were problems with the electrics so eventually I bought an older 450 Honda and kept that for quite some time. I have lots of good memories with that bike. By then I had 2 children, and I remember that my son, who attended kindergarten in Wollahra Sydney, was taken there every day sitting in between Mum and Dad on the bike. In those days we did risky things!
In 1972 we did need to get a car, so the 450 was traded on a Honda Scamp with a 250cc four stroke engine. We had that for many many years until we wore it out – particularly the combination starter and generator, which we had to have re-built several times. I then owned several cars, one after the other; a Morris 1000, an MGA, an MGB, then several Renaults and a Peugeot.
In 1985 we moved to another suburb in Sydney and my craze for Mercedes Benz cars started. I spent lots of money owning several models; a 190B from 1959, a 230S from 1967, a 280 from 1969, and then a 300Diesel from 1978.
But there was still no motorbike in my life! In 2003 I bought a Mercedes Benz 280 SE 3.5 sedan which I still have. A most wonderful vehicle with a powerful V8 engine.
At that time my son managed to lose his motorcycle license for several years. His motorbike was the Yamaha XJ900. It sat unused for some time until eventually I suggested I buy it from him. He agreed to this somewhat reluctantly, as he was very fond of it.
So I had a lovely shining red and white bike looking at me invitingly. My license was still valid, but the first time I tried to ride the bike I was very nervous. The bike is heavy, and I felt completely incompetent. But I persevered, and after a few weeks riding it became less scary; and I loved it!
At the age of 68 I then joined the Ulysses Club and went to a couple of meetings, which were held in the precinct of the Homebush markets. I did a couple of rides with them, but still felt very scared.
A friend then suggested I do a cornering course that was being offered at Eastern Creek Raceway. I didn’t want to, but decided I needed to learn how to control this heavy beast of a bike, as it had tipped over for me several times due to my in-experience. I was then unable to raise it up from the ground without assistance from bystanders.
The Cornering Course at Eastern Creek was a mind shattering experienced for me. I have never ever been so scared! But I persisted, and at the end of the day I felt vastly confident and very happy about it all.
The scariest thing for me was the need to overcome the impulse to brake in the curve when things were getting a bit fast. It was hard to follow the instruction given, which was to give a little twist to the wrist and power through the curve faster and faster, using the reverse-steering technique, hoping to survive. Since then I have loved every time I ride on the bike! The essence of riding any bike would surely be the sense of freedom and the love of controlling it.
I have had it serviced by capable people who know what it should do and feel like to ride. I admit I have spent a lot of money on it. An older bike requires lots of things to be repaired regularly. I have replaced the starter motor, the diff, some of the electric items, etc. Even the front forks have had the works done to them.
Right now the carbies are due to be aligned again, as the bike idles very roughly. But give it its head and it still goes like the wind!
I hope to be able to keep the bike for along time, and love it every time I look at it. It’s a love affair for life!
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