Much as I love the Kawasaki and being back on two wheels in general there was that box that remained unticked. The Superbike. When once asked did I really need all the performance that one would deliver my answer was “No, but what’s that got to do with it”. I’d considered all the 1000cc options including the obvious choice having aligned my preferences with Kawasaki however I wasn’t expecting things to happen the way they did.
My regular rides out to Wales and the BMW owning riders I rode out with meant that visiting Motorrad in Chester was a regular occurrence. It was on one such visit that out of the blue I got presented with the opportunity to buy an ex-demo S1000RR with all the extras on it and 1000 miles on the clock. In a whirlwind of activity one minute I was an owner of a supersport bike and the next I was the owner of one of the most desirable super bikes on the market.
The bike was like night and day compared to the previous machine. It had enough power to pull your arms out at the sockets but it was also very agile and an absolute precision tool. I spent two great years with it and spent as much time looking at it as I did riding it.
The highlights of my time with it had to be a day with the Californian Superbike School at Silverstone on an extremely wet day and a tour of Scotland. The latter was the beginning of the end for the super bike as it turned out, and sports bikes in general. As I began to cover longer distances it became clear that I would have to get something that was less harsh on the joints.
Its funny looking back now but back in 2013 I had never rode anything on the road over 125cc and it had been over 20 years since I had been on a bike. In my teens I had looked longingly at RD350LCs, GPZ900Rs, Suzuki Katanas (strangely) and had a soft spot for the GPZ600. But at that moment of picking up the Kawasaki ZX-636 I was greener behind the ears than the bikes paint job. Regardless of the fact that I had been driving on the road for years and the current car was a 3.2 V6 Audi, in my mind it was the day after selling the MBX and it felt like I was that teenager again.
Those first days were a little strange. I’m not sure if it was being on a physically larger bike or that after so long I was just rusty but I remember being very stiff on the bike. Not physically, that would come later and we’ll get to that. I hadn’t appreciated that the bike needed a bit more input from me to wrestle it around. I was giving it more respect than it deserved. A few more miles under the belt sorted me out. I spent the first few weeks pottering around home just enjoying riding the bike, cleaning the bike, looking at the bike and cleaning it again just in case it had got dirty while I was looking at it. It wasn’t long before I had a local group of mates with bikes and we were taking regular longer rides around the Northwest and Wales.
Got a motorcycle, box ticked. Rode the motorcycle, box ticked. The next box that needed ticking was on the track.
With its origins as a race circuit starting in the 1950s my first recollection was going there in the late 70’s with my dad to watch the super bikes and eat beef sandwiches. Apart from the racing I remember the sandwiches had excessive amounts of butter and salt. Nice. I’m lucky that not only is it on my doorstep but, in my opinion, it is one of the best circuits in the world. In its 2.8 miles It has wonderful sweeping curves, changing gradients, and technical bits that are a joy when you nail them just right.
The bike was ready for it. I’d replaced the stock exhaust with a shorter carbon fibre PipeWerx exhaust and with its baffle out I was amazed to get it through its noise test. The mirrors were off and the headlights were taped up. Unfortunately it was a bit damp. Not so much that it would spoil the day but enough that you knew you couldn’t fully commit to the bends. Not that I’m shy of a bit of rain. As a choice we don’t ride in crap weather but thats a choice made of keeping the bikes at a showroom standard rather than any inability to ride in any condition on my part, as I’ll show later on in this tale.