MOST of us have owned a bike that we later wish we’d never sold. You know the one — you bought it when you were young, but you were lured away either by the latest and greatest model or by the seemingly inescapable garage-devastation that follows the otherwise-wonderful life event of being bitten by the hairy clam (also known as getting married).
As the years go by, the I-wish-I-never-sold-it feeling often gets so strong that some of us track down a rough example of that bike, restore it, and do our best to relive that early two-wheeled love affair.
So what if, instead of wishing you’d never sold that bike, you really had never sold it? How would the story play out?
Well, maybe like this.
Back in the early 1990s, Irishman Scott Allen was a mad-keen Kevin Schwantz fan and, like any respectable mad-keen Kevin Schwantz fan, desperately wanted to own a Suzuki GSXR750 ‘Slingshot’.
At the time, 21-year-old Scott was living in his birth country of Ireland and riding around in the rain on a Honda CX500: the ‘Custom’ model, with a slightly stepped seat and just a touch of chopper styling. It was about as different from a GSXR as you could imagine. He’d learned to ride on a DT80 Yamaha and progressed to a GSX250 Suzuki (“with a gloss-black rattle-can paint job on the tank and a set of easy-rider rabbit ear handlebars,” he now recalls).
A Guzzi snatched from Hog-land
Around the same time on the other side of the planet, another Irishman was living deep in Harley Davidson country — Milwaukee, in fact; about as deep as Harley country can get. This second Irishman, perhaps bravely, bought himself a brand new MkIV Moto Guzzi LeMans 1000. We don’t know why this fellow left America and headed back to Ireland, or why he chose to take the Guzzi with him, but we can conjure up a theory involving a bunch of cranky Americans wearing denim jackets and riding big Hogs.
And so it came to pass that Irishman number one (our Scott) met Irishman number two who had decided it was time to replace the LeMans.
“I had been dreaming about the GSXR, but when I saw the Guzzi I just had to have it,” Scott says.
“It became my daily transport — I didn’t even have a car — so it did plenty of work. I remember carting coal on it once. And we did a trip to the Isle of Mann TT in 1995. It was great to legally open it up fully.”
Scott and his wife visited Western Australia on a working holiday in 1998 and loved it; especially the weather.
“We moved here in 2006 and the Guzzi came with us, wrapped in mattresses in a sea container. No-one warned me about the cost of bringing it in. The authorities charged me a fortune — three or four thousand dollars from memory — in import duties and fumigation costs.”
By this stage the bike was getting tired so, in 2008, Scott stripped it down for a rebuild. As so often happens, stripping it down turned out to be the easy bit. Putting it back together again took a back seat to life. Momentum was lost and the big Guzzi remained a pile of parts until mid-2014 when Scott took to the task with the necessary energy to see it through.
With guidance and expertise from Mario Poggioli at Thunderbike Motorcycles and Simon Landrie at Motorcycle Panel and Paint, the bike came back together just in time to go on show at York. Motor and gearbox rebuilt, original Koni shocks reconditioned, electrics re-electricated, and paintwork expertly reapplied.
And doesn’t she look treat?
Scott says the bike will not become a lounge room trophy.
“No, it’s going to get ridden,” he says. “That’s what they’re all about, after all.”
Which leaves, of course, just one question: that 16″ front wheel, thumbs up or thumbs down?
Thumbs up, Scott says.
“The previous owner had fitted an 18″ to it, but the 16″ came with the bike. I have tried it with both, and the bike is definitely more stable with the 16. No doubt about it.”
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