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Suzuki TS185ER

The Uncle Harry Complex

(from the Travels with Guido series, MT #237, Oct 2010)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen; pic by Ben Galli photography

The thought of becoming the token reprobate uncle of the family sends yours etcetera rushing into the workshop

One of the downsides of owning a fleet of ageing motorcycles is that every now and then the mechanical tasks overtake you and the rotten things start to break faster than you can fix them. Before you know it, you end up with the arse end of the Uncle Harry Complex.

It goes like this. Every family has a motorcycling uncle who they may or may not admit ownership of. They’ll let him in the house for a cup of coffee (but for god’s sake keep him away from the liquor cabinet!) and gently warn the children, after he’s left, that yes he’s a lovely bloke but you really don’t want to end up like him. Oh, and he always owns a sidecar.

Every generation has one, and I’m pretty sure muggins is the current version – not sure who my predecessor was.

Anyway, the arse end of the Uncle Harry Complex is, when the old boy finally croaks it, he leaves a shed (which was probably doubling as his bedroom) full of junk, including a dozen or so completely stuffed motorcycles, and a sidecar, some of which are rusted beyond recognition.

Now I know how it happens. A week ago, I had one project bike (the Yamaha SR500) in pieces, a GSX1100 with a flat battery, a Suzuki TS185ER with a recently-fixed fuel tank that needed refitting, oh, and Ms M snr just got home with her Honda CBX550 wheezing on two to three of its four pots. So, four bikes down – only another dozen or so before I was well on the way to full Uncle Harry status.

So I set aside a day to get on top of the problem. Ms M’s 550 was content with a fresh set of sparkplugs – easily pleased, much like the owner.

The GSX needed a battery charge and I rediscovered the joys of refitting one to these monsters. There’s some peculiar trick that happens while you’re re-installing the airbox that inevitably leads to you jamming a hand hard up against a sharp bracket, thus removing at least one fingernail. Who says the war is over?

I’m avoiding eye-contact with the SR as that’s a full rebuild which I’m hoping to dragoon SR500 Club member Paul Newbold into helping with. He can just about build one blindfolded, so all we have to do is determine how large a booze bribe is involved.

That left the humble TS185, which has been sitting unloved in a lean-to behind the shed for near enough to four years. It was bought for my daughters several years ago for a mere $900 from Don at Stafford Motorcycles up the road, and was mint. They used it a bit, but it somehow got pushed aside for inconsequential things like jobs, and study for a commerce degree and commercial pilot licence.

Sadly the fuel tank rusted out in one corner and has taken a couple of goes to fix. However I was delighted to discover that a fresh sparkplug (it was a big day for NGK) and fuel was enough to see the little monster rattle back into life after just a few kicks. Amazing.

We went for a brief spin down the road to celebrate, an event which quickly lost its shine when a police car cruised pass – luckily I was behaving, as Uncle Harry legends always include numerous run-ins with the cops, and that part of my life’s catalogue is already well catered for. A ticket for what may have been a not entirely legal machine would have definitely put a burr under the proverbial saddle.

In a funny way, the little TS was by far the most satisfying thing to work on. It’s about as sophisticated as your average lawn mower and is a fun thing to throw a leg over.

As for the Uncle Harry Complex, me and the bikes (including the sidecar) are running just fine, thanks, so you can all relax…



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