My Afternoon on a Bridgestone
David Hellard. VJMC Field Rep, Ohio.
My one and only ride on a Bridgestone was unbelievably exhilarating but nearly disastrous.
In 1971, I was a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I found myself, one sunny Saturday Spring afternoon, sitting in the best known local pub named the “Purity”. I had my motorcycle helmet sitting beside me in the booth and a fellow biker came by and we started to talk. I told him about my hot 1969 Honda CL 175 Scrambler. He began to tell me about the virtues of his new “Bridgestone 350.” “Bridgestone,” I said, “I have seen them but never ridden one. It sounds really cool.”
At that, he tossed me his keys and said, “take it for a spin and tell me what you think.” I was terribly surprised, but he didn’t have to ask me twice. I was quickly outside astride his brand new red and chrome Bridgestone GTR 350. I fired it up and immediately found that its gear box definitely had a different shift pattern from my Honda. You go through the gears by pushing down, which was the reverse sequence from my Honda. I thought it was funny, but it didn’t take long for me to get used to it. I embarked on a very pleasant trip through the rural countryside around Oxford. Yes, this baby could really fly. As I came back into the downtown area the sidewalks were extremely crowded with people moving in all directions. What a great time to show off a bit on High Street, which was the main drag. I ripped quickly through three low gears, I then held it in third gear at mid range rpm emitting that ear piercing 2 cycle wail--just to make sure that the crowds knew who was coming.
I don’t remember the particular distraction affecting me, but as I held it in third, I decided it was time to gently click it into fourth and just glide along the street without being too much of a scofflaw. Unfortunately, because the shift pattern was just the opposite of what I was used to, I committed a grievous error and moved the lever not into fourth, but into second! What planned to be a gentle blip of the throttle into a calm ride immediately shot the front wheel skyward.
As the front wheel continued to crawl up towards the sky, the engine shrieked towards red line and I struggled not to fall off backwards. Next, lacking contact with the pavement, the handlebars wobbled wildly from side to side. Terror gripped me as I understood that this fact alone would mean disaster if I could not get them straight when I landed. I could see the pedestrians, mouths opened and staring in disbelief, as this oil injected cloud of a sideshow passed along side them. My next horror was to notice that I was I quickly approaching the car in front of me which was completely stopped in traffic. All I could see was the utterly surprised faces of the four passengers in the convertible in front of me who had turned around only to see a crazed motorcyclist bearing down on them like a vulture. As I stomped the rear brake hard, my chest immediately slammed down on the gas tank. Fortunately my plexiglas helmet shield protected me from the need of a new set of teeth as my face bounced off the handlebars. Dazed, and helmet down on the handlebars, I slowly realized that I was alive, and able to steady the motorcycle. As I dared to look up, and as fool’s luck would have it, I found that I had stopped just one foot short of his bumper. I looked around and saw people pointing and laughing. It finally sank in just how close I was to both motor vehicle disaster and social disdain.
Slowly and gingerly I took it around the block. I found a spot, and parked it back in front of the Purity. As I returned to the dark smoky interior of the establishment, he saw me and said, “How was it? Did you have any problems?”
“Nah,” I said, “piece of cake, but that IS one fast bike you have there!”