Dream garage: one man's 80s/90s neverland

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What do you do when collecting the bikes of your dreams becomes an addiction. Book into a clinic, give the wallet to the wife and go cold turkey? Rob Elliott took the easy way out. He got rid of the car…

ou want to hate Rob Elliott, really you do. My eyes are dancing over his jaw-dropping collection of metal, some of which represent various epoch-marking chapters in modern motorcycle development. 

All these bikes are owned by one bloke. But he’s not a rich git with more money than sense, who wants to hide them rather than ride them. He’s a typical bike lover: a bloke like you or I, except that it seems he can sweet-talk the missus in a way we never could. Convincing her that, no, the latest gilt-edged bonds aren’t the best place to hide the inheritance, instead stinkwheels and desirable landmark diesels are…

There’s a full inventory on the next page but highlights of Rob’s collection include a TZR250 3MA reverse-cylinder Yam, a VJ22 RGV250 SP, a brace of KR-1S Kawas, an RD500 Yammy and a TDR250. That’s just the two-strokes. Two 1998-vintage R1s also vie for space with a very clean TL1000S and a ZXR750 K1.

And all are runners, as in useable now, today. Only a stripped-down original Lucky Strike Suzuki VJ22 is ‘unserviceable’ but it’s being restored. The tupperware key dish in the kitchen is full of keys – this is a collection to be used. 

Rob is from Gwent, a part of the world that loves bikes. “As a kid at school I remember hearing and seeing bikes all around. The hills in this area mean lots of people get into off-roading, and my father also had bikes in his teens and twenties. In 1982 I bought a red DT50MX, registration number JEU 334X – and yes, I have since tried to find it.
It was an amazing feeling, getting my first bike and my independence.”

Rob remembers most of the registration numbers that meant anything to him. Like the AR50 Kawasaki that caught his eye, and the RD125LC (B403 DAX) that he had when he was 17. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? And like many of us, Rob was forced to stop biking when other things took up his time. He explains: “I sold the 125 as I didn’t keep up the repayments. I was young and booze and women were starting to be important. But in 1985 I got a cheap DT125LC and passed my test. Within weeks I had an RD350LC F2. I had that for a few years before production racing a KR-1 in 1990-1992. That was a money pit and I sold the 350 to race – it was a drug. Then I stopped racing and was bikeless between 1993 and 1997 as it was then that I bought my first four-stroke – a Suzuki TL1000S. I bought it after all the favourable launch reports, despite the fact that it was also reported to be killing people. Then after a year other things took up my time, like renovating my house. Everything went into the house, but the TL was the last thing to go.”

Rob then admits he was: “knackered financially until 2004. I bought a TL1000R and got back into bikes. A chance meeting with an old friend reminded me of my two-stroke days and he said he was going to buy another powervalve, but keep his ZX-636 Kawasaki. This went through my mind a lot… two bikes? Why not? By this time I had kids, I wasn’t a boozer and bikes were my only vice. I kept thinking about it – I was roofing a mate’s house in 2005 and talking to him about a KR-1S C2 that I had seen on eBay. He got his laptop out there and then and I bid on the bike and won it. That’s where it all started.”

The initial theme was a love of 250 two-strokes. Rob says: “I’ve always loved them. They were a match both performance wise and money-wise for the likes of 600s and even 750s.” Now, Rob’s hooked and the collection began to grow. He laughingly told his long-suffering missus that he needed ‘a bike for every day of the week’, but when the collection passed the seven mark, Rob began claiming he worked an eight-day week, and so on. “It gets to the stage where it’s like a drug, and it can be painful when a bike comes up and there’s no money in the pot. I try and be on eBay every night, if you miss one night you worry you’re missing a bargain. Forums are good, as is Autotrader, classic bike dealers too. If someone admits to me they have a bike I’m interested in, I will ask if they want to sell it.”

The car had to go

Soon, space in the garage was at a premium. “I had an old Toyota Supra,” Rob recalls. “It was the old style flip-light one, straight six, lovely car. It was getting on a bit, but I was keeping it for restoration. So it sat in the garage with the bikes, but as the bikes grew in number I realised the car was going to have to be outside – and one winter outside would have killed it, so I sold it.” 

There are other problems too. Think about running a fleet like this. It’s like having more than four sets of sextuplets and having to buy in bulk for what you need. Rob chooses his words carefully, “MoT time is interesting. You have a time ‘window’ to do it in, so I try to take two at a time. And then there are the consumables. I keep the batteries topped up, but I know the RD500 one is on the way out. Also, I’ve had a bad year for tyres – I’ve had to buy three sets this year.” 

“I suppose I could bulk buy as batteries have a shelf-life of a few years, but I haven’t yet. I have bulk-bought eleven paddock stands though! Got quite a good deal and he threw in a free one! Each paddock stand is altered to fit each bike and their bobbins and then
I write on the back which bike it fits.”

What has to be applauded is Rob’s desire to keep these bikes rideable. They may not all be perfect but they are working, living, breathing daily riders, each and every one. Sometimes, people just look too hard to pick faults. Take one of Rob’s recent acquisitions, a reverse-cylinder TZR250 3MA. It’s in the rare turquoise that is reminiscent of some of the colours found on the Suzuka Eight-Hour OW01s of similar vintage. A pic of Rob’s bike hit the two-stroke forums and people started calling it ‘gash’. C’mon guys. I mean, really…

“Some people don’t like a bike in the wrong colour, but it’s like when you buy a house and you don’t like the décor, it’s easily sorted,” says Rob. “I do like things original, or the way I remember them when I was younger, so that means if I get an RD350, I’d still put Microns or Allspeeds on it as I would think it’s acceptable to modify them in that way. Some people hate seeing the wrong coloured bolt on the bike, sometimes originality goes too far. If it’s still in good nick after 20 years, then that’s good enough for me.”

And good enough for us too.

But the burning question is this: what is Rob’s favourite bike? “That’s tough,”  he says. “When people ask I say: ‘How many kids have you got? And if it’s more than one, which is your favourite?’ It’s a question they can’t answer, and nor can I. I ride as often as I can and as often as work and family allows. Sometimes you’ll open the garage and one of the bikes will be looking mournfully at you and you’ll say ‘C’mon then, let’s take you out,’ but most of the time it just depends what mood I’m in. I’m lucky I have a bike for every mood!”

So what’s left to get? 

“I’m looking for the SP version of the Yamaha TZR250 3XV,” Rob says without hesitation. “Maybe a Suzuki RG500, but I’m not sure if I’d be disappointed. I’d like an MV Agusta F4, but that’s a bit too modern! Maybe an NS400R triple in HRC colours (but I’d take a clean Rothmans rep’ if it came up). An NSR250 MC21 would be nice too, but the number one I’m looking for is the Yamaha 3XV.”

Hmmm. Budge up bikes, we think another arrival is on its way…

Bike 1: Yamaha RD500 LC 1984

“I was always into my Yamahas when I was young and this was the daddy. It’s so beautiful. I have to admit though, I think the hype was greater than the bike actually was as it’s not the best to ride.”

Bike 2: Yamaha TZR250 3MA 1990 

“Again, I like my Yams. I’ve had this just four months. The 3MA is more like a turbine compared to the rougher engines on the Suzuki RGVs. This is a good, clean bike considering it’s 21 years or so old.”

Bike 3: Kawasaki KR-1S C2 1990
“I raced a KR-1 in proddie racing from around 1990. I got slaughtered as I was probably one of the only guys who kept the motor standard! The S is a great bike though and roomy for a 250.”

Bike 4: Yamaha TDR250 1988

“I wish I had tried a TDR sooner – it’s a good bike to ride. I’ve taken it on track too. This one was used in an episode of ‘East Enders’, where they needed some stereotypical biking hooligans to take part in a scene.”

Bike 5: Honda NSR250 MC18 RSK 1989

“I got this for £1800 in 2009. Well pleased with that, normally they’re well over-priced – just look at what MC28s go for. This is a tiny bike and feels so much smaller than an RGV or KR-1. It only has 11,000km on it.”

Bike 6: Yamaha FZR1000 Genesis 1987

“If I had to sell one bike, perhaps it would be this. It was a big leap in four-stroke technology but it lacks character really. I’ve got a spare exhaust – they were in one piece from the headers to the end can…”

Bike 7: Suzuki TL1000S 1997

“After having one of these in 1997, I really wanted another. This was originally streetfightered and had Renegade exhausts, small indicators and a cut-down rear-end. It only cost me around £300 to put right.”

Bike 8: Yamaha YSR80 Gag bike 1987

“This is an E-reg bike, road-legal and has 2700km on it. It’s good fun and there’s a big gag-bike scene out there. I love riding it and seeing snobby car drivers look down on you.”

Bike 9: Yamaha YZF-R1 1998

“It’s perhaps the defining four-stroke sportsbike ever and it pissed-off Honda owners, so that’s why I like it. This bike I’m getting back to perfectly standard. It’s a classic.”

Bike 10: Suzuki RG250 Gamma 1983

“When I was going to pick up my DT50 when I was 16 I saw one of these in the street – and it looked so modern. It was like off a different planet.
I had to have one in my collection.”

Bike 11: Suzuki RGV250 VJ22 1991

“This is a high-mileage bike for me – around 20,000 on the clock. It’s the sort of bike I raced against, so I know a bit about them. This is the best and cleanest paint scheme before Suzuki went shell-suit mad.”

Bike 12: Kawasaki ZXR750 K1 1991

“This is a real man’s superbike. People say the flat-slide carbs make it
a difficult bike on the road, but it’s not. I like it because in racing it was the real under-dog compared to the RC30 and the OW01.

Bike 13: Suzuki RGV250 SP VJ22 1991

“This is the SP so it has the dry clutch, close ratio gearbox, straight plug heads, ally disc carriers, fork yokes and fully adjustable suspension. It’s got around 3000km on it. I wanted an SP as they are so rare.”

Bike 14: Kawasaki KR-1S C3 1991

“I had this as it was a bargain – just £900! This is proof that when things are listed wrong on eBay, you can pick up a bargain!”

Bike 15: Yamaha YZF-R1 1998

“Yes, another original red and white machine. This one has 16,000 miles on and will have extras on it. Mind you, I’d like a blue one, too.”

Bike 16: Suzuki TL1000R 1998

“You love it or loathe it. The excellent TL1000S engine was retuned and it felt more like a peaky four-cylinder. It’s still an amazing motor though and it shows that the S and the R are very different bikes.”


Words: Bertie Simmonds Pics: Simon Hipperson

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Practical Sportsbikes

By Practical Sportsbikes

Buying, owning and modifying the best bikes of the 80s, 90s & 00s