When I take the time to look back over my life, and realize the vast number of bikes I have owned, I am amazed at how fortunate I have been to ride as many motorcycles as I have. At 63 years young, I can still vividly remember something special and unique about each of the bikes I’ve owned, regardless of the actual amount of time they were in my possession.
I got my first bike when I was in college in 1974. It was a Yamaha 350 – orange & black. It was my vehicle of choice around campus, with the occasional 200 mile trip home. I was new to motorcycles, and learned a lot from this bike. It was an eye-opening experience when someone showed me how to remove the baffles from the pipes and then I started it up for the first time. My bike had transformed from a street bike to a “Chopper”… (At least in my mind).
After a year or so with the Yamaha, a friend of mine offered me his Honda 500-4 that he was selling. Going from a 2 cylinder to a 4… going from 2 pipes to 4, and going to a true “Chopper” style bike, complete with high rise handlebars (at that time I wasn’t familiar with the term “ape hangers”) was more of a temptation than I could take, so I sold the Yamaha and bought the Honda. I had the Honda for several years, and it saw my first marriage and my first child, while it was a part of the family. It finally reached the point where I was working on it more than I was riding it, so I made an offer to one of our neighbors and it was his.
After the Honda, I went back to Yamaha again. This time it was a 650 – 2 cylinder…again, set up like a chopper. Fast and low, but not the most comfortable bike in the world. We had found a great babysitter, so one of our favorite things to do was to just hop on the bike and ride — we didn’t really care where. That year, when I took my one week of vacation, we spent 4 of the days on the bike. We didn’t have a lot of money then, and couldn’t afford any hotels, so we had my Mother-in-Law watch our son for 4 days. On Monday, we headed west and ended up back home after dark. The next day we headed south, again not making it back until well after 10:00pm. That scenario repeated itself for East & North. Other than the gas and the very modest meals we ate while we were out, that was the total cost and extent of our vacation. To this day, it’s one of my best vacation memories.
The next bike is the only “hiccup” in this equation, which requires just a bit of explanation. I sold the 650 to a friend who had been trying to buy it from me and replaced it with a Yamaha 250 Enduro!!! Here’s why. My father, who was 50 at the time, decided he wanted a motorcycle. Had never had one before, and as far as I knew, had never ridden one before. A friend of a friend had this “great” deal, and it was perfect for a “first time” rider. Dad bought the bike and had it delivered to his house. He was going to ride it around the neighborhood, until he got used to it, and then go for his test. After three weeks, the bike was still sitting in the same place. I found out he couldn’t even get it started!! No electric start back then, and he had just decided that this “wasn’t for him”. I personally think that the “wanting” the bike turned out to be better than “having” the bike. He made me an “offer I couldn’t refuse” and I ended up with the 250. My only memories of this bike were “Why did I agree to buy this??” The one advantage of a bike that size — both of my kids rode on the tank, in front of me, for their first bike rides…..
Without going into a long, boring detail on each of my bikes, let me just list the ones (that I can remember) that got me to where I am now………
- 1978 Kawasaki 750
- Honda 750F
- Honda 750K
- 1978 Gold Wing
- 1984 Gold Wing – 2 (red one and a blue one)
- 1988 Vulcan 750
- 1997 Honda Shadow 1100
- 2004 Yamaha Virago
Before I get to my last bike, a very interesting thing happened with the Honda 750F. I had been looking for a bike for several weeks, and came across this one. We negotiated the price, and I ended up giving him $800 and riding the bike home. We stopped at the bank and got the title notarized. This was when the banks were open on Saturday mornings. I had it sitting in my driveway, starting my “anal” cleaning process, when A guy drove by in a truck with Tennessee tags (we lived in Austin, IN). He stopped, rolled down the window, and said “Nice bike. Is it for sale?” I just replied that no, it wasn’t for sale, and drove on his way. About 15 minutes later he was back and again asked me if I was SURE the bike wasn’t for sale. I laughed and told him that I had just brought it home, and that I was quite sure it wasn’t for sale. He looked over the bike, thanked me for my time, and drove off again. I was still thinking how unusual that encounter had been, when I look up and the same truck is coming back down the street. He stops again, gets out and walks up to me and says – “I’m from Tennessee. I really like your bike, and I’d like to take it home with me. What is it going to take for you to sell it to me?” I sat there just looking at him, and he said “Just quote me a price, at least.” Without thinking about it too much, and realizing that if he wanted the bike THAT badly, I could start with a ridiculous price, I doubled what I just paid and told him “$1,600”. He said that he appreciated me giving him a price… reached in his wallet and pulled out sixteen $100 bills… and asked me if I could help him load it into his truck!!!! When I told him the title has been notarized by the seller, but that I didn’t have a title in my name, he looked at the title and said it wouldn’t be a problem. He drove off with the bike and the title, and I walked inside with $1,600 in my hand. My wife looked at me and asked “Where’s the bike?”
And that brings this story to the present day. In 2014 I was in a position to buy my 2007 Honda VTX 1800-T.
When I bought the bike, it only had 523 miles on it…. in SEVEN years!!!! I bought it bone stock, and over the last 4 years I have added, changed, upgraded and customized this bike until it is an absolute reflection of ME…. My wife buys me one thing each year, either for my bike or for my gun collection. For the last three years, the gifts have been – 1) Honda Line light bar; 2) Progressive 430 shocks; and most recently 3) Ultimate Big Boy seat combination. I realize how fortunate I am to have this bike, and to be in a position to dress it up to suit my fancy. This will be the last bike I own… until I’m either too old to ride, or not strong enough to hold it up… and then I might downsize to a smaller bike or even a trike.
But for now… needless to say…I am one happy biker…..