and a DR400
I had enjoyed using my XL and SL125s off road, but although you could use them for winter rallies a 125 is a bit of a challenge to ride for 100s of miles in winter. The answer seemed to be - buy a bigger trail bike.
This was long before the 'adventure bike' era and the choice was a bit limited. I bought a bright red Suzuki SP370 which had obviously never been used off road. That soon changed. I actually found it harder to keep up with my local TRF group on the SP compared to my 125 but I think that was more down to my shortcomings than the bike's!
The SP370 was far better on the road for rally duty. It was not a fast bike and ran out of breath much over 70 miles per hour but it was fast enough to cover long distances in a reasonable time. This is always a consideration for winter rallying with the lack of daylight hours available for travelling.
I took it over to the Isle of Man for the TT. When we got there Jim Waugh's Kettle decided to eat its crankshaft on the way to the campsite from the ferry. I towed him from Douglas to Laxey then ended up with a pillion passenger for the next two weeks. Actually it was fun, we got up to all sorts that year. Jim is a railway enthusiast so we explored all the disused sections of rail track on my SP.
Trail riding two up is ok as you have someone to help pick the bike up when you fall off and when my kickstarter broke he was invaluable for bump starts until I got it brazed together again.
The SP is the only bike on which I have been stopped by the Police on the Isle of Man. We were going down from Kate's Cottage to Creg ny Baa on Mad Sunday. I was determined to see 100mph on the clock. I had seen the policeman in the coned off area at the bottom waving at me but I ignored him. We both laid on the tank, I gripped the fork leg with my left hand and held the throttle wide until we hit the magic Ton! I must say the policeman had far more faith in the drum brakes on the SP than I had when he stood in the way blocking my escape. He was just getting into his stride with my Serious Bollocking when he heard the scream of a flat out MZ 250 approaching. It was my friend Ian Steele who had been chasing us up the mountain. The policeman let us go saying
My God, here's another idiot!
I went up to the Midsummer Madness in Glen Coe. Barry Clark also took his SP and we had a week trail riding up there and managed to do some Castles photography too. I nearly lost my bike when I parked it in a Loch up to its sump in water for a photo. Before I could take the picture it fell over! For some reason it was reluctant to start for an hour or so after that.
All was going well and I was using the bike for work, shopping, off road and for rallies then it disappeared. I had left it with a large lock and chain attached to a solid pipe but I never saw or heard of it again.
Once I got paid out I thought I would buy another one but I struggled to find another one as good as my old one. Eventually I bought a silver one, not quite as clean but ok.
The second SP370 was quite difficult to start when hot. It kicked back far harder than you would expect from a Japanese bike but other than that it was much the same as the red one. The SP was a bit wheelie prone, you had to be quite careful setting off in first gear to keep the front wheel down. Its next owner, Ian Lee, my motorcycle instructor friend, found out the hard way!
I rode down to Dover and went to Ostend for the Sinterklaastreffen on this bike and had a cold ride back when the rear of the fuel tank split soaking my nether regions with fuel on the way up the motorway. It's just as well I wasn't with any smokers or I may have got warmed up quickly.
I didn't keep the second SP very long as I got the chance to buy a nearly new DR400s. Unfortunately this was much too nice to use off road so got little use and I ended up selling it after a very short time because I didn't want to spoil it and I had a Honda XL250 lined up as my next off-roader.
- Ted Trett