I have been friends with Rick Lance for more than 20 years. Our relationship started out as a source for me to get parts and advice for my 1986 Suzuki RG500 Gamma, but eventually grew beyond business into a friendship. Rick knows more about Gammas than just about anyone, and has made a business out of upgrading, servicing and selling these unique machines. If you’ve got a question about Gammas, this is your guy! (www.lancegamma.com)
Gamma Guru – Rick Lance
He has been putting on these Gamma meet and greet and rides (which also welcomes other two-strokers from the era – Yamaha RZ500/350 and Honda’s rare NS400) fairly regularly over the years, but circumstances have always prevented my attendance. This year, however, my excuses ran out and I found myself buying a plane ticket back east. Of course, a cheap round-trip airfare and the promise of an empty saddle for my butt didn’t hurt.
Alan and his Totally Trick, Gunmetal Gray Beauty
Rick lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC. And as you might guess, the roads are pretty spectacular. In fact they start just outside his front door and seem to go on endlessly. And while the famous/infamous “Dragon” is only a couple hours down the road, the local tarmac erases any desire to travel very far a field.
Yawn, not another Scenic Overlook
According to our host, this was one of the smaller gatherings in recent memory, but it didn’t lack for personality or riding skill. Attendees included folks from all over the country as well as Australia.
Dump the Clutch, Tom – an inside joke
We went on a couple rides each day to places named Marshall, Trust, Wolf Laurel, and we even made a brief foray into Tennessee.
Breakfast in Marshall at Zuma’s Coffee House – Rick dispensing advice
We sampled home-cooked breakfasts and lunches at a number of local establishments, but my personal favorites were the pie and sweet tea break in Hot Springs, and breakfast at the stunningly scenic Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Breakfast at the Pisgah Inn – more advice
At the end of each ride, the debrief was always very lively and entertaining with everyone recounting their own unique perspective, and doing so with a reasonable amount of honesty.
Lots of Lively Conversation and Fish Stories post ride
Lots of folks brought cameras and a plethora of photos were taken and exchanged. The roads were in very good condition with only the occasional sand/gravel detrius to keep your attentions focused. Traffic in this rural area was almost non-existent. The weather was virtually perfect; cool, foggy mornings followed by bright, sunny and warm afternoons. Only one thunderstorm made it’s way through and it was an after-hours affair.
Last Day Group – Rick, author, Tom, Scott
A couple pleasant outcomes: no one crashed or received the extra attentions of the local constabulary (pretty amazing considering some of the speeds and antics on the rides). And none of the Gammas came up lame after some pretty serious spankings they were enduring. This was a bit of a surprise considering these machines are as much as 25 years old and many are heavily modified. Fortunately, Rick’s emphasis with these bikes is more on reliability and functionality rather than outright performance. You see, he likes to ride at least as much as wrench.
Fresh Pistons and ready for reassembly
Even if one of the bikes had broken, Rick has the means and parts to fix virtually any issue that might have arisen. He could have even done a complete engine swap within hours if necessary. His garage is a wonder to behold; with as many as 15 Gammas in various states of operation, replacement parts stacked and hanging from the rafters, fabrications in various stages of completion and the equivalent of a full machine shop; it’s gear-head heaven.
Didn’t die and go to heaven, so this must be the Rapture
His personal and for-sale stable consists of everything from lightly modified originals all the way to custom-painted, big-bore, tweaked-within-an-inch-of-their-life beasts. The bike I rode was a limited edition Walter Wolf replica that was as close to stock as one these machines gets these days.
Rhino ready to mount the Wolf
It performed flawlessly. The softer stock suspension and old-school brakes made the bike easy to ride, even fast. It didn’t wear me out like more modern, stiffer, more abrupt machinery.
But for me, the best part of the entire trip was having a chance to ride a truly unique motorcycle on roads that suit it strengths perfectly. In reality, this “antique” hasn’t lost a step to modern machinery. You might conclude that I’m living nostalgically in the past and not familiar with modern performance, but my 05’ GSXR 750 and ’06 R1 LE would beg to differ. The rider is always the limiting factor, even more so in this day and age. And the pace of a few of my fellow riders was as quick as I’ve ever seen on any bike.
Air Quality Alerts everywhere we went
The Gamma’s traits of super light weight, flickability and thrilling power delivery was a perfect match to the roads in this region. Ridden properly (which is quite difficult for those used to modern 4-strokes), only racetracks or long straights reveal the Gammas age and weaknesses. But in the real world of sub-triple digit speeds and required mid-corner corrections, the Gamma can still surprise and delight!
A Gaggle of Gammas
The company of a bunch of like-minded two-stroke lunatics made the whole experience an event in a way that just a bunch of rides never could. What a fine way to spend a long Spring weekend. Thanks, Rick!