Damn these little four-stroke tiddlers. Once, in ages past (ok, two years ago, if you’re being finicky), I used to call a Yamaha RD350 my personal mode of transport. Wait, that’s doing it a grave disservice. The Yammie was so much more than that – it was an extension of me and my personality, my moods even. It was temperamental, downright sulky and worked if it felt like it – but when it did work, it was women and children first. It took a totally different set of skills to ride a powerful two-stroke machine, and I had just about got them down pat when I joined Motoring.
Then came the endless array of me-too four-stroke commuters. At first, I was completely put off by their total lack of character and power, but riding them day in and day out spoiled me to a great extent. You kicked once or pressed a button and they started right away. They didn’t leak oil or overheat. They were quiet, refined, didn’t belch smoke and required little effort to ride, plus they seemed to generate fuel as they ran. In
daily-commute traffic, they were an absolute boon. Before I knew it, I had given my beloved RD to a friend for safekeeping and had crossed over to the dark side – the 100cc demons had won.
Herein lay the problem. When you’ve been lulled, over two years, into what I like to call the ‘Program’ mode of riding (where the bike pretty much does everything for you), switching to ‘Manual’ mode can be a bit of a problem. I discovered this to my detriment astride the fearsome Suzuki RG250 Gamma, a two-stroke fan’s wet-dream come true and an environmentalist’s nightmare.
The Suzie in question, in classic blue-and-white livery, was a compact 250cc, parallel-twin, 46 bhp, 130 kg race-replica of early nineties vintage and had been painstakingly restored by its current owner. It was good looking in a rectangular sort of way, and its aluminium spar really stood out. However, most people who stood in queue for one of these didn’t really bother that much about looks – true hooligans, for whom ferocious performance and a haze of getaway-smoke at the lights were the be-all and end-all, were the target audience; you had to be bonkers to useone of these as a commuting tool. I realised this as soon as I settled into the seat; the riding position wasn’t exactly designed for 30 km city runs. Indeed, when Suzuki first unleashed the RG250 Gamma on an unsuspecting world in 1983, they built it as a road-going race bike.