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The survival bike | COLUMNS | GASSIT GARAGE

It is the bike you would reach out for if Armageddon happened

The email I sent to my friend had no word content. It only had a subject heading that stated: “My new toy, I’m in love again.”

The photo I’d attached needed no explanation.

My friend, another former seventies longhair, replied within an hour or so. His words: “A man is so easily pleased and so readily satisfied! Why is it women have such difficulty understanding this basic need!”

The photo? My latest mechanical acquisition.

The question that neither of us knew the answer to? Why do we do this?

It had been a snap decision, taken in a moment of passion with no consultation with the life partner. Would it ruin a long-standing relationship?

My friend has a collection of ultimately desirable motorcycles, based on skilful negotiation and an eye for the true value of the acquisition and its place in motorcycling history.

My small collection of two wheels is based solely on the desire of what I want to ride and what I can afford at the time.

This is why, like many of the others before, this latest acquisition required some serious shed time to get into good running order.

And so it has come to this. Mid winter. Hail, sleet and numerous reasons not to go into the workshop, but here I am.

I’m standing looking at the $1000 IT200 Yamaha enduro I wrote about last month.

The more I look at it the more I love it. Minimalist in the extreme with a lightweight, uncomplicated, two-stroke engine. No battery required.

Being near the end of a model run means it has a powerful twin-leading shoe front brake and supple, gas-charged rear shock.

There are some deficiencies, though. Most of the wiring loom is missing, there are cracks in the plastic fuel tank, it has race-only knobbies on it and the rear chain looks dry and rusty.

However, it has just as many good points that indicate the previous owner (or owners) knew a bit about this particular model.

For example, the head steady has been removed. This is an old remedy that stops the cylinder cracking under extreme riding conditions when the engine is vibrating and the chassis flexing.

A large washer has been welded to the side stand to stop it sinking into the dirt, the rear shock absorber has plenty of damping, it runs through the gears and the engine feels crisp and responsive.

I spend just $250 getting the wiring fixed. Now even the speedo light works.

The chain is resuscitated with a toothbrush-scrub in kerosene and a soak in a heated tin of Duckhams chain bath I haven’t used since 1980.

Looking at the bike again I realise this could be a survival bike, for three reasons.

One: it is back running strong again after being pulled out of a pile and revived.

Two: it is the bike you would reach out for if Armageddon happened.

The cult of the survival bike is gathering force. Check out to see what I mean.

There are whole websites devoted to the best zombie apocalypse motorcycles, ranging from an ex-US military diesel-powered Kawasaki KLR650 to the battery-powered Zero Stealthfighter. Perhaps the two-wheel-drive Rokon is a better option?

No mate, the two-stroke IT Yamaha is the best. Why? Because it is a two-stroke. That means it runs on the same fuel mix as the small chainsaw I will have strapped to my back.

If I want to brew up some hot food or stick-weld the subframe without creating a target-seeking light source I also have an old two-stroke generator at hand.

Army practice is to run all power sources on the same fuel. So tick that box.

The third reason it is a survival bike? As I work on the little IT in the evenings I remember what another friend of mine said a long time ago: a man without a hobby is a man without a soul.