A tale of two Quasars - © Paul Blezard 2005

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Last weekend (July 23/24) I took the Quasar back to the sunny South East coast for its long-awaited refurbishment courtesy of John Crowson (Mark’s brother) and his firm Sussex Kit Cars. John’s already done two successful Quasar refurbs so knows a lot about the machines, and anything he doesn’t know he can find out from Mark.

The trip started on the Friday evening, about two hours later than planned since it took me ages to get everything together for a posh do in Worthing the following evening. (People who know me may be surprised to hear that the Quasar’s panniers were crammed with my only suit and no less than two dinner jackets….. plus my lap top and much else besides). Fortunately for me, (and unfortunately for her), my girlfriend Elspeth was held up by horrendous traffic so I actually got to our rendezvous point at Clacket Lane services on the M25 before her.

I was jolly pleased to see Elspeth and her son Tom because by the time I got to Clacket Lane the spare wheel was killing me…..I’d simply slotted it into the ‘passenger space’ behind me and had been astonished by how much easier it made the Quasar to ride. This was because it gave me a solid support to lean against (as opposed to the standard swinging hammock) making me feel much better connected to the bike. It also moved me both forward and up, noticeably improving my view of the road ahead. It just seemed to make the Quasar much easier to handle at all speeds. Unfortunately the bulging hub of the wheel also dug into my back causing increasing discomfort – hence my relief at being able to put it in Elspeth’s car. On the entertaining 270 degree turn off the M25 onto the A21 I went round the outside of three cars with the Quasar well cranked over, but Elspeth wasn’t impressed – she said she had to hold right back, but then she was in a Porsche Carrera Targa!

When we got to the single lane sections of the A21 I took advantage of the Quasar’s slimness to keep overtaking, secure in the knowledge that the Porsche should easily be able to catch me back up on the dual carriageway sections. At first, the Quasar’s headlight switchgear behaved itself, with the dipswitch working fine, but after about half a dozen changes between dip and main beam, the bally thing started playing up again, just as it did last time I rode it in the dark.

What happens is that the dipped beam works fine, and the main beam flasher works fine, but when you switch from dip to main, all the lights go out, leaving you bowling down the twisty A21 with nary so much as a candle to light your way! Fortunately dipped beam returns as soon as you switch back from the main beam position, but with the switch being stupidly located on the right handlebar, it’s a pain in the arse to operate, even at the best of times.

I ended up driving with one hand most of the time, with my left hand placed over my right wrist in order to hold the sprung flasher in the ‘on’ position whenever there was no traffic coming the other way.

By the time I got to the Robertsbridge roundabout there was still no sign of Elspeth, so I pulled over to consult the map and wait. Just as I started to phone her, she arrived; turned out she’d stopped to fill up with cheap petrol. Our destination for the night was actually Winchelsea Beach, a few miles north east of Hastings. We were planning to take the B2089 via Broad Oak, thereby by-passing Hastings before dropping down directly to Winchelsea on a little white road. Anyway, I suggested that Elspeth take the lead, since her lights were so much better than mine, plus she had a navigator with a map and torch in his lap…..I knew the B2089 was coming up soon, so was surprised when Elspeth drove straight past it, ignoring two clear signs, well in advance of the turn…..Needless to say, we missed the white road to Winchelsea as well, so ended up having to go right through the middle of Rye. The truth is we should have taken the A268 all the way from Flimwell in the first place….but I digress.

Elspeth’s brother’s cottage is about half a mile down a dusty dirt road which was no problem, but the final challenge of the night was driving the Quasar up his steep concrete car ramp, with steps in the middle and a very tight squeeze between the end of the ramp and the corner of the cottage. Fortunately I made it without biffing fibreglass on brick, or dropping the front wheel into the central steps.

Next morning Elspeth’s young nephew Will enjoyed having a sit in the Quasar and we had some fun and games reversing the beast back down the ramp. I had the spare wheel on board again, since I was going via Mark Crowson’s gaff while Elspeth and Tom were going to join us later at Sussex Kit Cars, in Horam. One of the trickiest manoeuvres a Quasar rider can attempt is to park up Chez Crowson when he’s got one of his own Quasars blocking the entrance to his drive due to the combination of dead end, kerbs and nasty cambers. After a bit or cursing and swearing I managed it, and I can’t complain because the Quasar in question was parked there for my benefit….

Before leaving Mark’s place we compared his spare wheels with my own and he has one that looks as if it started life the same as mine – that is to say with a completely smooth, large diameter ‘bore’ as opposed to having a big ‘step’ to retain the wheel beaing, which is what I have on the existing rear wheel. My spare wheel just needs a groove machining into it to hold a circlip which can, in turn, keep a wheel bearing in place, once I’ve sourced one!

Finally, came the riding highlight of the weekend – piloting Mark’s White Quasar over to SKC in Horam, while Mark drove my Black machine. The white ‘un has something approaching a Formula750-ish tune while my own Quasar is pretty much bog standard engine-wise (as far as I know). The first thing Mark did was ‘nick’ his lovely comfortable patent foam backrest to put in my own machine. Fortunately he found some foam for me to use, which, while it wasn’t as nice as his own backrest, was still much better than the standard hammock, and a damn sight more comfortable than having the hub of a spare wheel digging into my back!

We took the scenic route from Hastings to Horam via Battle and Herstmonceux which is actually about 25 miles. Although Mark was leading the way in my slower Quasar I loved every minute of riding the white one.

It’s so much easier to ride and to ‘make progress’ than with mine.

Instead of having to cane it in second for any kind of acceleration, you can just bang it into third and it pulls like a train, and instead of fourth being little more than an overdrive on twisty roads, in Mark’s machine you can actually use it for 50-70mph overtaking. In mine you have to drop down to third.

Just sitting in the White ‘un at rest, it feels much lighter than mine, and as soon as you get rolling, it’s so much easier to flick left and right. (‘Course, it helps that it doesn’t have completely knackered head bearings!) And the brakes! What a treat to be able to use only two fingers on the front brake lever and get some serious retardation, rather than having to haul with all my might with all four digits.

The only problem with our scenic route was that it didn’t allow Mark to experience the disconcerting ‘thumping’ which my machine suffers from above 80mph. This provided me with a perfect excuse for a quick thrash down the Hailsham by-pass in the white ’un while Mark attempted to reach the required speed to experience the thumping in the black ‘un. I went first down the dual carriageway and soon found the speedo needle sweeping past the ton as I pursued some flash git in a sports car. We turned around at the first roundabout about two miles up the road and, with a bit more room on the return journey, I gave it a bit more ‘wellie’ and, as Mark has already reported, had it over 110mph with no apparent effort at all. The most enjoyable bit however, was on the last four miles up the A257 up to Horam.

Mark’s Quasar is truly confidence-inspiring and was an absolute joy to ride as I carved neat lines through the fast sweepers, powering past several cars at a time with ease. When we got back to Sussex Kit Cars I just said ‘I’ll have one like that please!’

If only Quasars had been like that back in the 80s! (and AFAIK there’s no technical reason why they couldn’t have been). The best thing about Mark’s beast is that you don’t feel like a second class citizen in modern traffic. It may only equate to 43bhp on the dyno, but the difference from a standard Quasar is like the difference between a Reliant Robin and a Reliant Scimitar! One day, I hope to own a Quasar as quick and well sorted as Mark’s. For now, I’ll settle for one that’s merely ‘well sorted’!

PS Mark did experience the front end 'thumping' and our current best guess is that it's something to do with the S&W front shocks. Anyone care to explain why this might be so, or if not, what else could it be, given that the front wheel has been dynamically balanced and that everything is absolutely fine until you go over 80mph.