I was, frankly, concerned about riding the old Kawasaki the 35 miles home from Lerwick tonight. It was gusting up to a force seven, sidewinds for the most part. It was getting dark, and my eyesight is increasingly bad at coping with lack o'licht. And this was a £400 bike, old, if well cared for, that I'd never ridden before.
It was great. There were a few problems - the bike hadn't been ridden for a while, it needed to blow some gunge out of its venerable (F-reg) systems and it took a wee while to get used to the controls. But after 10 minutes, in a blowy but dry twilight, the GT550 was a delight to ride.
First rides home. Sometimes they're the best, the quintessence of what biking is about. You're discovering, hopefully, the worth of what you've bought, usually after a period of un-biking. I was especially pleased by the fact that my last motorcycle ride, a horrendous, sleet-and-gale battered journey to the ferry with an eBay-flogged Moto Guzzi, was on a bike worth 10 times the Kawasaki. And the lovely, newish Guzzi was a worse performer - for my needs - in everything but looks.
Because there's a reason the wee GT550 was - still is - the ultimate courier's tool. It's small and light. Very nippy up to 60. It has a huge petrol tank, massive range and the best headlight of any motorcycle I've ever ridden. And best of all, for Shetland conditions, it's rock solid in sidewinds.
Also, I wore my cheap as chips Max flip-up helmet, which unlike my excruciatingly expensive AVG does not steam up and stay opaque. Coupled with powerful headlight, for once I could see where I was going as darkness fell.
So there we go. The bike came complete with a box of spares, manuals, and a newish helmet. Steve, the owner, is giving up biking for good. Or so he says.
That's what I said, just three weeks ago. And now...well, now I have both the old Suzuki GS1000G for high days and holidays, and the Kawasaki for...other occasions. Oh, and did I mention Hugh Kerr's lime green GT550 which I'm picking up in April when I'm on the mainland? No? I was sure I did...