Learning about motorcycles


I had never driven a motorcycle. Not even as a passenger.

Then one afternoon I was given a chance to do so. On a typically warm Hawaiian afternoon John F. Gies (JFG) came by the Kapiolani Blvd house and proudly showed us his brand new 250cc Yamaha motorcycle.

I had always been attracted to motorcycles, even as a little kid. One time when I was about 8 years old when I was riding in the car with my dad I saw a motorcycle and rider in front of our car. and I said  “Daddy, how does it stay up with only two wheels?” Then I said “I think it stays up just like a top stays up while it spins because of centrifugal force.” He said “No.”

I argued with him but of course he was right. Motorcycles stay up because you steer into the lean.

So JFG offered to let me test ride his new Yamaha. He showed me how the front hand brake is on the right and the foot shifter is on the left. I did not have a motorcycle driver’s license but I still thought it was great idea. The acceleration was exhilarating.

I didn’t get very far before a policeman came up next to me me and told me to pull over. He asked for my license and I gave him the one I had which was California. He assumed I was a tourist and he let me go with a warning to “Pease be careful and enjoy your stay.”

I was hooked, but I didn’t do anything about getting a “bike” until I went to the Big Island with Fred Randall.  I bought 50 cc Tohatsu from one of a couple of students. Later I graduated to 125 cc Suzuki. I wanted more power so I could keep up with the guys when we raced around Mount Tantalus. Later I purchased my 1st Yamaha, a 255 cc model #YES.  It satisfied my hankering for a bike that could handle two people, myself and a girlfriend without slowing down.

My 2nd Yamaha was a 255cc bike with 5 cc more displacement than the run of the mill bikes. I was having a few maintenance problems with my first 249 cc Yamaha when I found out that my Navy buddy Sherman had returned from six months under water on a nuclear submarine. He had six months of pay burning a hole in his pocket. Now that he was back on land he decided to buy a brand new Yamaha. I offered to buy his old bike. It was a “basket case”. Before he left for his six months duty, he had taken his old bike all apart and he took the engine with him on the submarine to help pass the time. He “ported” the engine. This is the process where you file a radius and smooth the inside of the exhaust and intake intake ports. This can increase the horsepower without adding CCs. This suited me just fine because I got a very good price to buy a hotrod of a bike. The basket or box had all the parts, along with a newly painted frame. I reassembled everything and I had a motorcycle that would outrun anyone else on Oahu. This bike was 255 cc. Everyone was limited by a Hawaii state import lae to just 249 cc. Of course anytime I had a drag race with another Yamaha, I would be the winner. And of course the other rider could understand why. I usually kept the secret.

By the way after two or three weeks living at the Kapiolani house we were asked to move because the landlady could not stand the sound of Johnnie typing on his manual typewriter after midnight.  She could hear it upstairs. She asked him to stop after midnight but that was when he felt creative.  Oh well.  I found the Mansion house at 2426 Armstrong  in Manoa Valley and I moved there and I liked it much better. Circa 1963

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