THE BEST BIKE I EVER OWNED

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - Terry Rymer Two-time world en­durance champ and WSB/BSB win­ner

The last one might have rolled out of Kawasaki’s fac­tory 22 years ago, but the mighty AR50 lives on in the hearts of a whole gen­er­a­tion of Bri­tish for­mer teenage id­iots. With­out it, thou­sands of us wouldn’t have dis­cov­ered what it feels like to cor­ner fast, to stop­pie, to wheelie (briefly) – and gen­er­ally be The Man. Our love of the sports­bike started ex­actly here.

One of those who did pre­cisely all of that was for­mer two-time world en­durance cham­pion Terry Rymer who, af­ter grow­ing up on school­boy scram­blers, got one of the lit­tle Kawasakis (it was ac­tu­ally the slightly larger AR80 but with ‘50’ side­pan­els) as his first road bike at 16.

“It was the best road bike I ever owned,” he told MCN re­cently. “My mates were all a year older and had 80s legally but we had more fun on them than any­thing else.

“We used to go from my house and have a race wher­ever we went – up to the tea hut, or Chelsea Bridge, slip­stream­ing through the mid­dle of lines of cars, it was full-on. How we sur­vived I don’t know. We had loads of crashes but it was bril­liant.”

Es­sen­tially, the cute Kawasaki was the go-to sports six­teener of the 1980s in the same way the orig­i­nal Yamaha FS1-E had been a decade be­fore. A sim­ple, air-cooled, two-stroke sin­gle with monoshock rear and styling rounded off with a head­lamp cowl­ing, the AR had it all: sports ap­peal (helped by a cam­paign in­clud­ing quadru­ple world champ Kork Balling­ton), af­ford­abil­ity and, best of all, thanks to its AR80 big­ger brother, instant tun­ing po­ten­tial – as a young T. Rymer and thou­sands of other tear­away her­berts quickly found out.

‘I fell off in se­cret’

MCN reader Matthew Cooper was an­other AR teen. “At age 16 in 1990 I saved hard and bought a 1983 A-reg AR50 for £150 and went ev­ery­where on it, rain or shine. Liv­ing in a rel­a­tively re­mote vil­lage it opened up the world to me. I fell off it (within a week) hid the scratches from wor­ried par­ents and tin­kered to my heart’s con­tent. It wasn’t new or shiny but it was the quick­est and all my mates en­vied that. My bike bug be­gan with my AR50.”

It was a sim­i­lar story with fel­low owner David Ulke: “The 80 ver­sion was my first bike in 1983. I’d orig­i­nally wanted the AR125 but my folks (who were pay­ing for it on HP) de­cided 60mph was plenty fast for a 17-yearold. It was the C1 model in Po­lar white and I re­call drool­ing over the brochure for the 10 days it took to get de­liv­ered and the sense of free­dom; of go­ing where I wanted to, come rain or shine. Sadly, it all came to an end about 18 months later when I was rear-ended by some loon in a Dat­sun 280ZX.”

And al­though Kawasaki’s cutie fi­nally went out of pro­duc­tion in 1992, it re­mained a pop­u­lar used buy for years to come, be­came a com­pet­i­tive favourite in the riotous ‘Moped May­hem’ rac­ing se­ries and, more re­cently, has be­come an in-de­mand restora­tion project or first clas­sic to a gen­er­a­tion ea­ger to rekin­dle their mis­spent youth.

The AR is Guy’s cup of tea

In fact, no less than bik­ing TV celebrity Guy Martin, is one of them.

“As soon as I turned 16, in 1997, I had a 1991 Kawasaki AR50 – reg­is­tra­tion J121 LVL – and that was ev­ery­thing to me,” he said in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

“It had an 80cc en­gine with a fivespeed gear­box and a Mi­cron ex­haust. It was il­le­gal to have an 80 in a 50, if you were still on L-plates, like I was, but I wasn’t both­ered. Then I bored it a mil and ended up with a 93cc kit on it, cut my own ports in the bar­rel, fit­ted a KX60 car­bu­ret­tor and a Nikon pipe. I was al­ways tin­ker­ing with it.”

Un­for­tu­nately, af­ter a night on the lash, Guy rode the AR to Scun­thorpe and crashed head-on into a car. He was lucky: “I flew over the top, flailed down the road like a rag doll and got up with­out a mark.”

The un­for­tu­nate AR was less so, al­though there’s still hope: “It was com­pletely smashed up. It’s never been the same since, but I never sold it. I still have it now, in the vague be­lief I’m go­ing to re­store it one day.”

ARS have that ef­fect on peo­ple.

‘It was il­le­gal to have an 80 in a 50, if you were still on L-plates, but I wasn’t both­ered’

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