So you won’t worry so much.


There is a saying among motorcyclists, there are two types of riders: those who will fall and those who will fall again. It’s pretty easy to tell them apart. Those who will fall have on sunglasses and shorts, possibly a shirt, and those who will fall again have on all the gear, all the time. I have fallen.
A couple of times actually. The first bike I ever owned I spun out from under me going around a corner, wearing sunglasses but pants and a tee-shirt. Worse than the road rash I got on my butt and forearms was watching my beautiful, vintage Kawasaki H2 750 spin down the blacktop on it irreplaceable magnesium case-half. Fortunately, it didn’t flip-flop or I might not have survived the embarrassment. I was able to save the case but it took months of sanding and polishing. Two lessons learned; wear the gear and physical pain is not always the worst part.
I grew up in the Midwest, in a small town (about 40,000 people)that would probably currently be described as rural. I didn’t have a dirt bike (I had a racing go-cart, more on that another time)but it certainly wasn’t hard to find one or to finagle a ride. My neighbor had a Honda 250 Elsinore that I cut my teeth on and I guy I played football with had a Husqvarna 390 Works (bored out to 460, thank you very much) that I rode exactly ONCE. The front wheel was just for show on that bike, tread was always very good on it, because it was rarely on the ground.
I didn’t really learn to ride well until I bought my first bike, the afore-mentioned H2, from my father. I would liken it to giving your son a 357 Magnum for his first gun or throwing your son in the deep end to teach him to swim (which taught me to be a very good swimmer, by the by.) The H2 has a nickname, which if you must know is on the Wikipedia page. My Father and I had issues.
The H2 is the Playboy model of motorcycles, every guy says they had one, but the easy way to sort out the poseurs is ask them the gear pattern (five up, neutral at the bottom, very unusual).
I never forget a gear pattern.
While I still had the H2 (about 7 years) I bought an 82 Suzuki Katana that was the most uncomfortable bike ever, camtowers an inch or so from my kneecaps (quite hot on a summers day), like rolling around in bed with a beautiful woman that kept poking me with her bony knees and elbows, but great to be seen with.
I traded both of those in for my Kawasaki 750 turbo, the H2 to a friend who knew how to ride and had been begging me for years for it, the God-awful Suzuki to the dealer. I have no regrets. The turbo was a great bike, comfortable and wicked fast, the fastest bike in the world the first year it was made, despite the fact it was only a 750.
This was the other bike that I fell off, actually was knocked off, rear-ended at a stoplight by a guy in a Camaro that wasn’t wearing his glasses. I don’t know how fast he was going but my bike slid across 6 lanes of traffic on it’s side so it wasn’t a love tap. I landed on the hood of his car, on my head and neck, suffering a concussion and torn ligaments in my neck and back. All told, could have been worse, should have been worse. Learned two more lessons: I could do everything right and still get in trouble and keep my eyes on my mirrors at lights.
Insurance totaled the bike, that I bought back and repaired. It only had 15,000 miles on it, it was still new. Apart from minor scratches on the fairing, I had to replace the swingarm, axle, and the rear wheel that looked like a pie with a slice taken out. Not a love tap, no, not really. I was wearing my gear so I survived. I put another 41,000 miles on the turbo before selling it to a bike dealer who had been asking me to buy it ever since I let him ride it in exchange for the 1000 mile tune-up.
I took that money, built the Speedster, moved to Colorado, got married, made babies, moved back, got divorced, got addicted to oxy from my back pain, got clean and in shape so the back pain went away and settled in as single, joint custody Dad that you know and, well, you know how you feel…
Three years ago, settled into my house and my new lifestyle (and clean), I started to feel restless. The half of the time I didn’t have my kids I didn’t have enough to do. I was seeing a woman that I used to ride with, who loved to ride and was a very good passenger, so the solution was obvious. I found a Ducati Monster 750 basket case (a bike in need of serious repair) that I purchased for a song. I get the feeling the previous owner stood it up (or it stood up by itself with him along for the ride) because he just kept saying “I don’t want it anymore,” like it was his mantra. (That happened to me with the H2 and it does take the charm out of a relationship.) I was 49 at that time and didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a bike if I couldn’t, or didn’t, enjoy riding again.
Once repaired, the Ducati was a good bike, not great, light and nimble, the best handling bike I’ve ever owned but the light weight made it feel nervous at speed and yet it always seemed like it wanted to go faster, preferably without me aboard. So sexy in that patented Italian way, the first guy that rode it bought it (at a tidy profit for me) and we both walked away happy. I had decided not to ride anymore.
Two weeks later I saw a 1976 Honda GL1000 with a full Gold Wing dress kit for sale by the side of the road and a half hour later it was mine. You know I think the best thing about a dress is that it comes right off so I stripped her, lowered her, chopped off the tail (bobbed, in the parlance), put on a pair of ridiculously loud Harley exhaust tips and a solo seat, painted her the reddest red I could find and “Cherry Baby” was born. No one understood our love, especially not that old riding friend. It was that big, chromed flat four motor glistening in the sun that made it. I know it looked good because people would ask me at lights “What is it?”
“It’s a ’76 Gold Wing”
“Oh…yeah,yeah I see it now.”
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I saw an EXACT copy of Cherry, down to the taillight frenched (inset) into the bobbed back fender, but painted flat black. Wanker.
She was a good, docile, fun bike to ride (Honda builds a nice bike, I never thought I’d say that but I can’t lie) but a little slow. Riding a bike with low capacities for speed at speed is far more dangerous than riding a bike with high capacities. Seems obvious but you would be surprised how people wonder “How are you going to control all that power?” Just like a car, you don’t have to go full speed all the time and with a high speed bike you get better brakes, handling, tires etc. I sold Cherry to the first guy who rode her (at a tidy profit for me) and we both walked away happy.
Six months later, I find the ELR and here we are. I know a bad bike when I ride one (you know now I’ve had several of them) and this is a very good, well-sorted bike in perfect condition. I wear all the gear, all the time and have about 20 solid years of experience. I don’t do stunts, done that. I don’t take chances, done that. I don’t speed often, and only under very controlled circumstances. Speed doesn’t kill it’s the sudden stop at the end, so I avoid that.
I can’t guarantee I won’t get hurt but I’ll be more fun to be around. I’ll laugh a little easier and love a little harder. I spend so much time being good father and gentle poet, sometimes I need to be more reckless and dangerous to feel like a man. I not saying that defines a man but I can tell the difference and I think you’ll be able to as well. That shouldn’t be bad news for you.

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