By Quasar to the Dirt Bike Show

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To the Dirt Bike Show, by Quasar

The Dirt Bike Show in the middle of November provided me with an excuse to go for a ride in my Quasar for the first time in two months. I didn't think the bike was actually going to start when I first hit the button on the Friday afternoon ­ the starter motor wouldn't even Œcatch' to turn over, but just kept spinning uselessly. But just as I was going to give up after about five frustrating minutes, the old Reliant engine fired. Thinking that I might want to carry lots of bits and bobs back from the show, I fitted the brilliantly designed wrap-around panniers for the first time this year. It's a straightforward five minute job which actually took about half an hour by the time I'd got all the nuts, bolts and spanners together and drilled a new hole for an extra bolt to hold the number plate on. I wiped the rain-splattered screen before leaving and was pleased to see that the wipers still worked, but I had to stop at a garage just down the road to wipe the screen more thoroughly on both sides because in the eight weeks it had spent sitting on my forecourt it had acquired a film on the glass which made it hard to see through in the dark.

My initial journey was the usual weekend one of 30 odd miles from Ham to my girlfriend Elspeth's tower in Godalming so I stopped to fill up with LRP at Sainsbury's in Cobham and was surprised to get 18.75 litres in, which is actually a litre more than the underseat tank is supposed to hold! ( Fuel consumption was a disappointing 55mpg). The fuel gauge had been reading empty, but I thought that was because it had packed up, as it often does; within two minutes of leaving the petrol station with a full tank the needle had returned to empty again! I was also glad it had stopped raining shortly before I left home because the wipers also went on strike when I tried to clear the road spray at 80mph on the A3. At least the heater was still working, although I only felt its warm blast from the slots in the fairing when I took a glove off to re-tune my radio. (I'm tempted to put a hinge in the bottom of the engine cover which is attached to the front of the seat because I think it might allow a lot more heat into the rider area)

The back road up to Elspeth's tower must be about as tricky a tarmac route as you can do in a Quasar, especially at night. It's very narrow, steep and winding and includes two single track, Œblind' hump back bridges; and at this time of year there is so much mud washed down onto it from the steeply sided banks on either side, and so many wet leaves, that for much of its three miles it's more like a green lane than a paved section of road. I was also reminded just how sh!te the lights are on dipped beam, which has been made worse by having pumped up the rear S&W air shocks. Thankfully main beam is much better. I must re-set the light beam. After an educational Saturday spent working on the outside of Elspeth's 130ft water tower suspended from a cradle, in perfect weather, it was a relief to see the sun come out again for Sunday's ride up to Warwickshire. The journey took longer than it should have done because I took a slow route to and through Reading, but once on the M4 I made good progress to the A34, Oxford and the M40. There was a fair amount of crosswind requiring some serious counter-steering, but it wasn't nearly as bad as what I experienced on the A1 going to the Harley launch in September. I was cruising at about 95mph, enjoying the music on my digital radio that was coming through loud and clear but I also became aware of some numbness in my hands. This is the first time I've ever experienced this problem in the Quasar, although I've suffered from it occasionally on a Honda Pan European when I was working with the Virgin Limobike. I presume it's mainly caused by engine vibration, although I still also have some vibration from the front end of the bike at speeds over 80mph. After reading of Shaun's good result from balancing his front wheel, I'm tempted to see if my front wheel would benefit from a re-balancing, even though it was supposedly balanced when the new tyre was fitted last year. On the other hand, re-fitting the panniers definitely seems to have made the Quasar less prone to Œtank-slap' at 35-45mph.

Approaching Warwick services I became aware of a couple of bikes in the distance which I gradually reeled in over the next couple of miles. They turned out to be a BMW R1200GSAdventure and a Triumph Sprint that were doing about 90mph. I gave them a regal wave as I cruised past.

Ten minutes later I was at the National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh, (the venue for the Dirt Bike Show) and I was able to park up right outside the main entrance. Thanks to the panniers, the Quasar was easily able to swallow my Schubert helmet and all my riding gear. No sooner had I got everything in the bike than the self-same BMW and Triumph turned up; it turned out that the Adventure rider was a guy I'd met when we both did the Cambrian Rally the month before. Tim had never seen or even head of the Quasar, but his mate Pete with the Sprint had. I couldn't resist pointing out that they each had about three times the power of the Quasar's 850 Reliant lump in the engines of their respective steeds'.

Inside the show, I met its promoter Dan Sager for the first time and was amazed to discover that he was a big Quasar fan. Just as surprising, Max on the CCM stand, promoting CCM's new short track racers, reminded me that we'd met me on a ferry when I was en route to the Bol d'Or with an FF one year. (Assuming it wasn't with the Quasar in '84, it could have been with the Banana in Œ83, the BSAFF in' 85 or the LC350FF in Œ86!) Both guys said they'd go out and have a look at the Quasar before it got dark.

When the show closed I came out with a chap who'd had his YZ125/WR200 hybrid dirt bike on the TBM stand and his young son. Junior was fascinated by the Quasar. Retracing my route back down the M40 the traffic was heavy and it was even more windy than it had been on the way up. I seemed to be struggling much more than the cars to keep the Quasar on the straight and narrow at 70-80mph, but unfortunately there were no other bikes around to compare my problems with. However, having since ridden my Burger King to Normandy in a gale, I must say that the Suzuki seemed to be less troubled by the wind than the Quasar was. At Oxford services, with 224 miles on the odometer I could only get 16.27 litres in (= 62mpg). That's one huge advantage the Quasar has over my big scoots; the combination of its bigger tank and 50% better fuel consumption means that I can literally go twice as far between fill ups. I had a fast run down the A404 dual carriageway to Maidenhead from where I managed to navigate my way successfully down a succession of B roads to Bagshot despite my crap lights and a total lack of signage. A quick squirt down the M3, A331 and A31 and I was soon picking my way carefully through the mud and wet leaves on that treacherous back road up to Elspeth's tower.

The following morning the Quasar was rock steady through the 100mph right hander on the A3 outside Guildford and I filled up again in Cobham, simply because I wanted to mix some LRP into the unleaded that I'd put in at Oxford the night before. (I've no idea why Sainsbury's petrol stations all seem to carry LRP, but I'm damn glad they do ­ and they charge less for it than what some of the more expensive places demand for standard unleaded). This time it only used 7 litres for the 91 miles from Oxford, giving a respectable 59mpg.

The next day I used the Quasar for the six mile suburban spin over to Barnes where I showed it to my optician, Paul, for the first time. He's a keen biker who's owned all kinds of motorcycles from Harleys to the ill-fated Bimota Tesi stroker and currently has a modern Guzzi and a classic Commando, but he wisely commutes on a Mk1 Tmax, complete with Tucano lap cover and bolt-on screen extension. Of all the bikers who've seen my Quasar, he's the only one who's actually expressed a serious interest in riding it! I'll have to find a suitably spacious place for him to have a go in it. (Not many disused airfields in South West London, unfortunately!)

On the way back I also called in at BMG, the Piaggio scooter emporium in Sheen, where Bruce, the owner (who is also the UK Tucano Urbano importer) also had a sit in the strange roofed beast. Apparently it turned quite a few heads when I took off down the Upper Richmond Road. I'd swapped footwear from the weekend and noticed that it was harder work changing gear in my old scooter boots than in the new motorcycle boots that I bought cheap at the Brighton burn-up. On the other hand, I had to unscrew the toe-slider on the new right boot after I found that it was catching on the Quasar's frame and interfering with my rear braking. Not a problem on many bikes, I dare say! Altogether I added another 350 miles to the Quasar's odo reading, which has now climbed to the grand total of just 10,600 since it was first registered in November 1980! PNB