by Roy and Chris
I recently enjoyed reading an article by Steve Cooper in the “MoreBikes” free newspaper from Morton’s media at Horncastle; this was about the Kawasaki Avenger 350cc motorcycle. I was lucky enough to ride one of these in July 1967, and it certainly flew in comparison to my 1961 Matchless 350 cc!! My Matchless managed 85 mph, and most 350cc bikes did about this speed, but the Avenger topped out at 110 mph!!
I will start at the beginning – I had an older friend. called Les Davenport. who was a serious motorcyclist. His main love was motorcycles and sidecars and he and his wife Rosa were members of “The Kent Three Star Sidecar Club”. I subsequently joined this club as well. Later on, Les joined “The Federation of Sidecar Clubs” and eventually became their first Continental Contact Officer. In this capacity riders from all over Europe often came to England and stayed a night or two at Les’s before moving on. Luckily, he lived close to the A2, the main road from Dover to London.
One of the riders who came to stay was a chap called Konie from Sweden, and he owned an Avenger. He told me that Avengers intended for the European market were first sent to Sweden in order to try out the market. Apparently, the firm made a mistake with the price and it was sold for under £200; in comparison in 1966 Pride and Clarke, a major London motorcycle dealership, wanted nearly £280 for a Triumph Twenty-one, a 350cc bike.
I had a ride on Konie’s Avenger, and it was impressive – very quick and handled well. A friend also had a go and decided to see how fast it would go flat out in first. He thought the handling was a bit strange – then flat out in second and again in third and then the handling improved – and he realised that the front wheel had came down to mother earth again!!
Konie stayed with Les for a few days and during this time there was a road safety competition held at Gillingham, Kent, and the three of us decided to enter. I rode there on Konie’s bike whilst Les took his BMW outfit. The first part of the competition was riding around some cones in a car park and the second part was an observed ride around the local area. I rode the Avenger on my own, and when it came to Konie’s turn the organisers allowed me to ride pillion with him in case he got lost. The observers were a bit surprised when we slowed down – Konie was using his left arm to signal and I was using my right; we must have looked as if we were about to take off!! All went well in the end, with a Kent police motorcycle rider taking first place (not really surprising!!); I gained second and Konie gained third. Les came fourth – he was delighted with this as it meant that his name did not appear in the local newspaper. At the time he was working as a postman and he had pulled a sickie in order to take part in the competition!!
Konie returned to England the next year together with his parents. He told us that during the winter he had had the bike tuned to go even faster – it would do 110 mph in standard form. Whilst on this trip Konie asked Les to get him a traditional British outfit which he subsequently rode home.
When Kawasaki realised that they had “laid an egg” with the price, they raised it somewhat, which explains Steve’s comment about it being overpriced. I totally agree with him that the performance of this bike was unbelievable for its time.
Note the position of the front number plate on Konie’s bike in the photo. Also, the price for the Triumph (as quoted above) was in “The Motor Cycle” magazine, dated 21/07/1966.