KEITH'S SUZUKI BURGMAN 650 EXECUTIVE
This is a story of Keith’s Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive. But it also deserves to be a story about Keith. I don’t usually use surnames when referring to people (for reasons of privacy), but this case demands an exception. Keith is Keith Cox, a highly respected speedway racer of the late 1940s and 1950s. So firstly, the story of the man. Keith Cox was born in Brisbane, Queensland, in 1923. He got his first motorbike, a 350 Douglas that he rode cross-country to Pinbarren School, in 1936 when he was 13. He says, “Since then I have had over a hundred motorcycles and enjoyed them all.” He began riding speedway in Brisbane in 1946, after dabbling in motocross, or “scramble racing”, as it was then known. Keith describes those early days of racing. “You took your headlamp off your road bike and raced it, putting the headlamp back on after the event. A lot of fun in the immediate post war era!” He represented Australia in 5 official test matches, both here and in the U.K. with an average that puts him second in the all time list of Australian test riders. But he didn’t pursue an international career as much as he could have done, because he preferred not to spend too much time away from his wife and family in Brisbane. He was also working full-time. Keith describes some of the highlights of his career. “After a stint in Britain in 1948, riding for the Edinburgh Monarchs, I returned to Australia and began a 33 year career with the PMG." "I had a 3rd in the Australian Dirt-track Championship in 1947. I won Lismore and Northern Rivers Championship in 1949, Toowoomba and Darling Downs Championship in 1955, and the Queensland Championship in 1958. I was 2nd in the Australian Grass-Track Championship in 1957 and won the Queensland Motocross Championship in 1954.” Keith represented Australia as a member of the very successful Australian Kangaroos team in the early 1950s. The photo here shows Keith at the Brisbane Exhibition Centre (or “Ekka”). He says that he was “fairly lucky” with injuries during his racing career. Offers from British speedway promoters still came in for several years after he’d returned to Australia, but the temptation was resisted. As Tony Webb described in an article about him, “Keith was able to work full-time, ride interstate when the chances came, go fishing and enjoy his speedway, and most of all, his family.” In an article about Keith, Stephen Magro described him as, “A master at handicap racing. A strongly built fellow, he was an ex-motocross rider and used every ounce of his experience to an advantage.” He quotes Keith as saying, “The rougher the track, the better I went. But if the ‘Ekka’ was smooth I would never back off.” Magro writes that Keith regularly clocked times of around 17 seconds for the quarter-mile oval. The article quotes Keith describing how he achieved his success. “The handicap final was often run after some speedcar races, which would leave the inside of the track hard and slick. If you wanted the grip you had to chase the dirt out wide.” Keith rode a JAP (John A. Prestwich), which was the bike to have for many years in speedway racing. Keith retired from speedway in 1958. But in 1993, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, he returned to the track in Brisbane, riding a Godden, and set a time of 19 seconds, just 2 seconds slower than when he was competing! Fast-forward to 2009, and Keith says, “I am 87 now and still enjoying my motorcycling.” He’s been a member of the Ulysses Club for 29 years, including a stint as president of his local branch. He has also ridden around Australia three times. Referring to his current ride, he says, “I have to say that if the Burgman had been available then, it would have been my choice for everyday riding over all others.” Keith settles the old “Are they real bikes or not?” question with this description. “Basically they are a bike without a tank jammed between your knees.” He says that having nothing to do with your feet allows you to concentrate on your riding and surrounding traffic. He goes on to say, “Being in my mid eighties and finding it more and more difficult to cock a leg over a bike between pillion backrests or top boxes, I tried scooters. I’ve had four Burgman 650s, a MP3 Piaggo 400, and a Yamaha Majesty 400, and found them all marvelous.” Of the Burgman he says, “It has all the good qualities of many bikes I have owned plus a few more." "Features of the bike include ABS, electric-windshield, electric parking mirrors which, incidentally, are probably the best vibration-free and view of any machine I have ridden. The engine is a DOHC liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 650cc. It goes like the clappers; very quietly, and has fantastic brakes, and is capable of over 180kph. It has CVT auto plus manual, which has a 6th gear overdrive which is marvelous on long trips. And no fiddley up and down gear changes between numerous traffic lights. Your feet and hands are idle and all concentration is on traffic surrounds. It also means that it’s impossible to stall, which is a big safety feature in traffic." "The rear wheel is driven by gears, so no chain or belt, and is enclosed in maintenance free oil bath. I get around 300km from the 15litre tank; depending on conditions. “There is 58 litres of storage under the seat plus three glove-boxes at front. I have fitted a top box for added storage, which makes a good backrest for pillion passengers. I have also fitted a friction cruise-control which is a godsend after an hour or so in the saddle. You also have variable riding-position for your feet and on the seat. It has a very low centre-of-gravity, with great ease of mounting the bike. “As I have previously stated, this is my 4th Burgman and I couldn't be happier; as it is a very relaxing machine to ride, particularly in heavy traffic.” That’s a great recommendation from someone with a great amount of experience to draw upon! It’s been great to talk to Keith, and it was interesting reading about him in various on-line articles. He is still very highly-respected, particularly amongst those who have any knowledge of those glory days of speedway racing. I’ll turn over to Keith again for the final words. “I am physically weakening, and the only time I am equal to anyone is on my Suzuki Burgman!”
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