I knew the LAMS adventure ride was coming up, but it had been so hectic at Gassit HQ I hadn’t been able to give it much thought. The day before the ride it dawned on me that I still didn’t know what bike I would be riding. And when I pulled up at the office, I found out why Youngy had been so coy. Sitting front and centre was a shiny toffee apple red Suzuki Boulevard S40, and giggling away like a naughty schoolboy was the bloke I used to hold in such high regard.
What the hell did I do to upset Youngy? Why would he be so cruel? Everybody else was on cool bikes and I was stuck with a little candy coloured cruiser. Oh well, being the new kid on the block I decided the best thing to do was to suck it up and get on with it.
When I jumped aboard I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it was. But I didn’t feel like a road warrior – probably more Peter Fonda or Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. It’s pretty good at pulling right through its range so I didn’t have to work too hard, plus kicking back with my feet out front in a nice laid-back position put me in mind of the old 70s-style choppers. I took the time to just relax and enjoy the ride and sing some classic Steppenwolf in my helmet.
MV and I were bestowed the title of Team Road Warriors and were taking the long way round on 100 per cent bitumen. The others were attempting to get there as the crow flies so they were going to get a little muddy, but that’s why they had the appropriate machines to do it. Only trouble is, somewhere along the line somebody said, who do you think will get there first? That to me sounded a lot like a race.
The other challenge that Team Road Warriors faced was the weather. It was atrocious and poor old MV is a genuine learner motorcyclist. While he is perfect for the test, I was torn between wanting to spank the rest of the crew and get to the Big Kev first but more importantly make sure that he arrived in one piece.
The first stretch from the top end of the Reefton Spur through Marysville and on to Eildon is where we really made up time. Even though it was absolutely belting down we cracked on at great speed and all the while MV was close behind tucked in like a mad man on a mission. Then we hit the Eildon-Jamieson Road and that’s when the pace backed off.
The road was littered with all sorts of nature’s shrapnel and at some points water was actually flowing across it like a small river. I soon got into a great rhythm and ploughed through bend after bend. From time to time I would stop and wait for MV’s headlights to appear in my mirrors through the fog. All the while I was picturing Youngy with a cheesy grin, his feet up, warming his toes by the open fire at the Kevington Hotel.
We had to stop at Jammo for some fuel and old mate at the pump wanted to have a chat, but being that there were bragging rights at stake we quickly hit the road again for what would be our last little blat for the day. We rounded our last bend and rolled up to the Kevington Pub to a surprisingly empty carpark. We could not believe that after what seemed an eternity we had made it to the hotel first. So of course we hid the bikes at the back, ordered a pint, pulled up a pew by the fire and waited for the rest of the crew, all the time knowing that the next to arrive would see the empty carpark and for a fleeting moment feel the jubilation that we did… until they realised that we were kicking back by the amazing open fireplace inside.
And you know what? I have grown quite fond of the little red Suzi. Team Road Warriors, aka Team No 1.
Why do this?
I have to say that although I have jested about being stuck with the black sheep of the flock, I really did enjoy this trip and mainly because I was sitting back in a cruisy position and not hunched over the bars in a fighting stance ready to take on all comers.
The bike wasn’t trying to seduce me into breaking any land-speed records, which for a beginner rider is a perfectly fine way of ensuring that you get to your destination comfortably and with all bodily organs intact.
Too many times I have seen less experienced riders, especially in groups, try to keep up with a mate that might have a lot more ability, only to come unstuck. A more relaxed and less racy motorcycle can still provide a fantastic motorcycling experience because you tend to take in a bit more of your surroundings rather than keeping your eyes glued to your race line. And it’s amazing how much more you notice along the way.
Why this bike?
THE SUZI SURPISED me by how easily she took to the miserable wet and greasy conditions. The super-smooth belt drive, the low centre of gravity and the 15-inch rear versus the big 19-inch front wheel give you a sense of stability and plantedness almost as if you were a kid back in the day on your Big Wheel or Green Machine, but this time with not a hint of drifting from the rear end. The laid-back nature of the bike made me less of a boy racer and allowed me to focus on enjoying the rhythmic nature of the bends.
When we did have to negotiate traffic the S40 handled it well. Because it’s such a large capacity single it doesn’t rev its head off like a smaller bore bike and the five gears are nice and long so you don’t have to do a lot of changing. Easy.
If you’re a beginner looking to enjoy a long cruisy ride then you could do a lot worse than the Suzuki Boulevard S40.