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My single cylinder pleasure | Columns | Gassit Garage

I probably look like an elephant on a bicycle when riding it, but that’s not my problem – I’m having a ball,thanks very much

I’m having one of those love/hate relationships with single cylinder bikes at the moment – actually it’s a fair bit more hate than love. For what seemed like the umpteenth time last weekend, I was loading the sodding Yamaha SR500 on to the back of the ute with the intention of dumping it on young Don Stafford, who runs my nearest workshop.

Now given an SR has about four moving parts, you might wonder why I didn’t tackle the problem myself. Well, that’s an easy one to answer: after kicking over the sodding thing 343 times (I counted) in an effort to (a) get it running and (b) keep it going, it was a case of either give it to someone else or throw it over the back fence. Preferably after I’d set it on fire.

It was one of those frustrating situations where it clearly had fuel air and spark (which, last time I checked the textbooks, was what was required for ignition), but the little bastard was having a hissy fit.

These things are notorious for ignitors failing – they’re a weird two-stage set-up and not the most robust thing on the planet, so maybe that’s the culprit. Confusing the situation is this thing has just been revived after a long lay-off – more than a decade, so pretty much every component has to be treated with suspicion.

In situations like that, I long for a electric start multi. There’s no dignity in jumping up and down on the kickstarter of an unco-operative bike and even less in trying to bump-start something you just know will fire once at the very bottom of the hill and then flame out.

I’ve got a shed full of multis and love them to death. Big, fast, reliable, they’re my default setting if I just want to get on a bike and go somewhere. Having said that, you really can’t beat a single for pure and simple grin factor. It was something I was chewing over with former AMCN Kel Buckley the other day – we tripped over each other at a party – and she was waxing lyrical about a ride on an Enfield Bullet.

She was having a riot with the light and simple nature of the toy, swinging it through bends with the steady beat of the engine. With somewhere around 26-ish horses on tap, you’re hardly at risk of losing your licence.

I’ve ridden a string of Bullets over the last few decades and can see a Continental GT in my future. The easy-going nature is addictive, as is the electric start!

I kind of get why Yamaha didn’t fit an electric start to the SR500 – no matter how misguided the thinking. The theory was they were harking back to the days of the good old Brit classic single and, in many respects, they got close.

Exactly why the company went on to make the SRX600 (successor the SR) kick-start only as well is a complete mystery to me. For heaven’s sake, some of us just want to get on and ride! And the problem with big singles is they’re generally okay to start cold or hot, but are right bastards if they’re lukewarm. That said, if you get a chance to ride an SRX, take it. It is one of the nicest motorcycles you’ll ever throw a leg over. Really.

But you know what? The bike I get the biggest kick out of riding is my humble TS185, a mid-eighties Suzuki trail bike. The little two-stroke always fires up easily and the whole plot feels gossamer light as you flit through the traffic. I probably look like an elephant on a bicycle when riding it, but that’s not my problem – I’m having a ball, thanks very much.

So I’m not at all surprised in the interest Kawasaki is generating with its soon-to-be-released Z125 single. Good clean fun in a tiny package has huge appeal.

Just ask the bloke who’s eyeing me suspiciously as I took his photo about a decade ago at the Ramsay Sprints at the Isle of Man. He’s clearly a man who likes his fun compact and simple. But hang on, is that a nitrous bottle on the back? Now there’s a thought…

By Guy Allen