Kawasaki KDX 450 - Perspectives

Out In It

By Gordon Jennings

Getting down from a mountain is always a little more strenuous than the ride up, so I was plenty sweaty and tired by the time we arrived back at our transporter. I was ready for a hot shower, but there was better on the schedule. We went to a place where underwater hot springs join the flow of a cold creek. It was just wonderful, soaking away the soreness and reflecting on the fact that I hadn't crashed once that day- an unprecedented event in my off-road history. I think there was a lesson in this, which is that it's best to ride motorcycles that are better than you are.

Another kind of memorable motorcycle adventure came to me when I was invited by BSA to join a team of riders at Daytona to demonstrate the speed and high-speed endurance of the then-new BSA 750 Triples. Yvon Duhamel was on the team, with Ray Hempstead, Dick Mann and me. Don J. Brown was there to oversee the affair, which had no fixed goals because nobody knew what the Triple would do circling the tri-oval.

We first learned that street gearing was wrong for the job at hand, making the engine spin past its power peak and limiting the BSA's speed. A change in sprockets, which lifted the Triple's top-speed above 130 mph, brought us eyeball to eyeball with a second, unfixable problem. Dunlop's excellent K81 tires were not quite equal to sustained 130-plus speeds on the tri-oval's sun-heated paving and load-multiplying bankings, and abruptly shedded their tread when their thermal limit was exceeded. So we could run wide open in the hour postdawn, but were limited to not much more than 125 mph as the sun rose higher.

Mann was not greatly taken with this exercise in brinkmanship, remarking that "This is the dullest thing you could do and still be doing something dangerous." He was right, in a sense, but I was taken by the uniqueness of the experience, which I'd have missed had I stayed with cars.

I could have driven to that hot springs, of course, but it was the sweaty exertions of the day on a motorcycle that made the experience so sweet.

I invite readers' comments, suggestions and even criticisms. My e-mail address is gj@wheelbase.com; call me at (805) 239-2192, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST, or fax (805) 239-0855.

By Gordon Jennings
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