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Strooth! It’s John Rooth and his ramblings on the advantages of new bikes over old…


This is going to hurt. It’s never easy to make a big turn in life but when it’s at the soul scraping level, when your parameters pull a 180-degree swing, then it’s easier to ’fess up and get on with it.

I’ve been dragged to the New Bike Table. Up until now my life’s been spent massaging old machines into life before heading out and proving to the world there’s nothing wrong with old. Old is good, old with a bit of tweaking is really good and old beats new all day long.

Problem is that mantra, like an old fibreglass fairing, has cracked with age. It started when I took the Norton to Tasmania for an old mate’s ride. It’s a 1972 750 and thanks to tweaking – a Mikuni replacing the Animals, electronic ignition lighting the fire – and some minor maintenance (what sort of twat calls a gearbox swap ‘minor’?), she did the laps with ease.

Ease? An oil hose blew off in Devonport and I spent a week sliding around corners with underpants tucked up so hard I could taste them. But it started every day, ran hard and surprised everybody. On board it was typically old Norton Commando with a great soundtrack and a lot of fuzzy vision. The brakes worked like they always have, gliding to a halt eventually. Kind of organic ABS given the oil on the tyre.

Back home and all sorted again I rode the Norton to Moorooka to pick up a Triumph Scrambler. I just wanted to have a go on the Trumpy because, well, my generation went all silly over any roadbike with high pipes. It conjures up magic thoughts of Steve McQueen jumping sand dunes and Nortons winning desert races.

Hopping off a cobbled 50-year-old bike on to the latest and greatest was a dumb move. Power? The Norton on full song is like herding budgies compared to 1200cc of fuel-injected thrust. Yeah, so they share two cylinders and spoked wheels and famous names, but under brakes? Stomping on the Triumph’s brakes meant stopping, with or without the back wheel in the air. Hit the Norton that hard and it responds with the precision of finding a marble in a jar of hot butter.

Ah yes, the lone brain cell that survived the 70s whispers, but the Norton really handles doesn’t it? Sure, if you’re into pushing a load of logs in a wheelbarrow because that’s what it feels like compared to the Triumph’s rigid frame and suspension that’s longer and damper than New Zealand.

Bloody hell, talk about living in an Amish paradise. Fifty years and so much difference before we mention being able to see things at night and reliability up there with the moon and the tides. But maybe 50 years excuses that?

No, and this is where the whole ‘old bikes are great’ story ends on the trailer. A couple of years back I bought a 2006 BMW GS on the cheap because our two-up touring 1996 R 100 LT caught fire prior to another lap of Tassie. There’s a decade between these two bikes, 10 years, not 50. But the difference on the road?

Even with twin-plugged heads, Mikuni carbs, Öhlins rear suspension and worked brakes, the old LT is like chopping logs with an axe compared to the chainsaw efficiency of a 1200 GS. There were moments when I thought ‘if this baby stops I’m stuffed’, technically speaking, but it didn’t stop.

By the end of the first week I’m calling it ‘The Appliance’ and Karen’s calling it the best thing she’s ever pillioned on.

So like an oil stain spreading in the shed, reality has slipped home. All those riders who updated when technology dictated, they had it right. Not me, not the troglodyte who’s still hitting nails with a hammer when everybody else has a nail gun. Why take pride in a rickety chook shed when the rest of the world lives in a palace?

There are bikes here I’ve had since school. They’ll stay, but the big miles will be on newer bikes now because they’re so good compared to the rocking horses of old.

It’s not a sin to be nostalgic for the past but it is to deny the present – and miss out. New motorcycles are great.