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Yamaha GTS1000 cutaway

Cool Casper

(from the Travels with Guido series, May 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

It’s one thing to recommend buying an orphan, but quite another to take your own advice...

One of the many risks of working with motorcycle mags over the years is you end up living the way you tell others to. Here’s an example: long ago I wrote a controversial feature called Bargains for the Brave, nominating the top picks for people who didn’t have the funds for icons like a Vincent or round-case Ducati SS, but wanted a potential classic that was affordable, preferably usable, and might be worth something one day.

My top recommendation was a Yamaha GTS1000A, and then I ended up owning one. That wasn’t meant to happen.

All I wanted to do was write the story, collect the modest cheque, and use the funds to buy a decent bottle of claret – a good fighting red that kept company while we worked out the latest traumas caused by actually riding Winston the 1947 S7 Sunbeam, which has a unique talent for dis-assembling itself about 20 minutes into every ride; or finally cleaning out and rejetting the carbs on Dr Gange the sidecar. It went wrong.

I’ll cheerfully admit that a GTS1000 has been on my shopping list for a long time, but never really expected to get one. And then a mate rang. The conversation was, roughly, “Y’know that GTS you always said you wanted? It’s available now.”

Now meant right now, so pick it up and the money could wait. As usual, there were stuff-all funds laying around. Of course I said yes, and was uncomfortable about not paying on the spot. Some god was on my side.

I’d recently sold Mac the Valk to buy Bronson the Blackbird, which left a little cash left over. Had also sent the Janettemobile (the Bimm R65) back to its rightful owner, so we now had a space in the shed. And then, just as the money issue was looking sick, I got a minor lottery win. Only a few thou, but enough to keep some rash promises about payment.

A combination of good luck and good management? Maybe. But I doubt it. What scares me is a run of luck like that is going to come back to bite at some stage – though not religious, I’m prepared to be superstitious and wonder when and how it ends.

Anyway, the GTS we threw on the trailer that day hadn’t been run for a while and was in need of a thorough going-over. Why buy it?

At the time I owned three modern-era bikes that had far more horsepower, but this model had been on the personal radar for ages. It was a technical show-piece for its time and disappeared without trace within a couple of years. A 1990s phantom bike.

The tech list for the late 1992 build date (1993 release) was extraordinary: RADD-inspired asymmetric two-stack wishbone front end with a telescopic steering arm, fuel injected, five valves per cylinder, catalytic converter in the exhaust stream, ABS, unique low-slung Omega-shaped twin-spar frame, dished front wheel with a cross-ventilated disc using a six-piston caliper – you can see where I’m heading here. So much technology.

The GTS was hugely expensive at the time, over $22,500. And bombed. It became a ghost on the factory line-up, never to be revisited. Which is much of its charm.

Then it was a case of looking forward to getting ours (named Casper by the gals, the bike that never was) up and running. My memories of riding the test version when it was current in the early nineties suggest it was a quick and amiable mount. Of the bikes in my shed (eightish back then), it would probably turn out to be the best tourer.

UK Bike magazine, in 2006, weirdly enough voted the GTS coolest or rare modern motorcycles. It said: “Bold, daring, peerless, Yamaha's GTS1000 is the embodiment of unconventionality…it’s an extremely accomplished machine…

“The Terminator films were still current when the GTS was launched…

“The fact that it wasn't the redefining success Yamaha had hoped for even adds to the appeal today...

“Ride a GTS and you're also on a bike unlike any other you'll see -- with so few sold, the chances of matching T-shirt syndrome are almost nil. Scarce, stylish, yet capable and completely useable: that's cool in our book.”

So was Casper cool? We’ll see…

Part 2 - getting it on the road


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