Suzuki TS185

In 1982 Lynda and I were using her Suzuki GSX250.  You may have just read the story [See my WordPress post 29 April 2020] but in essence her bike was as new as our relationship and I had no wheels to call my own.

Enter stage left my brother Mark.  Once again you may have read about his first bike, a Gilera 50 Touring moped [See my WordPress post 6 February 2018] which I had commandeered on regular occasions to get my inaugural fix of two wheeled action before graduating onto some actual motorbikes.  These actual bikes had since gone the way of my job and were nowt but memories, plus photos of some of course.

Mark now had a job and more interestingly a new two wheeled powered toy.

It wasn’t Mark’s first off roader.  His first foray into trail style riding was a few years earlier but that had ended in a wheelie attempt on rough terrain and a broken ankle.  I can’t recall the bike he had because he owned so many vehicles and he hasn’t documented his motorised transport life story so fastidiously as I, so let’s just say it was a 125cc Japanese single cylinder trail bike.  Probably in white.

A compilation of shots of Mark, Vince and Lynda riding the Suzuki off road

Now he owned a slightly bigger, blue one, specifically a Suzuki TS185.  And one day he invited Lynda and I to have a go on it on a bit of rough in the Lordshill area of Southampton.  Now I am not one to turn down having a go on a bit of rough from the Lordshill area of Southampton so we agreed to join him one sunny day to play about on his Suzuki.

It was an R reg model, making its birth day somewhere between August 1976 and July 1977 and it featured off road style knobblies, a raised front mudguard, a light blue colour scheme with stripes and an optional front headlamp guard.  And it was terrific fun.

We rode singly, two up, sat on the seat, stood up on the pegs, revved the thing across some fields, balanced carefully at the top of hill descents and generally went a good deal of places we couldn’t possibly countenance on our, sorry, Lynda’s GSX.  Ingrained memories from that afternoon would stay with us in spirit and on film stock for years afterwards.

Move on a couple of years from that day mucking about on the rough and Lynda and I had moved into our first owned property.  The Suzuki had been changed for carpets and a little later the empty bike space had been filled by a stunning Kawasaki GPz750R.  Again, I have already written and published the story of this monster on this web site [See my WordPress post 4 May 2018] but as I was now working and more importantly earning we had a bit of spare spondoolies so were able to entertain expanding our garage portfolio.  It seemed a natural thought to recreate the fun we had in Lordshill, only this time we could do it all over again and again and not rely on a once more generous brother/in-law.

Suzuki TS185 & Kawasaki GPz750R
Just the right mixture of road and off road wheels to chose from

So we bought our own Suzuki TS185 and it looked great parked next to our big sports bike.

It was a slightly newer bike than my brother had, having been assembled around the time we had been originally riding Mark’s one.  But it was chosen partly because it had the earlier styling of a lowered front mudguard.  You may already know that I favour this style and if you didn’t you haven’t read the road test of my Yamaha DT175 [See my WordPress post 9 January 2018] .

We could have picked a Yam DT again but I am not fond of repeating my choices when choosing vehicles as variety is more interesting so we went for the Suzi.  Kawasaki also offered a similar bike called the KE175 and Honda the four stroke XL range but the former was considered less reliable at age and the latter too heavy.

We planned some lovely off road trips on our brand new, second hand bike.  It was styled for fun, not showroom new so we could feel comfortable taking it places where damage could ensue and it was light weight enough to manoeuvre around some awkward routes.

Trips were planned and maps poured over.  It appeared we could travel anywhere, even on roads marked as RUPP which stood for ‘roads used for public purposes’.  An Act from 1949 allowed use of powered vehicles along such marked routes and my Ordnance Survey map was consulted to pick some great local routes.

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman we were not.  More like a pair of Charlies but in our minds such road trips represented a new found way of enjoying our bikes.  And every ride seemed to feel like a long way round because, as is often the case, reality doesn’t always match the ideal of dreams.

Firstly, if we wanted to go a-travelling off road we had to go together on one bike and it wasn’t great at getting us both to the dusty/muddy bit.  Its power was no better than the Yamaha I had when I was seventeen.  Apparently, six years of development had not added to the basic physics of the machines.  Again the ride could only be described as poor when riding alone and positively dire when two up.  The passenger still bounced around on footpegs attached to the swing arm so comfort on even medium journeys was cramped when setting off together.  The electrics were poor as well making even fairly local jaunts seem like a trial, even before we got to the actual trail.

Then there was the ability to actually go off road.  The bike could manage something of this ilk but it seemed there was nowhere really suitable.  We live a half hour from the most wondrous place in the UK to enjoy a spot of rough riding with excellent terrain amid perfect views.  It’s called The New Forest.  And they hate anyone using it.  Despite the size no trail routes are allowed for motorised vehicles and mini moats are carved into the grassy bit on every side of every road way to yell at motorists and bikers to stay away.

Of course any decent trial bike or 4×4 could surmount such obstacles but one just knows that such action would immediately summon a resident, a rambler, a horser or by-law ready to shout at you.  So we looked beyond such a natural playground for other routes and set off looking for some alternative dirty fun.

Vince on Suzuki TS185
A scouting trip to the Portsdown Hills, probably mainly to get a good photo

The first was a route down the side of some farmer’s fields but farmers don’t really like you doing this, even on the edge of their selfishly, massive plots, so they build in difficult obstacles to negotiate.  Such as turnstiles, deep ditches and one tonne, unnecessarily testy bulls.  We got stuck too many times and didn’t really enjoy the route.  So planned an alternative the following week.

I found another RUPP in the area.  We would ride up to Farley Mount, a popular tourist destination on one of the highest hills in Hampshire.  Both Lynda and I had been there several times as kids with our respective families and parking was allowed in those days all over the place.  The only limitation being the trust you had in your vehicle’s handbrake and ability to hill climb the car back to the roads.  However our modern world determined that cars stick to the roads and wait in the soulless, gravel car parks.

Craftily, my map reading skills determined I would not just be able to get to the car park where most cars go but be able to continue on across more of the hillock on one of the rough surface RUPPs back to terra tarmac on the other side.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the usual crowds on The Mount seemed to be joined by another set of crowds making the place, how shall I put it, crowded.  Cars had filled the top car park and on either side of the single track road leading to the views.  On two wheels we sailed by, up to the top and across the car park headed for the marked dusty lane.

A big wooden horizontal pole stopped all the cars from going further up the hill but was easy to circumscribe by a little lightweight bike.  In fact I could have probably done a ‘Dougie’ and crawled over it.  I chose to push the bike through the pedestrian side option, Lynda remounted my pillion and we set off up the track.  I was particularly careful due to the huge number of people also walking along, armed with children and dogs.  I was going barely more than their walking pace, threading myself in between the groups but carefully not speeding or revving my motor to avoid any nuisance.

Although progress was slow on this bit I did not loose patience and ticked over slowly behind each walker until they saw I was there and politely moved aside.  That is until we came across a two family group taking up much of the path.  There was a small gap between them and I rode toward this in the same careful way.  Then suddenly, at his own risk, one of the fathers, without looking, deliberately side stepped into my path.  As I was not going fast I was able to stop easily.  Then he turned around.

He stepped forward, legs each side of my front wheel and started up a tirade on why we shouldn’t exist in the universe, that I had been tearing up the trail like MeatLoaf in a scene from Bat Out Of Hell and that I had one thing on my mind which was to to reduce his precious children into a sticky strawberry jam like mess all over the path.  Lynda dismantled as he noisily fumed but I was unable to go anywhere due to his positioning.

Things got more heated in his tiny, biased mind as he edged closer toward me, whilst I carefully and calmly explained my interpretation of a RUPP.

The situation was getting more tense and I knew I was in a position that had no good outcome for me.  It looked like he was about to get physical, or explode and the thought of dropping the bike to defend myself, or preferably running the bugger over would not look good on a future police report.  The headlines in papers the next day would almost certainly read ‘mad biker cuts up family during peaceful sunny day out’, no matter what the reality of the circumstances were.

By now Lynda had moved around the back of him and his mate who was also getting closer, buoyed by his fat friend’s positive action and my non fighty, calm response.

The rotund geyser, upon getting no irrational argument from me, decided to up the stakes and give me a good shove, using both arms, into my chest.  This caused two things.  Firstly I continued to not respond in kind.  He wasn’t going to trick me into an aggressive situation.  The other thing done was that Lynda grabbed his mate from behind in an attempt to even up the fight, as she figured two against one was just not cricket.

This caused a bit of a Mexican stand off.  The Chubby bully didn’t understand why his pathetic shove hadn’t goaded me into being an aggressor and the skinny one trapped in the clutches of my beloved started whimpering about how he wouldn’t hit a lady.  She of course carefully explained to the shivering specimen that she held no such concerns and was more than happy to kick him black and blue at a moments notice.  That’s it, go girl power.

I had to properly diffuse the state of affairs so switched off my motor, carefully walked it backward out from between the legs of Hardy whilst Lynda finally let go of Laurel.

Thankfully the fathers stayed put, allowing us to make a tactical retreat back to the car park from whence we came, no longer in the mood to argue the laws regarding RUPPs.

We were back at the car park discussing our options when we saw the pair coming back down the track to the car park.  We stayed put but they hadn’t seen us and veered straight off to their cars.  Presumably only to check they were OK as they looked but took nothing from them.  Mind you we had now seen what they arrived in and duly let their tyres down as soon as they resumed their walk back up The Mount.  Our day had been spoiled for no reason other than selfishness so it was the least we could do and besides we were very angry.

Our anger continued as we went back home, with our day wrecked we stewed on this.  Angry that our day had been ruined.  Anger that we seemed unable to use our off road bike anywhere, anymore.  Angry that I had to accept an unrequested shove which wasn’t returned in any way other than vocal reasoning and a spot of tyre air letting.

We decided to go back.  I voiced my concerns about still being labelled the big bad biker in the ensuing newspaper article so we took my car.

It was later in the evening so getting to the car park proved easier but when we got there their cars were gone.  They obviously had Formula One tyre changing skills.  However, we spotted one of the cars leaving in the queue so set out in hot pursuit.

They must have seen us behind them.  After all it is difficult to not notice a speeding saloon in your rear view mirror overtaking every car down a dusty lane which was only one car wide.  By the time we got to the bottom of The Mount we were directly behind our prey.  He moved over to let us by but I stopped short, just looking at him.  He eventually pulled out, his estate laden with family.

I continued to follow him, always keeping a distance.  He knew we were there but would have no reason to understand why.  Just this mad driver overtaking anything that got between us but driving at a great stopping distance when directly behind.  So far back he could barely have been able to read my number plate.  He started to weave around various roads, clearly trying to see if we would follow, which we did.

By the time we got to Southampton we were still on his tail and his contorted route had not lost us.  So he decanted his family at the side of the road and sped off.  We followed, again down various roads until we eventually started to get bored.  After all we had no real reason to catch him.  Causing him distress seemed to be so much more fun.  But he never went down a no through road, presumably reasoning that he didn’t want to be trapped by a scary car full of unknown beasts.

Eventually we gave up and dropped right back.  However, he then foolishly drove into a close just as we rounded the previous corner.  I noticed his diversion and stopped across the junction of the close and looked down only to see him parking up in front of his house, chatting to his re-found family.  I revved the motor, he glanced round, looked as scared as a rabbit in the headlamps and we shot off.  Never to return.

He must have pissed himself for weeks afterwards.  Even now I presume he can never watch the film Duel without feeling some sort of angst and whilst I rarely hold grudges I hope he still has nightmares to this day.

Vince stood on Suzuki TS185
Unable to find somewhere to go the bike is ridden off into the sunset [read text for actual reality]

There were never any repercussions from our antics.  Over the next few days I half expected a visit from the local constabulary but then again I had not actually done anything wrong in my car.  And unless the half wit is reading this now and finally making sense there was no apparent link to the earlier biking episode.  Where again I had done no wrong.

Actually there were repercussions.  Lynda and I decided that off road trail riding was just too much of a trial.  Nowhere to go in our local area and too uncomfortable a ride to get to other parts of the country or world.  After all we already had a super bike on our driveway which was much more fun and adventurous.  Plus a car.  The summer days turned to autumn then winter as Lynda started using the little blue bike as a commuting tool until it finally gave up.

In many ways the Suzuki was much like my earlier Yamaha DT.  Fun but flawed and I would love to have it parked ready in a garage for use whenever I wanted it.  Which in truth wouldn’t be many times a year.  But unlike the DT it wasn’t my first so ultimately doesn’t hold such emotion.  Just that great pub story.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published in the Bikes section of the web site on 28 Apr 2020
The first photograph, or rather collection of six photographs, show scenes from the day out on Mark’s Suzuki TS185 trials motorbike in Lordshill, Southampton.  The riders are Mark, Vince and Lynda
The second photograph shows the author’s two bikes owned in 1985, a Kawasaki GPZ750R and Suzuki TS185 trials bike, parked on his driveway in Eastleigh, Hampshire
The third photograph shows Vince sat on his Suzuki TS185 trials bike parked on Portsdown Hill, overlooking Portsmouth
The final photograph shows Vince riding the Suzuki TS185 on Portsdown Hill
All photos were taken by the people named in this article on Lynda’s Canon AE-1 Program 35mm SLR camera fitted with a fixed FD 50mm 1:1.8 lens.  On Mark’s Suzuki in 1982 and on our one in 1985
Full disclosure we had another trip out with Mark into the New Forest to do the same sort of thing again but the lack of much photographic evidence and the spoiling of a good narrative implied we only went on Mark’s bike on one day.  But this was still once more than the number of times he went out on ours.  Why did we never return the favour?  Probably the lack of a third seat
Knobblies is a term to describe off road style tyres
A RUPP [Road Used as a Public Path] was defined in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and were generally used as footpaths or bridleways but could be accessed by motorised transport.  The Countryside Act 1968 required councils to redefine all RUPPs as public footpaths, bridleways or a BOAT [Byway Open to All Traffic, except ironically boats].  I recall the RUPP marks on my Ordnance Survey maps but not BOATs.  So I presume the 1980s maps I had were unmodified from before the late sixties, therefore I blame the OS for the whole situation
A ‘Dougie’ is reference to the skills of Douglas Lampkin, a professional, multi World Championship motorcycle trials rider.  Only it isn’t as I invented the term just for effect in this article.  Only it will be now
The references to Hardy to Laurel are descriptive of a comic duo called Laurel and Hardy, who were big when TV was in black and white.  Stan Laurel was a slight, slender guy teamed with the larger, fatter Oliver Hardy.  If you haven’t heard of them then you are a millennial and you should educate yourself
The 1971 film Duel was written by Richard Matheson, based on his own previous short story and was about a lone driver which overtakes a huge Peterbuilt truck which annoyed then appears to hound him across many miles in a mad, murderous way.   It was the directorial debut of Steven Spielberg

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