Words and photos by Darren Andersen
What possesses a forty-four year old, who has not owned a dirt bike for at least twenty-two years, to out of the blue up and purchase an old MX bike?
Which is exactly what I did. It was an impulse buy in the true sense of the word. I saw it, I liked it, I wanted it, and when I clicked guiltily on, confirm your bid button, I knew I had to have it.
The object of my desire was a 1983 Yamaha YZ 250 K. It looks fantastic. Restored, clean and with a hint of that new bike smell rising from the recently recovered seat.
I was in love. And through the rose coloured glasses of my blissful infatuation, any hint of alarm bells going off were muffled when, after thirty odd kicks, she still refused to start. I blamed myself thinking it was something I was doing wrong.
The bloke I bought her from was too busy to be there when I picked the bike up, and his teenage daughter just stood in the driveway, with her arms crossed defensively, squinting her eyes at the ‘freak’ taking up her valuable time.
I was more then a bit relieved when suddenly the engine sprang to life. I smiled at the girl. She just turned and walked back into the garage and hit the roller-door button.
The beautiful sound of that two-stroke had me beaming and even the daunting task of getting the bike up the narrow ramp onto my ute couldn’t wipe the stupid grin from my face.
I felt kinda proud as I passed other cars and other blokes on the motorway with the YZ standing high on the back of my ute. And people looked back at the bike as they in-turn passed me. I couldn’t be seen to smile though. That would be, as they say, way uncool.
As my mate, Ian, and I stood silently in my backyard, beer in hand, staring at my new purchase, it occurred to me just how much of an impulse buy this bike had been. I had bought the bike purely because it looked cool. Shouldn’t I have been more sensible than that? Why hadn’t I thought through the practical issues? Where am I going to ride the bloody thing? Was I going to ride the bloody thing?
Questions of self-doubt started to creep in. Am I having a mid-life crisis? Is all this just a vain attempt to recapture the freedom and pure joy riding dirt bikes gave to me as a fifteen year old in 1980? And anyway, hadn’t I always been more of a Suzuki man?
“There’s coolant coming from the water-pump housing and there’s oil leaking from the power-valve cover’, Ian said, breaking the silence.
The reality of my nostalgic affair with Miss Yamaha was slowly coming back… maybe not so much as to bite me, more like a flick to my ear.
I removed the power-valve cover to reveal, let’s say, a couple of issues.
A broken thrust plate, part of which was jamming the linkage. A small bush was missing from inside the oil seal at the end of the power-valve shaft, letting the small square shaped collar ride up into the oil seal itself and damage it.
I prayerfully hoped that the bloke I bought the bike from had just forgotten to put the small bush on and not accidently dropped it into the crankcase, then thought; ‘stuff it I’ll bolt ‘er back together and flog it off on ebay’.
I wheeled my pretty bike into the shed and locked the doors. Time to log onto the Internet and search for parts.
Searching the Internet renewed wanning my spirit. A whole new world awaited me. Communities of vintage dirt bike enthusiasts, blogging away, dedicated VMX sites, spare-parts sites and clubs. I even found a previous owner of my pretty YZ through bikepics.com. He was kind enough to give me a bit of history on the bike and the work he had done to it when he owned and raced it. He also put me onto Retro Yamaha in SA so now my new parts are on the way. After all these years I had finally found my people.
This new world inspired me enough to purchase another bike, a wreck, a true basket case this time and a worthy restoration project. It’s the bike I always wanted as a teenager but never got. We all remember our first love, be it a ‘76 RM125, IT250G or TT500. Mine just happens to be a 1982 Suzuki PE175Z with full-floater rear suspension.
I lived in the country back then and the PE could be registered for the road. I dreamt of owning one as a kid so I could have the freedom to ride anywhere I wanted.
There are now boxes and packets of PE parts in my shed. On the shelves are forks and shocks and old bits of exhausts and wheels and in the cupboard are engine parts. On top of my workbench is a stripped down frame.
Can I resurrect PE from the bike-wreckers grave and give to it new life in Vinduro Heaven? Time will tell… All I know is maybe somewhere along the way there is a moment waiting for me when I will feel a sense of freedom and joy a fifteen year old felt all those years ago as he fanged round the countryside on his 1974 KX125 (Yes, the rotary reed valve).
As for Ms YZ… well, as soon as the parts arrive and she’s once again strutting her stuff, like the sexy girl she is, I think the for sale ad will read something like this; For Sale 1983 YZ250K. Must make way for new project.