I was out on my Kawa H1 “exploring” some roads that I had never ridden before, being the 70s tuning goodies were easy to come by, this particular one had a nice set of Denco chambers on it. I was much younger then and used to push it very hard – I used to think that no one could out ride me, I was a real “road warrior”, or so I thought.
The stretch of road that I found myself on was the sort of road we all dream of riding, sweeping curves, clear fast straights, no junctions, the H1 was running well; the only thing bothering me was where I was going to find a petrol station as I was running on reserve.
As I exited a bend a quick glance in the wildly vibrating mirrors showed another bike behind me, it was pulling up to me then slowly dropping back. I thought you want a race you got it; nothing could stick with me, could it?
I dropped down a couple of gears and pinned the throttle, the engine enjoying the cooler evening air, coming into the power band and “on the pipe” it felt like an invisible hand pushing me forward at an ever increasing speed, the Spannies splitting the evening peace and quiet, the bike laying a blue haze in my wake.
Whatever bike was behind me I was leaving it on the straights but on every bend he was pulling me in (I really needed to do something about the H1s handling), the next thing I knew he passed me into a bend, the rider leaning off the seat, knee out – classic style.
For a brief time he pulled away from me but the superior power of the H1 reeled him in again. As I drew up behind him I was amazed to see from the licence plate that it was a 1963 bike with registration number EGL 134E. The sound from the twin downpipes was so loud and staccato you could almost feel the exhaust pulses beating onto your chest.
As I passed him on the straight I looked across, the guy was riding head down, bum up in the air, eyes fixed on the road ahead not distracted by my efforts to overtake, the bike looked like a 60s café racer, probably Triumph, I was not going to be beaten by some old oily British twin.
Again I revved the H1 deep into the power band, up another gear, pinning the throttle. I was amazed to find that I was not gaining much ground.
Looking ahead I could see chevron signs warning of an impending sharp right hander, down through the box, hard on the brakes. Triumph man came alongside me on the approach; his superior handling bike was going to see me off, how was I going to live that down?
As he came alongside I admitted defeat and pulled my bike a little more upright I had to show this guy some respect, as he passed me he glanced across at me, he looked like a 60’s throwback, studded leather jacket, open face helmet, goggles and a white silk scarf pulled tightly across his mouth, the ends flapping in the wind.
I’ll never forget the gesture that he made – a slow shake of the head for what seemed like ages.
It was then that the H1 motor cut, damn it - I had been running on reserve for too long, and the fuel had finally run out.
“Triumph man” continued on around the tight right hander, taking a perfect line, the old bike sounding crisp as he headed off into the distance and leaving a faint whiff of Castrol R hanging in the still evening air.
I exited bend at walking pace slowly grinding to a halt – Triumph man was nowhere to be seen, he had really got a shift on.
Luckily enough for me there was a couple of houses nearby and I pushed the H1 onto the driveway of one of the houses, I knocked the door and explained that I was out of fuel and asked if the owner wouldn’t mind looking after my bike overnight and I would return tomorrow with some fuel and collect it.
The guy that lived there was very accommodating – seemed pleased to look after the bike. I made a call from the public call box out in the road (no mobiles in those days) to arrange to be picked up and left the bike with him, securely locked in his garage.
The next day I was looking forward to picking up the bike – who knows Triumph man might be back for another “race” and this time I would beat him for sure.
I arrived to pick up my bike and after fuelling it up my lift drove off with the empty fuel can leaving me alone with the guy that lived in the house.
He was one of those rare instantly likeable people that you sometimes meet – knowledgeable, friendly and more importantly loved talking bikes.
I must have been sat with him for an hour so in his kitchen drinking tea and spinning yarns, being late summer the light was starting to fade and I wanted to get home, & perhaps do battle with Triumph man again.
As I was putting on my riding gear and leaving the house, I noticed a small table in the hall with a trophy on it, I squinted my eyes and could see that it was engraved “1963 Isle of Man TT” presented to a guy named George, and alongside was a couple of old black and white photos.
“Yours” I said, “no” said the old man that’s my son, he loved his bikes. He used to go racing most weekends. He proudly picked up the old photos and showed them to me, but he had a look of sadness in his eyes, and then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
The bike and the rider in the pictures were a dead ringer for Triumph man, the goggles, & scarf looked the same, but the licence plate was identical EGL 134E, I must have been looking open mouthed at the pictures, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The old man looked at me and told me how his son had tragically lost his life a few years ago in a motorcycling accident, just a mile or so up the road; he says that the cops reckoned he was racing with someone when he lost it on the sharp right hand bend.
I was lost for words, this all felt like some kind of bad dream.
I said my goodbyes and thanked the old man; the ride home was thoughtful shall we say.
I slowed down a lot, a hell of a lot after that, and to this day I sometimes feel that George is keeping a watchful eye over me.
Who know he may be looking after you too.
True story – could be, couldn’t it…………