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A bit of RG bargy

Published: 16 April 2007

It was 1986 and, having just got married and I bought a house, I grudgingly agreed to tuck my trusty 8 year old XS750 away in the garage (just for a year or two to concentrate on home improvements and making babies).

Then, one sunny August afternoon, came the knock on the door…. The Devil had come to tempt me (well my mate Dave Steele actually), with his new bike - a gleaming Suzuki RG500 Gamma. “Have a play” he said, and threw me the keys.

It was rude to say ‘no’ so I spent the next 10 minutes treating my new neighbours to the erotic screams of four-cylinder, two-stroke on full pipe. That was where the permanent brain damage was done. The Devil rode off into the sunset grinning, but the yearning would lie dormant inside me for ever.

Some 17 years later, I was sitting in front of my PC with my 14-year-old son, Ted, and mindlessly typed in ‘RG500’.  A photo slowly appeared and, the yearning sensations rampaged again, like a call from the wild.

I started reading and gasped when I saw it was located in our own town. “Come on Ted” I said mischievously, “let’s go pretend we’re interested in buying it so you can hear what this sounds like”… and off we went. I already had three bikes, and needed no more.

We kicked the tyres and the guy fired it up. I closed my eyes, and was back at Brands Hatch in the late 1970s.

I became intoxicated and started to think terrible thoughts, and so opened my eyes, thanked the poor guy and made for a quick exit. “Don’t you want to try it then”, he said, and…. well you can guess the rest! I have to say, it was a close shave with the wife when she found out, but that’s only where this love affair with the RG took off.

The bike was good condition but not excellent, so I decided to restore it to it’s former glory. I hit eBay big time and bought bits from all over the world.

I next joined the RG500 forum and benefited from hundreds of man-years of global RG500 experience, plus some of the warmest camaraderie I had seen in years. These 150 plus guys, based predominantly in UK, Europe, North America and Australasia, knew every nut, bolt and washer, and ever conceivable modification that would take the stock (95BHP) Gamma to over 140BHP.

They are such a great bunch and we all help each other out with parts, shipping, rude jokes etc, all the time.

But, it didn’t stop at that.  With 2005 being the 20th anniversary of the RG500 Gamma, it was inevitable that there would be numerous meetings in Europe and the USA.

The Anniversary meeting calendar started with an epic trip by Rigas Chaloftis from Athens on his RG400, through Europe and, via my house, to Cadwell Park where the UK meeting convened with a track day. 

 The main European meeting was held at the infamous Nurburgring, courtesy of our German friend Carsten.

Being a big wuss, I drove over in the car rather than risk riding my RG (I would have needed a petrol tanker in tow anyway). The night before I left, Carsten, emailed me saying “bring your leathers, just in case”…… so I did.

I arrived at the ‘ring’ and there were about 15-20 Gammas there making an awesome sight (and sound!).

Rigas had made his way from the UK, via more Gamma buddies in Holland and Germany. As we packed the bikes all into the pit garages, a Dutch voice called out “where’s the English guy who wants this bike”, and there was Waldo Van de Haar with his spare (Stan Stephen’s tuned) Gamma for me to ride.

I had never met the guy, and thought I had died and gone to Heaven!  Over the next two days we had an amazing ride through the mountain villages, only to be topped by the main highlight - two laps of the Nurburging. Awesome!

The Gammabuddies visit each other all year round, and its great to see. In 2006, for example, I visited Waldo in Holland, where we roared around the local canal tow paths.

Temptation struck again in 2006 when I saw a Barry Sheene replica RG500, with just 7,000 miles on the clock, and had to have it (20 years in, the wife has become a bit more mellow about my biking addiction thankfully)! 

Later in the year I went over to Athens to visit Rigas who leant me his legendary RG400 and, with him aboard his RD500, we shot off into the Greek mountains for two days – yet another amazing adventure and act of Gammarosity.

Having ridden bikes for 32 years, I always knew there was a level of camaraderie but getting to know these guys has been a huge privilege and some of the acts of generosity are simply astounding.

There’s not a lot these fellas wouldn’t do for each other globally, and they all know they have a bed and a bike in many countries around the globe.

So the moral of the story is……… if you see your dream ……. Buy it!