Wheel alignment

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The bike that got me back into motorcycling

I've loved bikes for as long as I can remember but motorcycle ownership went on hold with marriage in 1972, moving to NZ in 1975, building a career and raising a young family - a pretty typical scenario for many of us.  I'd also got into competitive sailing although bikes were never forgotten.  On one fateful day in 1987, a visit to Auckland to pick up a yacht sail right next door to a Honda dealer was to cause a few ructions in our household. 

You know how some bikes trigger an instant emotional connection?  (Otherwise known as "I want it, and I want it NOW").  Well, that's what the bike on a stand in the dealer's window did to me, completely out of the blue.  Jennie wasn't best pleased with several days of whining on my part and reluctantly gave permission for ownership.  A week later, I was the proud owner and not long after, she was the proud owner of a piano at nearly twice the cost of the Honda.  That's what you call a quid pro quo in spades!!

Anyway, back to the bike......

It's called a GB400TT, predominantly produced for the Japanese domestic market and loosely modelled on the classic British sporting singles of the 50's and 60's such as the BSA Gold Star. The motor was a modified XR400 single cylinder trail bike engine with a 4 valve head and a 2 into 1 exhaust system.  Finished in rare midnight blue metallic paint and silver guards with plenty of chrome, it looked gorgeous.  The following photo was taken not long after taking ownership.

1987 Honda GB 400TT

It was a great bike to re-launch a motorcycling career - light, reasonably quick (around a genuine 100 mph / 160 km/hr) and utterly reliable.  

Now, the reason for this post is that I've just made one of my occasional forays into our many boxes of photos and found some extra shots taken around 1990.  At that time, I saw an advert for locally made aftermarket fairings and enquired about one for the GB 400. I got a reply saying they had one based on a Yamaha RZ 350 and a few weeks later, the deal was done.  Had it sprayed to match the bike and signwritten in gold - looked like it was made for the GB.  Here are some pics...

Nice slim front profile

Resplendent in midnight blue metallic paint and gold sign-writing

Classic "British" profile with Manx Norton-type short reverse cone megaphone

It was a delight to ride - light and flickable.  Reminiscent of the current Street Triple in that respect, but with only 1/3 of the gee-gees!  I even bought a single race seat for it later on to make it look even more like a British classic racer.  Spent 5 happy years with it until stepping up in capacity and buying a BMW K100 RS. Our eldest son inherited it for a year or two before it got sold to a delighted buyer in the South Taranaki region of NZ.  A great machine for getting me back into bikes and forever held in great affection!

Now for something to put you off your dinner, hehe!

Some of you may remember previous posts featuring my mate and fellow Coromandel resident Paul who owns some classic Nortons, including the superb 850 racebike below.  A few Kiwi friends who read this blog have actually met him and will attest to his "apparently" reserved demeanour.

Paul and his 850 at the Pukekohe race track

Now you may wonder how the residents of a remote village like Coromandel (pop 1600 on a good day) spend those long winter evenings apart from varnishing their banjos and making moonshine. Well, they hold a Mizz Coromandel pageant and dinner in the local school hall to raise money for the local food bank.  The unique difference is that the entrants are all macho guys - loggers, fishermen, engineers ........ and Paul!!!  They had to parade on the raised catwalk in what might be described as "local daywear", swimwear and evening dress.  Most of the entrants appeared to have consumed a fair bit of alcohol to get them through the ordeal!

Laugh?  I nearly choked to death!!  Some guys went the whole hog with a full body wax and looked (blush) stunning.  It was even funnier seeing the more ummm.... hirsute guys with masses of chest and back hair prancing about in glorious costume!

Anyway, here are some shots of the normally quiet and retiring Paul as Mizz Whiplash (or something like that).

Paul in tasteful evening wear

Paul in modest beachwear attire

When the Master of Ceremonies commented on the brevity of his attire, Paul said that he'd spent a whole $20 on his green swimwear and about $10 of that had disappeared up his arse - brought the house down!!

Anyway, a massive amount of money was raised for the local food bank and everyone had a truly memorable evening, even if we won't see Paul in quite the same light again - what a star!!!!  Maybe it's a commentary on all Norton owners....... ;-)


  1. i reckon you should borrow the swim suit for the next IAm fundraiser Geoff, it would really suit you I reckon.

    As for the bike, the fairing looks brilliant, what a difference that made.

    1. Rog,
      I think that the thigh length plastic boots would be more appropriate to preserve the ATGATT image :-). Hate the thought of a Triumph owner following in the steps of a Norton guy though ;-).

      Thanks, that fairing was pretty nice. A fibreglass replica of an RZ 350, modified to suit a round headlight and slightly slimmer at the bottom of the fairing. Made in Hamilton.

  2. Shucks... Rogey beat me to THE comment... Why no piccies of Mizz Tri-humph?? Modest are we??

    On a slightly different tangent - have a look for "Classic Bike Guide Two lumps or three Custom Tritons Rock" on that classic webnet site - youtube...


  3. Mark,
    Not so much modest as terrified, even with multiple beers inside me!

    Have seen that video before - some awfully clever people about. When you've heard one of those early Tridents with an open racing pipe, you never forget them!

  4. Beautiful Honda. Oilburner asked me if it was still in the stable and I had to tell him no.

    That last image is burned in my retinas. And I thought it was only the naked biker here's in St. Louis that only wore those.

    1. Lori,
      Thank you and it is indeed a pretty bike. Regrettably, I'm limited to a stable of 1 bike unless we win Lotto. The alternative is becoming a gelding myself :-)

      I promise not to post any more, some of them are beyond belief!!

  5. Photos I would happily have gone to my grave never having seen.....

    Kudos to all the blokes who will look foolish for a good cause.

    1. Canajun,

      We had to sit through over 4 hours of live action and falsetto voices. A bottle of wine to oneself might have helped eliminate the mental trauma but I was designated driver for the night. Pity me for seeing it stone cold sober!

      Yes indeed, some awfully brave guys out there, even if half off them were well fortified with Dutch Courage!

  6. Gorgeous bike! Nice classy lines.
    But now I have to go wash my eyes out...I think you know why!! :D

    1. Thanks Kari!
      It's a pity that we can't scrub our brains out too, isn't it?? I don't know how I'm going to look at him without laughing in the next few days.

  7. Geoff

    Good that Honda made a tribute to Mecano on the front mud guard support strut!

    I was not astute enough to make the piano/motorcycle trade with Mrs N1 v1 - she already had a rather expensive grand piano (that took uip 90% of the modest living room)and I was not allowed to buy an "old timer" BMW - never marry a lawyer! Mrs N v2 has a rather more tolerant attitude....


    1. Hi Nikos!
      Told you it was retro, haha,

      Well, the piano certainly wasn't my suggestion and opened the future to a whole raft of trades in which I lost heavily. K100RS vs MX5, Blackbird vs 5 bedroomed house and another MX 5 for something I don't rightly remember. I admit to being totally outclassed at every turn :-(

  8. Geoff, on a serious note - what a great way to help such a worthy cause - I take my hat off to all who participated

    PS - the Honda was sold for a BMW, what about the piano??

    1. Mark,
      Sure was - about 20 percent of the village turned out.

      The piano is still alive and kicking, albeit rarely played more's the pity! It's got a great tone for jazz and blues!

  9. I wonder. does the Honda still exist?

    1. You've just prompted me to have a look on the 'net! According to CarJam, it has now covered 54000 km at the last warrant which says it isn't used much. Can't see who owns it as I have to pay,

      Thanks for the nudge mate!

  10. Geoff, that is an attractive little motorcycle. The first thing that caught my eye was that it had alloy rims - pretty unusual for a mass produced Japanese bike.

    1. Jules!
      Yeah, mock Borrani rims and stainless polished spokes, chromed tachometer and speedo. All the hallmarks of a British classic reproduced!

  11. Replies
    1. Steve,
      I do apologise. As a Yamaha owner, I'm assuming that it's the Honda which offends your eyes and not Paul ;-)

  12. Entrapment I say!
    You lure us in with photos of a sexy little Honda then BAM, next thing we are ogling $10 worth of swimsuit.?????????????
    "No officer, I was just on this website looking at motorcycles! Honest"

    1. Haha! If it was entrapment by a Kiwi,it would have featured sheep dressed to kill :-)

  13. Ok, I will forever see Norton owners and swimsuits in a different light now. This last pic left a scar in my brain.

    How mean of you to use the Honda (loving it, reminds me of my XBR500) to lure the unsuspecting reader in, only to expose us to such...

    I mean I am save, I am still a just girl looking at a guy in whichever outfit. But think of all the manly men out there that might get traumatized for life ;-) and start questioning their being... ;-)

    BTW, what did you wear?

    1. Sonja!
      So sorry to put you right off Coromandel - bet you had no idea what was going on here when you visited!!

      You were quite safe with us, it's only the weird Norton owners that have to be avoided :-)

      Jennie is threatening to enter me next time. I may need to seek asylum in Canada!!

    2. No such luck - if Jenni enters you in the competition then the IAM boys will help with the costumes!

    3. I wish I could have been there. I guess you guys have had a blasts.

      PS: What you should know about Vancouver... it is drag queen capital of North America...

    4. Sonja,

      I guess we'll feel totally at home when we get up Vancouver then :-). I'm sure you guys will know all the right spots ;-)

  14. That Honda is gorgeous Geoff. I can see how it promptly a little whining/begging of Jennie. I am surprised to see how different it looks with the fairing. what a sexy little beast.

    Sadly I cannot say the same for Paul in drag. Some things cannot be unseen. The comment about losing $10 worth of suit was quite 'cheeky' of him don't you think? It does remind me of Eddy Izzard though, one of my favorite all time comedians.

    1. Hi Brandy!
      It certainly is a little honey thanks. If you go to Google Images and search for a GB400, there's a version in silver with a single race seat which is pretty darned sexy too.

      Hahaha, my sense of humour too. Also love Eddy Izzard. Must have watched all his YouTube clips, plus all his tv appearances!

  15. Geoff,

    Your GB was beautiful, but then again I am partial to Honda's. I wish I could find that bike, it is gorgeous. As for your mates in the fashion show I think I have seen bandaids bigger than the bathing suit. Hah pretty funny stuff, glad they raised lots for the local food bank.

    1. Dar,
      Thank you! You might see the odd import about but I'd imagine they're pretty rare, more's the pity.

      Guess a band aid would have been cheaper! Paul ordered his boots from a cross-dressing shop in California - that's dedication for you!!

  16. I've always liked GB's - they just look "right". And this is coming from someone who likes to duck down behind big fairings at times...

    I've never actually ridden one but would love a tidy 500...

  17. Andrew,
    Totally agree with that "rightness". The 500 was only available in maroon, which was pretty nice anyway. Some people who restored them put the X-R 600 motor in which has the same external dimensions. There was also a 250 but that looked slightly different. Still nice though.

  18. Geoff:

    If Jenny enters you in the competition next year, I will be right over. I will be sure to bring my telephoto and macro lenses, with numerous video cams.

    Your GB400 was stunning. would be nice to buy it back

    Riding the Wet Coast
    My Flickr // My YouTube

    I think you'll certainly need enlarging lenses as I'll be shrivelled up with fear :-).

    It would be nice to have it back for nostalgia's sake but realistically, it wouldn't get ridden because I enjoy the Triple so much!

  19. An absolute ripper of a bike there Geoff. Magnificent job made of the fairings and lettering. I'd love to have something like that to plonk around on.


    1. Hi Marty and thanks for dropping by! I'd happily own another one for fun riding in out area as they're all twisty roads where top speed isn't so important. I don't think my wife would be too pleased with another bike in the shed as she thinks I've got enough toys already!

  20. I agree with Brandy, your friend's a cheeky devil. My first ride was a Honda but not nearly as pretty as yours. Maybe that's why I gave it up for such a long time.

  21. Hi Karen!

    Hahaha - if you met Paul, you'd think he was a shy type. Well, he is, but it's the quiet ones you have to watch!!

    A lot of Hondas are quite uninspiring, even if they are well built. The GB was certainly one of the prettiest though. There's still quite a cult following world-wide.

  22. That GB is awesome, Geoff. Love the fairing.

  23. Giddy Marty!
    Thanks mate. Honda really got it right with that bike! Yep, the fairing could have been made for it which I guess is a bit unusual for something based on a Yamaha. Certainly adds to it though.