I grew up riding two-stroke motorbikes. From little baby motocross bikes, to 125cc road race bikes. And I loved them. But back then, they were all I knew. I didn’t know you could add another engine revolution to the old ‘suck, squeeze, bang, blow’ sequence. In actual fact, where I grew up, a ‘suck, squeeze, bang and blow’ meant something entirely different, and would cost you fifty quid; but that’s another story. Although I’ve spent the majority of my adult life riding four-stroke motorbikes (like most people these days) I’ve still got a real soft spot for two-stroke motorbikes. This is why…
The first ever proper four-stroke motorbike I ever encountered was my uncles 600cc Husaberg MX bike. It was ridiculous. I was probably about 10 years old and he told me I could take it for a spin, if I could start it. Well, no matter how much I jumped up and down on the kick start, I couldn’t get the thing to move an inch. Bastard. It was probably for the best though, because it was a proper monster of a thing. It was bloody massive, and the noise it made genuinely scared me.
These days, I know modern four-stroke MX bikes are a lot more refined than that. And four-stroke road bikes are head-and-shoulders better than their two-stroke counterparts, in almost every way. But I can’t help feeling as though they’re all a bit tractory. The way they plod along with all that lovely, but slightly soulless, torque.
Scratch and sniff
I’ve always liked sniffing things. You can’t beat it. Especially when it’s an aroma that brings back so many memories. Some people bang on about the smell of freshly cut grass, or of baking bread, but you can ram all that stuff up your arse. Give me a cloud of blue smoke, any day. The sweet, sweet smell of burning pre-mix instantly transports me back to my youth. Back to a time when I didn’t care about anything except when I’d be able to go out on my bike again.
Power to the people
Two-stroke motorbikes might struggle when it comes to delivering user-friendly, smooth torque curves. But they don’t struggle in the top-end power department. Whether you’re talking about a road bike or an off-road bike, nine times out of ten a two-stroke engine is going to make more top end power than a four-stroke engine with the same displacement.
Yes I know, all the power tends to be at the very top on a two-stroke, and that doesn’t make them particularly easy to ride. But it does make them bloody exciting! Some people might be able to ride a four-stroke faster, just because they are easier to ride, that’s fair enough. If you keep the revs up on a two-stroke though, you’re bound to be quicker on it. And you’ll have a lot more fun. Anyway, who gives a shit about it being easy? If you want an easy ride, take the bus.
I’m not the sharpest tool in the sandwich. Never have been, never will be. So when I’m rebuilding an engine that I’ve blown up for the tenth time, the last thing I want to worry about is camshafts, valve clearances and all that bollocks. There’s a lot going on inside the cylinder head of a four-stroke. And that means there is a lot to go wrong.
I know I’m probably clutching at straws, trying to tell you four-strokes are less reliable than two-strokes; because let’s face it, they’re not. But when a four-stroke does go pop, it can quite often be a massive pain in the arse to fix. Two-stroke motorbikes are a lot simpler, so they suit a simpleton like me.
Of course, one of the main reasons I love two-stroke motorbikes is because they tend to be a bit old fashioned, and a bit special. It’s only really in recent years that I’ve been able to appreciate the classic bike scene. As a kid, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Now I’m older, and I understand nostalgia, I do understand what the fuss is about. There’s something really cool about riding the kind of bike that people rode a lifetime ago, even if it is something that, back in the day, wouldn’t have been seen as particularly impressive. Like a Fizzy; I’d love a go on a Fizzy now.
It’s a real shame there aren’t as many decent two-stroke motorbikes available to buy these days, but I suppose it’s just the way of the world. Poor old Greta would drop a valve if she saw how much exhaust smoke the things make, and the kids of today seem content riding around on their thumping little CBR125s and GSX-R125s and suchlike. Maybe I should just take a leaf out of their book. Or maybe not.