The reality of old adventure bike ownership

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There's nothing better than owning a piece of Dakar heritage but is it all it's cracked up to be?

There are many of us that dream of owning a classic adventure bike. You know. One that harks back to the days to the origins of the Dakar. BMW R80GS, Honda Africa Twin and of course the Yamaha Tenere. You could get really serious and build an XT500 Sunauto replica but who has time for that.

So we stick to production bikes like the Suzuki Big, Honda Africa Twin, Cagiva Elefant 900 and in my case an '83 Yamaha Tenere and Yamaha XTZ750 Super Tenere. BMW 650GS Dakars don't count.

I love my 1989 XTZ750 Super Tenere and it's a big, wide, heavy, 750cc boat anchor and every time I ride it I'm in awe of Stefan Peterhansel's bike handling skills as he navigated this big boat across the steep, shifting sands of Africa. You really do understand what a legend he was when you throw your leg over the 236kgs 750 ST.

So, in my case I started building my Tenere collection with my first acquisition an '83 Tenere with a spare 3AJ motor. But before I figured out where to start I spotted a XTZ750 Super Tenere that I just had to have and shortly after a 1988 XTZ6003AJ. All rare and at the time I thought I had to have. In hindsight they were all junk but at the time it was all that the market was offering. This is the picture of when I realised what I had done.

Fast forward ten years and I'm proud of my '83, '88 and two '89 Super Teneres (one recently sold) and you can add a more recent '99 XTZ660 plus my bargain 2016 XT660Z Tenere. I've been promising my wife that I'm going to cull the fleet. But it's like a teenager promising their mum they'll clean their room. It's never gunna happen.

So back in 2003 I had the opportunity to buy another rebuilt '83 Tenere in good condition with new paint and use the first '83 as a donor bike that had many original parts. Some tend to cut corners and leave off bits and pieces that result in a incomplete bike. I gathered as many original parts as I could, replaced nuts and bolts and the result is a pretty original bike. I'm proud to say that it was used by Yamaha Motor Australia as one of their heritage display bikes on the 2018 Trans Tasman Tenere Tour for the release of he new Tenere 700.

Keen to finally get it on the road I joined the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club who have chapters all over the world, got it passed for historical rego and prepared for it's inaugural ride.

This is where the fun begins and I got together with fellow Tenere Tragic, From editor of Trail Zone magazine and a long line of successful Australian Dirt Bike publication and good friend Andrew Clubb who I proudly serve as his wingman on each Tenere Tragic ride. Clubby is a man of many talents but fixing a flat isn't one of them.

Clubby had scheduled an oil change and the biggest challenge was finding the drain plug. His engine oil was the consistency of watered down Vegemite but by the time we we completed the oil change including the oil filter that looked like it was the last line of defence in a toxic spill we were confident that we'd extended the life of the motor another week.

Next were the air filters. I had not checked the air filter since I had bought it and that was back in 2013. Shortly before that Clubby had toured the Flinders on his '83 and his air filter had seen the light of day since then either. We figured that both may need a clean and a dash of air filter oil.

The first sign of doom was when Clubby extracted his genuine Yamaha QEM air filter that he had in his spares box since 2002. Keep in mind that there is no telling how long it had been sitting in Yamaha spares warehouses for. When Clubby extracted it from the original plastic bag it crumbled in his hand like an overcooked, dry cupcake.

Maybe the original air filter would be better? Unfortunately the outer element fell apart like a single tissue paper that had been passed around a COVID-19 test waiting room. It was seriously f#%ked.

I nervously extracted my air filter from the airbox and gently touched the foam to see how dry the foam element was. It was like plunging your finger into a birthday cake with the moisture content of an Egyptian mummy and just as frightening.

The first of two trips to MCA warehouse just by chance had the correct Twin Air element in stock which got Clubby out of trouble even through the outer foam element fit like a pair of thirty year old underwear. A universal fit blinker relay got the indicators working and with a home made rubber washer and an old Tontine pillow I was able to fashion an air filter that would keep the urban air nasties at bay for a short ride.

We proudly thumped through the weekend traffic of the southern Sydney beaches like two Ullysees club members who thought they were cool but clearly not. Clubby didn't give a rats because he was so excited his indicators were working without having to pay anybody to fix them.

Tenere sunsetThe decision was made to get some pics of our classic mounts out at Farkurrell where the sun would reflect brightly off our white 30 litre tanks. With our victorious images captured I threw my leg over my mighty '83 Tenere and gave it one last kick for the ride home... nothing. Kick again... nothing. After five minutes my hamstring failed completely and Clubby stepped in. He too couldn't raise any life from the 600cc powerplant. Which was disappointing considering he owed me from Harrow 2017 when his XR350 refused to fire.

The throbbing pain of my hamstring and the beads of sweat popping from Clubbys forehead meant we were led to the last resort. 1800-tenere-assist. Basically that's calling my wife and getting her to come out and pick me up in my van.

To add insult to injury I hobbled into the garage the following morning to give it one kick. Seriously that's all I had in me and bugger it, started first kick.

Yep, owning a a classic adventure bike sounds romantic but the fragile relationship should only be entered into by those who are truly passionate by the heritage they represent.

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