Background story: Toronto and the stolen bike

Here’s another in our series of The Story Behind The Photo. This one is from CMG editor Mark Richardson.

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This is my beloved 1985 Suzuki DR600, named Jackie New. If you’re curious about the name, check out my book about riding her to California and back. And that’s my son Andrew peeking over her. Andrew’s 19 now.

Sometime in the early 2000s, I rode my Suzuki to Honda Canada’s warehouse on Milner Avenue in Toronto so I could borrow a CB600 press bike for a week. I thought somebody would push Jackie New into the warehouse once I’d ridden away, but no – she was left outside, underneath a floodlight, clearly visible from the road. When I returned the CB600, she was gone.

I was very upset. This is no ordinary motorcycle, but an identical model and year to the kickstart-only Suzuki DR600 I’d travelled on for a year back in 1985, racking up miles from Florida to Alaska. The original bike, Jackie Blue (again, read the book), was worn out, but the new-to-me bike was in great condition. Now somebody had stolen her.

Honda was unsympathetic and wouldn’t make good on the loss; she wasn’t insured against theft because I always kept her stored in my garage and figured she wasn’t worth much money to anyone but me. Whenever I had spare time that winter, I’d drive around the low-rent neighbourhood, checking out ditches and ravines, looking through fences, just in case.

Then early the following spring, the police called. A bike matching Jackie New had been found propped against a dumpster behind an apartment building about 10 kilometres from Honda’s warehouse. The guy who empties the dumpsters realized it hadn’t moved in months and phoned the cops, hoping it wasn’t stolen and he could just take it; he was very disappointed when the police thanked him for locating the bike. She was taken to the pound and I could collect my motorcycle immediately.

I called the pound to confirm and the foreman told me the bike was in rough shape. “Somebody went at the ignition with a screwdriver,” he said, “and the winter’s not been good to it.” I drove over with Andrew and a heavy heart, and we walked to the back of the pound where the bikes were. There was Jackie New, and she looked cleaner than when I left her. I couldn’t believe it. See for yourself in the photo from the pound.

Isn’t he cute, with Jackie New? Andrew’s 19 now and trust me – not quite so cute.

The ignition was chewed up and I had to buy a new cylinder. The licence plate was gone. The gearshift lever was bent and the clutch lever broken and that was it. I figure the thieves saw her sitting proudly under the floodlight, threw her in the back of a pickup and took her home to the apartment building where her ultimate theft deterrent saved her: the kickstart.

The DR600 is a big thumper and needs to be set up properly with a valve-lifting lever on the handlebar before starting, to help move the piston to the top of the cylinder before each kick. If you don’t know about that, it’ll never start. Hell – even if you do know, it can still be a bitch. That’s one reason why the original bike was named after my girlfriend at the time: she was great if only I could get her started, but until then, she just sat around and coughed and cost me money.

Funnily enough, that girlfriend didn’t last, but the two Jackie bikes did. I took the DR back home and fixed her up and she ran so well she took me on that six-week roadtrip to California a couple of years later. Did I mention that I wrote a book about it? I still have both bikes and ride Jackie New gently, and lock her securely in my garage every night.

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