Mini Ride on an R5C-350 by Scott Fields

This is for any of you who have gotten a little too comfortable on your 600+cc's. :)
(longish)

First...some background. My dad used to be an avid motorcycler, tooling around in Kentucky and Wisconsin during college and then down here in Tennessee. The bike was always his main mode of transportation, but then about 13 yrs ago he tore up his knee in a soccer match, and he had to choose to abandon riding. Yet he didn't sell his bike, his 1972 Yamaha R5 350, he just parked it in a corner of the garage. With gas in it. And let it sit there for 10 lonesome years.

Enter me, the 17 yr old kid who is bored with High School and looking for excitement. :) What better than this motorcycle? So I pulled it out, washed the dust off of it, and aired up the tires. You should have seen the light in my dad's eyes as he told me of the adventures he had with it, what a hot bike it was. I was determined to fix it - it had run perfectly 10 years ago, right? So how hard could it be?

Ha! A few months later, I'd resealed the rusty tank, replaced some components, and cleaned all the black gunk out of the carbs (THIS IS WHY YOU DRAIN THE GAS IN THE WINTER!!!), but it still wouldn't run right. It wouldn't do more than about 60 MPH, and I had a nice few nice adventures with it overheating and dieseling at the 8k redline... So it was rideable, but more a plug-fouling, smoke belching poser than a motorcycle. Time for a real mechanic...

But the R5 sort of was pushed to the back as I lucked into a great deal on an 88 cbr1000f. The R5 was pushed back so much that it was now "dad's bike", and everything I did was on my CBR. It really took some practice to handle the Hurricane, but I came to love and respect it. I have learned so much on this bike, skills and mechanics. I enjoy it so much that I even replaced my alternator chain tensioner twice! It's just that much fun to pull the block and split thecases. :) Despite that, it's been a wonderful bike that has never let me down. Just once in a gravel driveway... I am addicted to the power on tap, cruising around down the interstate at 95 or so every day is enough to make anyone smile. :) But I think that learning on the Hurricane has really skewed my idea of what a motorcycle is: fast, solid, forgiving. It's great for touring, or for out and out power, but my mouth has been watering for a dirt bike or something lighter that I can play around with. I want to find something that's a little jumpy, more like a crotch firecracker than a crotch rocket.

Days go by, and this weekend I was at my dad's helping him with some automotive and electrical work. And, it turns out that one of his friends took a look at the R5. He fiddled with the carbs a bit and fixed in 2 minutes what I had been wrestling with for weeks! I had to give it a try! :) I hadn't ridden the CBR over, so I didn't have my power ranger suit. Scrounging around in closets, I came up with jeans and a leather jacket that were both a couple sizes too small and made me look like a Hell's Angel. :) Good enough! I squeezed into my dad's helmet, grabbed a pair of welding gloves and ran down to the garage.

Jumped on the bike...woa! Featherweight! I can pick up the front end! Haha! And of course it catches on the first kick. :) So quiet! I'm used to the Hurricane's deep throated rumbling that rolls through my body, but the Yamadog is light and yippy! "popp popp poppp, ppopp pppop..." I back it out into the gravel; walk it up to a level place. Have to fiddle with the headlight switch (an on/off switch! yay!) before my light still stay on, but then I'm off!

Out of the driveway, I'm flying through the gears and living up the feeling of that spiked power band! I get up to about 60 and get stuck behind the customary slow Saturn-ite basking in his oblivious tranquility. Downshifting, my engine screams like a banshee! There's no mass there! I can feel the little pistons just accelerating up as the drivechain spins them. Where is the inertial drag? Amazing! I finally got around the car and broke free up onto the highway. I start gunning the engine again, pushing it as hard as I can and leaning down to fight the forces trying to pull me off the back. I chance a glance into the mirrors (mainly looking for police) and notice that I'm leaving a nice bluish haze behind me. Built-in smoke screen! I keep pushing the bike, and it's having a little trouble now. It's only a 350, give it a break! 70....75... The world is so beautiful when you're hanging on for dear life! I'm trying to watch the tach, but it's hard when it's bouncing from 6k to 8k....gotta lube that...80...85...the engine is a nest of harmonius mad hornets! But...it's still so quiet? I barely notice the engine noise. It's just the wind rushing by, blowing over the machine and me. Screw the fairing, I like the challenge! I pull down, try to slide back. Make myself part of the seat, I'm just a parasite. Maybe the guages will deflect some wind. :) 90....and that's as high as I can push it. Me, a 19yr old kid, tearing down the highway on this bike I first fell in love with two years ago. I love it! Hella cool!

I played around with the R5 a bit more on the way back home, at slower speeds. It's just so incredibly light! On the CBR, I can jump around in the saddle and the bike just eases along. I have to do something drastic to have it take notice, but then it will follow me to the ends of the earth. But the R5...I can make it tap dance! It's like holding a thin stick in your hand and wiggling it...that random motion at the tip is what I can induce into the bike. :) Maybe I could crank up the built in steering damper, but I'd miss out on all the fun. :)

Now...it's back to my 1000F. No complaints, but it sure is a different kind of excitement. The Hurricane is like a car with nitrous, the R5 like a bicycle with a rocket duct taped to its tail. :) I have to get a little Ninja 250 to play on! Maybe an RD...so many choices, so little time! Sorry it's long, just had to let it out. :) 'night!

Scott
'88 CBR1000F

"Build a man a fire, he will be warm for a night. Set a man on fire, he will be warm for the rest of his life..."