Shortly after I bought my GS1000 in 1978 I got the chance to buy an XL125 Honda. At the time I was also running another bike, a CB500 Four.
The idea of having a trail bike appealed to me as two of my friends, Fat Barry Warrener and Barry Clark, had both got trail bikes (TL125s). So I thought I could have a bit of off-road fun, transport to work and rallies in winter if the snow was bad.
The XL125 I bought was in nice condition, nearly new. Too good really as my off-road use took the shine off it a bit! There was a lot of spare land near where I live, its an industrial estate now but then it was an abandoned old railway goods yard with deep cuttings etc. It was next to the new M606 motorway so there were no neighbours to complain about the noise. We used to go there most evenings after work and just ride around. We had a Moto Cross course and some freak hill climbs if you felt brave, it was as good as any trail park I have seen.
The little Hondas were hard used but mostly reliable. Rear chains didn't last long but provided you changed the oil regularly the engines were fine.
Then, someone stole my XL. It was locked and chained up but it still went. It was found a few days later, burnt out. I needed something else and I spotted the ideal replacement in a local bike shop where I knew the manager. It was an SL125 that they had taken in part exchange and now they just wanted rid of it. The engine needed a top end rebuild and the rest of it was a bit 'used' looking but it suited my needs and it was cheap. This served me well for a few years. I had been gradually improving it and as it was an old model I had managed to get several 'new old stock' parts for it at a reasonable price. This included a new petrol tank, a seat and a standard exhaust system. After my rebuild someone made me an offer for it I couldn't refuse.
I already had my next 125 lined up, this time a road bike, a CB125S - free from someone at work who just wanted it out of the way! By this time my trail riding was being done on an SP370 Suzuki but for commuting and local fun the CB125 was handy.
SL125 loaded for a rally
I did lots of rallies on my various 125s, mainly winter and local but I did do the Thistle rally on the XL, an incredibly snowy Phoenix rally and lots of Reivers rallies including their really snowy one via the Ides of March.
The bike's cruising speed was 55/60 mph depending what gearing you were running so it wasn't too bad but when the weather turned nasty you didn't have to cope with a big heavy bike.
SL125 home in the snow
Looking at the photos for this article brought to mind an incident at work in the snowy car park.
One lunch time I was having fun riding around in the deep snow on my SL125. The snow had been cleared from the 'executive car park' and pushed into the motorcycle park.
I noticed I was being watched by a gentleman who had just parked his big luxury car under cover in the cleared section. He was well dressed in a black Crombie overcoat, suit and tie and a nice hat. He held his hand up to stop me and asked what was I doing? I said
I'm enjoying the snow from your car park. He replied
You are making a mess of the snow, stop this immediately. To which I said
FUCK OFF! He then said
Do you know who I am? and I said
No, but do you know I am?
Of course not! He said, so I set off with plenty of wheelspin and covered him head to foot in snow!
Fun in the car park
Indeed, he did not know my name but it only took him a couple of days to find out. My manager came to see me, red faced and very angry. He said
Don't try and get out of it, I know it was you! I've just had the bollocking of my life, why did you have to pick on the company chairman? I kept a straight face, refused to admit anything and got away with it!
The executive staff kept well clear of the motorcycle park from then on. We already had a bad reputation after Bill Stephenson's BMW R100S was knocked over and he was shown the sign that said 'Parking is at your own risk'. The next day Bill parked his bike by leaning it on one of the company cars and when he was approached about it he just pointed to the sign. He got banned from the car park for that!
Park at your own risk!
Years later, shortly before the old works was demolished, I managed to save the sign as a memento!
- Ted Trett