Sometimes a Motorcycle is More Than Just a Ride

jimandi.jpg
My brother Jim (left) and myself, heading for the Toy Ride in 1986

 

Growing up in northern British Columbia, my brothers and I always had motorcycles – in fact I cannot recall a time when I didn’t have one. Minibikes and then dirtbikes, two strokes or four, motorcycles have always been a method of expanding my world, a mode of transportation, allowing me to visit friends or explore areas that were too far away to bicycle or walk to. Through the snow free months most days consisted of getting off of the school bus, siphoning a splash of gas out of one of dad’s cars (shhh), and heading off on another two wheeled adventure – if I was lucky I’d make it home for supper. No cell phones, no GPS and certainly no plan, it was a level of freedom that I have chased ever since.

In 1985, as my 16th birthday approached, I began preparing to have that world of freedom expand again with the anticipation of my driver’s license. Preparation for this event came in the form of a previously well-loved 1978 Yamaha XS400. My older brother Jim helped me with a coat of paint and some polishing to make her look better; this didn’t change the fact that it burned oil like ‘73 Datsun but at least she was shiny. I was ready to hit the streets. My brother was a few years ahead of me on life’s timeline so there had been a gap between the time when we road dirtbikes together and the time that I could get out on the street with him. Now that I had my license it was time to renew this riding partnership.

Fast forward a few months and I found myself waiting impatiently one afternoon for Jim to arrive back home. The reason for this impatience was pure excitement – While I was in school that day, he had gone to town to purchase a brand new Yamaha RZ350 for himself. When he turned in the driveway I instantly knew this plan had changed however, as I heard the low four-stroke rumble of a V4 instead of the expected ring-ding of a two stroke twin cylinder Yamaha. As the shiny new Honda thumped up the driveway I stood in awe – The Red, White and Blue VF750F Interceptor was a thing of beauty. Remember this was 1985, so while these bikes are pretty tame by todays standards, at the time this was the reigning AMA Superbike Champion pulling into the yard! Suddenly my little 400 Yamaha wasn’t as interesting as it had been leading up to this moment – I needed to figure out how to upgrade, and fast. A love affair with the Interceptor was born.

Through after school jobs and possibly some financial assistance from my family (thanks dad!), I spent the next year collecting pieces to help make my dream come true. In those days a person could still easily purchase salvage vehicles from the insurance corporation, and I had found a crashed VF750F Interceptor to buy. With some further searching, the help of friends and through word of mouth, I found another one with a blown engine. The plan was to put the engine from the damaged ’85 into the straight ’83 frame and hit the road. Simple, right?

For the next few months I poured literal blood, sweat and tears into my project. As a naïve teenager, I am sure that mistakes were made. There were no YouTube videos, Google searches or forum chat rooms to help solve a problem – I just had to figure it out. I also fully anticipate that future archeologists will scratch their heads in wonderment when they find the number of twisted off ¼” drive adapters that may or may not have mysteriously flown out of the garage and across the ditch. Some necessary metal work that was far beyond my talent level of the day came at the hands of a friends dad (ok not just the day, he still has more talent in his pinky finger than I have in my whole body – thanks Mr Schuett!) Sorting out electronics was also an issue as one of the ignition modules had been broken so I had to mismatch the spare module with the wrong chassis – and it wouldn’t run. It took several weeks and a lot of help from a guy named Earl who worked at the Honda dealership and was particularly adept at scrolling through microfiche pages to figure it out. The trigger on the crankshaft was slightly different between the two model years, and it confused the ignition box just enough to let it idle, but not rev up. After weeks of frustration it turned out to be a simple oversight and an easy fix. (At this point it’s ok if some of the younger readers takes a moment to Google “microfiche” – I’ll wait)

During the build of this motorcycle I had plenty of company in the garage; for a good part of my life we had my mom’s brother, Larry, staying with us. A WWII veteran who had lived a harder life than most, Uncle Larry spent many years being entertained by my antics as a teenager and he became a fixture in the garage during this project. He would come outside almost every day with a rake in one hand and a cold beer in the other, taking a break from his self-imposed “chores” to lend me some moral support. Often this support came in the form of chuckling at me as things sometimes didn’t go as smoothly as I had planned (such as the previously mentioned flying ¼” adapters) and I suspect my Uncle saw this learning curve for what it was – a labour of love that would teach me a lot about mechanics, patience and problem solving.

Eventually I did get my beloved Interceptor finished and surprisingly it even managed to clear a motor vehicle inspection. Unfortunately my Uncle Larry passed away in August of 1986, mere days away from when I got my pride and joy on the road. It has always saddened me that one of my biggest supporters never got to see the completion of that motorcycle – I know he would have teased me about lost tools and tantrums but I also know he would have been proud to see her run. Sometimes life can be cruel that way.

That Interceptor treated me well for a couple of summers, although I suspect the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles at the time didn’t like it very much. He did seem to care for my wellbeing though, judging by the number of letters he wrote me to discuss my driving habits. Who knew that having a high performance motorcycle before you were old enough to vote could possibly lead to the occasional driving infraction (or ten)? I lived, I learned and as the years went by I went through a small fleet of motorcycles, attending toy rides, touring and drag racing a list of CBRs, FZRs, Ninjas and the like, but I always had a soft spot for the old Interceptor I had built during my senior year of high school. Through a few years while the kids and family life kept me busy I even went without a streetbike at all, sticking to dirt, snow and other sports that were more family oriented than a pavement bound supersport motorcycle – although I always talked about when I would get back into street riding.

That day finally came recently when I was looking at getting a commuter ride and I wandered into the local Honda dealership, only to see a shiny red 2004 Honda VFR800 Interceptor that they had taken in on trade. A few quick phone calls, a scribble in my cheque book, a visit to the insurance agency and she was all mine. As soon as I had laid my eyes on this bike I knew that I was long overdue to be back on an Interceptor, and while this one is several generations newer than the one I had built so many years ago, the lineage is impossible to ignore. There is no comparison between the original Interceptor and this, the 6th generation of the name, but the V4 still seems familiar, like reuniting with an old friend. And its good to be back – it feels like home.

Interceptor
The newly acquired Interceptor

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