My First Dirt Bike and My Only Broken Bone Riding

My First Dirt Bike and My Only Broken Bone Riding

 As Published in the December 2017 Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club Magazine

By David Hellard  VJMC #4720 

             Well here I am in 1972, the proud owner of a Kawasaki G4TR which had just given me my only broken bone riding a motorcycle!  It was the summer after graduate school.  I had not yet secured my first professional employment, so you can imagine how tight money was for me.  I had owned two small Honda street bikes while I was an undergraduate, but had to sell them each fall for tuition.  With the new phenomenon of motocross sweeping across the United States, and having seen “On Any Sunday” several times, I had developed a severe case of off road envy.  Combing the newspaper ads, I found a used Kawasaki 100 cc "Trail Boss" near Middletown, Ohio.  The price was very right at $325 and I was very happy to load it into those motorcycle holding wheel hoops that were mounted onto the rear bumper of my white 1967 V-8 powered Plymouth Valiant.

            I found out early that motorcycle ownership can be fraught with mechanical peril.  The first problem I discovered was how one can easily seize up a piston by “assuming” that all two stroke lubricants were the same.  The prior owner gave me no instruction about the type of two stroke oil he had been using in his oil injection tank.  I noticed it was red(I later found out it was Klotz synthetic) but that’s all the thought I gave it.  When the tank got low, I dumped a quart of oil based two cycle oil in the injection tank.  Please do not repeat my mistake. Synthetic oils like Klotz and oil based two stroke oil will not mix.  Once in the tank they apparently reacted more like oil and water--they separated and were going to cause metal-welding havoc in my cylinder.  It ran fine for a while, but eventually when the engine’s little oil injection pump was hoping for a constant delivery of lubricant, it received intermittent flow then only pushed bubbles through the injector line to the cylinder.  When the piston finally seized, my motorcycle mechanic's career began!  

            As I did not know the first thing about engines, it was lucky that I knew Bob Hoover who lived down the street.  Bob seemingly could fix anything.  He worked second shift, so he was always available to help.  Pushing the pathetically broken little bike down the street, I knocked on his door.  After taking a quick look, he encouraged me to take the cylinder off and get a look at it.  After I pulled it apart, he opined that the cylinder walls "didn't look that bad, and what did I have to lose by giving it a try?"  He gave me some fine emery cloth and we buffed up the piston and cylinder.  After buttoning it back up and this time putting premixed fuel in the gas tank, it fired right up. I was back in the off road business again.

            A few months later after a lot of hard riding, the piston seized again.  However, I was ready this time!  I had bought a spare piston.  So right in the middle of the riding area, I hauled my tool box from my car, took the cylinder off, put the new piston right in.  A few kicks later, zoom! I was off again riding through an area that since has sprouted some very luxurious houses South of Dayton.  Try that field repair with your complicated KTM four stroke dirt bike.

            As much fun as I was having with the little red machine, it was in reality, very underpowered, under suspended, and over-used.  Fortunately it was small framed, and by man-handling it, and riding like a maniac, I was mostly able to keep my larger displacement riding companions in sight.  Soon I was ready for the "Big Time."  My buddy Dave D. and I would meet Northwest of Cincinnati at a spot that is occupied now as Brookville Lake.  In retrospect, it was the best place we ever found to ride this side of Colorado.  Because it was destined to be a lake, it had been cleared of everything and was ripe for off-road fun..  It sported hundreds of acres of fire roads through all types of terrain.  It also had some monster sized hill climbs.  

            One fateful Saturday on the biggest hill in the place, is where I met my first and only broken bone on a motorcycle.  It was a fairly wide straight up hill that had three different grooves cut out of it.  As that little 100cc machine was so anemic, I knew I would have to get a great running start if I was going to make it to the top.  So I got a decent head start and began climbing the actual hill in what I thought was third gear.  Needing power, I shifted down to second at mid hill.  As I approached the top I was rapidly running out of power so I knew I would have to shift down once more if I was going to make it over the top.  Big mistake!  

            This Kawasaki G4TR model used a shift pattern where neutral is at the very bottom rather than between first and second gear like most motorcycles.  Unfortunately for me, I had not hit the base of the hill in third, but in second gear.  My final desperate stab for a lower gear was quickly met by the scream of the engine as I shifted down into NEUTRAL!  Forward progress stopped instantaneously.  Not being experienced enough at hill climbing to know to immediately lay it over, I tried to hold it up.  No.......... it started rolling backwards, and as the handlebars got cocked, it just flipped backwards, and so did I!  My friends said they stopped counting at the third full back flip.  They also said that on an Olympic scale it would have been rated at least a 9.8!  Too bad this occurred long before the days of cell phone videos and U Tube clips.  I got up quickly and dragged the bike back down the hill.  I knew I had a problem with my right wrist.  Riding the bike back to the car with that quickly swelling throttle arm was not the high point of my riding career.  A trip to the emergency room got me one of the newest gadgets around-- a plastic removable cast with velcro straps for my broken wrist.

Since that time, I have logged thousands of miles of riding on nearly a dozen different off road motorcycles throughout the Western United States .  35 years later and no broken bones(knock on wood), I found this very nice little Red G4TR near Detroit .  I think you can understand why I could hardly pass it up.  Thank you Kawasaki, and thank you Bob Hoover!