[Continued from Motorcyclist's August 2006 issue...]
Remember the Incredible GSX-R Experience ads that appeared in these pages last year? Sure you do.
Featuring GSX-R owners from all over the country, and celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Suzuki's GSX-R motorcycles in the U.S., the ads inspired thousands of GSX-R owners to tell American Suzuki about their bikes in hopes of winning the keys to a brand-new 2005-spec 20th Anniversary-edition GSX-R750.
The winner? None other than San Francisco's Jonathan Summers. Here's the first few graphs of his story.
First Time to 150
I live in San Francisco now, but at the time of this story I lived in London.
Jonathan Summers on his new 20th Anniversary GSX-R750
I used to be a car guy. But in my mid-20s I suddenly saw the light: sportbikes delivered Ferrari performance for under $10,000, and they wheelied, too! I had to have one. Friends and relatives were concerned; I was the dude people didn't want to drive with, cause I "went too fast." I considered getting a small bike first, but while learning to ride my instructor said, "It's not the bike that's unsafe...it's you! You control how fast you go. But hey, buy the bike you want."
When I sat on bikes in showrooms, the GSX-Rs felt the best. They had big white tachometers and an aggressive riding position. The bike press said the performance was electric, and that handling rewarded novices and experts alike - so it was ideal for me on which to develop my skills. In July of 2002, I bought my first bike: a black and yellow, 2002, GSX-R600.
Naturally, I had to see 150 mph. So I went to Germany and used the Frankfurt-Darmstadt autobahn - so it would all be legal. Also, I'd be paying tribute to Bernd Rosemeyer, a pre-war GP driver killed on the same piece of road. A gust of wind caught Rosemeyer and his Auto Union streamliner while traveling near 240 mph back in 1938.
Jonathan Summers in Germany
My plan was to ride from London to Dover, ferry over to Dunkirk, and after a short stint in France cross Belgium, overnighting in Spa-Francorchamps village, home of one of the finest motor racing courses in the world. I'd then cross into Germany the following day and hence to Frankfurt. The bike ran faultlessly all weekend, and as the rain stopped and the sun came out, my speeds crept up. Punishment for my illegal speed came not from the Belgian police, but from a huge - yet unseen - bump in the road, which threw my up out of the saddle. When I landed, my vitals were so viciously crushed against the tank, I thought I had caused myself permanent injury, and stopped to check none had split open ...
Today, the Frankfurt-Darmstadt Autobahn is four lanes in each direction. It was 11:30 a.m. on a sunny Sunday morning when I moved to the outside lane, clicked on my brights, got down behind the fairing and twisted the throttle to the stop. In preparation, I had pushed close to 135 mph; that's the speed where it feels like a fat man is sitting on your forehead due to the air resistance. Beyond 140, it felt like the wind was going to pluck me clean off the back of the bike. I remember hunching closer, not to reduce air resistance, but to help me cling on. Chin on the tank, yelling into my helmet, I passed 150, and was still gathering speed. We ran out of puff at 157. I held it there for a few seconds, just to check there was nothing left. Then a car moved into my lane, 200 yards up the road, so I rolled off the throttle - and it was over.
Homeward bound, adrenaline drained, I took a wrong turn in a little town called Wetzlar. U-turning on a hill (well, that's my lame excuse) I dropped the bike. Pinned underneath and unable to move, my pride was by far my worst injury. "Speed King laid low by a beginner's error..." I could see the report now.
After a while, a man with a bristly white beard came along, holding hands with a little girl obviously on her way to a birthday party. He helped me up, and together we surveyed the damage. The girl looked on, wide-eyed, resplendent in her party frock, holding her birthday gift. Then I realized my problem. The bike's shift lever had broken. After some experimentation, we realized I could kick down to 1st, but couldn't get anything else. Stranded in Germany, at this rate, I was going to miss the ferry home, and had damaged my bike. At that moment I felt pretty low. My rescuer came straight to the point:
"I see you haf problem. I take my daughter to party. I return in 10 minutes. Ve go to my house unt ve fix".
Once we got to his place, the "ve" was a lot more him than me. I stood around pathetically trying to cheer myself up, eating the wonderful sausages his wife gave me and practicing English with another of his daughters, all while this man - his name was Hans - swiftly and neatly fixed the broken lever. The repaired lever is so elegant I keep it as a paperweight.
He was nearly done before I glanced into the garage, and saw, up on paddock stands, a white 1998 GSX-R750, with a mirrored tri-oval can. The seat had purple and yellow flames on it, matching the design on the one-piece white leathers and crash helmet hanging alongside. The bike was spotless, and the ensemble dazzled. Hans followed my gaze, and said "Ja, GSX-R, ze best, no? I see you, I think, I must help my brother."
Then he asked, "You haf come from England on GSX-R ?"
"Yes," I answered.
"You are hardcore!" he said.
At that, I stopped feeling sorry for myself, and confidence flowed through me once more. I crossed Belgium stopping only for gas - after all, I was 'hardcore' - and very pleased to be part of the Gixxer Family.