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MC Dispatch

Reader-submitted rides, reviews and stories


My Perfect Motorcycle

The other night while lying in bed I was pondering the age old question, what is my perfect motorcycle? This cognitive dialogue was spurred by the back page of Motorcycle Classic’s Nov/Dec issue. It revealed an auction of the Lee Roy Hartung collection. And since my wife isn’t much for conversation during mid-snore, it lead me to research the collection on MC’s website, which lead to watching hours of YouTube videos related to motorcycles, which kept me up all night. Then with burning retinas, I had to check Craigslist just one more time prior to putting on my coveralls to fight the frosty morning air and heading off to work on my 82’ CB900. If any of this describes you or anyone you know, then you may get a kick out of this short contemplation.

CB900 

That morning on my ride to work, I thought of the nearly 20 motorcycles I have owned in the past 2 years. It seems I have a strict affinity to Japanese motorcycles. In fact, every last motorcycle I have owned has been Japanese (the majority being Honda). And I think that may be due to my lack of wallet thickness or the maximum dollar amount my wife restricts me to. In any case, I am always on the “look out” for MY motorcycle. I think one day I will find the one motorcycle that meets all my criteria and I ride forever on. My wife rolls her eyes as I proof read this to her because she believes she will never see that day. Just as I roll my eyes and know she will never have enough shoes nor refrain herself when Macy’s has a blowout sale. But, I must prevail, the day will come (she will never buy any more shoes one day)!

Anyway, the previous night, while watching some of the videos about the antique collection, I wished that they still made motorcycles like these today, except a little more up-to-date. To me, what made them so remarkable was that dusty, oil splattered, cob-web covered, chrome free, Marlon Brando “I’ll kick your…” look. Thoughts like these are what I want my perfect bike to shout back at me. For many people, that perfect ride shouts from the Harley Davidson showroom, with upswept black pipes ‘neath black bodywork wrapped in the dirt track legend re-birthed in the new XR1200X. For others, the perfect motorcycle might be the Honda Goldwing, which may actually be capable of going to the moon had it real “wings”. And for some, perfection may be on a Kawasaki ZX10 twisting through the Tail of the Dragon.

For me, I need something with character, like the BMWs Ewan & Charley rode around the world. You know the ones that tell a story when you look at them, saying the rider of this bike has cheated death more than once. The rider of THIS bike has ridden on some remote highway halfway around the world sharing meals with locals consisting of “mountain oysters” and sheep intestines. A bike that drips of Jeremiah Johnson, survival, and hardcore adventure is a must in my search.

Honda 

Second, I need to have a motorcycle that is reliable. The last thing I want is to be fidgeting with the stator wires on my first official Iron Butt Rally. So for a ride like that, I would want to stick with a tried and true model or brand that has a reputation for dependability. I want the bike that can rack up mile after mile, in any condition, one that can take a beating and keep on tickin’. No motorcycle, no matter how amazing it is, can make up for unreliability in my book. Reliability is another must for my perfect bike.

Next, my perfect ride has to have the ability to hit the path less traveled. I don’t need something with a snorkel that is capable of river crossings, but a motorcycle that doesn’t tuck its tail and run at first sight of gravel would be nice. Motorcycles aren’t meant to be chained to tarmac, they are meant to go where cars and the timid can’t. A motorcycle is a symbol of freedom and exploration, if it can’t cross unpaved terrain at some point; it’s crossed off my “perfect” list.

Moving on, my motorcycle should be something I can maintain. Just think, why would I want a motorcycle that requires 47 pages of Wikipedia “how to” or seven YouTube videos in order to change the oil? Basically, I want a motorcycle that Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor can maintain AND put back together without Fabio Taglioni looking over his shoulder. As a result, my motto is that the less “stuff” to repair, fix or replace, the better. I’m a big fan of the simplicity I guess. If the motorcycle is too complicated or expensive to maintain and keep on the road, then it won’t be RIDDEN.

Lastly, my perfect motorcycle needs to carry my wife and me without strain and provide long-lasting comfort for both of us. Essentially, I don’t want to get off my motorcycle to do some sort of awful gig to get blood flowing to my lower extremities every half hour. Because those occasions seem to find me being laughed at by some homeless beggar at Sunoco, to whom I immediately become obligated to donate to his “need money for beer” fund. And since I’m on a bit of a restricted budget, I try to find those isolated back roads to help make my own ends-meet. And now you see how personal comfort for me is actually a basic financial plan (a justification fit for the times).

Finally, I understand that many out there won’t agree with my perfect motorcycle. That’s totally fine, but at least I have qualified what that bike would be like to me and hopefully entertained you during the process. And with any luck, one day when all my motorcycles are rolled out of a tattered barn and displayed to some onlookers, someone might say, “Why can’t they make motorcycles like this these days?”

Pat Parziale with one of his Hondas 

aejotz
12/4/2011 9:34:14 PM

Another vote for the Triumph Bonneville T100. Mine is a 2008 and I could not be happier. I owned only Hondas before because they were cheap, reliable and fun. The T wasn't exactly cheap but it's reliable, low-maintenance and as much fun as I can stand. My next tires will have more tread because I like gravel and grass but modern road tires don't. With better tires I'll have a machine that can cruise the freeway or chug up a trail. Although ideally I'd like a bike like Bronson rode on the TV show "Then Came Bronson." It was an 883cc Sportster that turned into a 350cc Sprint when it went off-road. Nice trick.


paul richardson
12/4/2011 4:49:24 AM

We live in the small town of Stratford which is in Victoria Australia.We have beautiful places to ride, from places like the 90 mile beach to the mountain cattleman high country to snow covered mountains.My wife of 40 years rides with me and although we suffer badly with arthritis we enjoy our rides together.Wendy rides a Harley 883 Sportster 2010 model,these are a very underated bike given the name out here as skirtsters but they do everything that a good Jap bike can do with a bit of attitude thrown in,her latest bike which is still brand new is a Kawasaki W800, these bikes are what the Poms should have made, they feel like an old vertical twin with superb handling faultless fuel injection and no oil leakes or vibration.My ride is a simple 2003 Royal Enfield Bullet 500 with Cosy chair attached great bikes although underpowered this bike has done 40,000kms and starts first kick every time and runs like new.We are looking forward to chatting with other bikies from around the world.


tim robins
12/4/2011 1:38:32 AM

1983 XR 1000 or an XLCR;they may not be good on gravel,but they go from point A to point B;no frills,radio,cupholders or any other unnesessary crap.


clarence de barrows
12/2/2011 4:14:27 PM

As Thoreau said, "simplify, simplify, simplify"! For me, my perfect bike is my 1970 Honda CB750 which I bought new in 1970.


david wood
12/2/2011 9:16:19 AM

My "Modern Classic" T-100 Bonneville fills the bill for me. Attitude, fun, reliability, versatility - and a reminder of my '68 TR6R when I was 18. I've scoured the manufacturers' sites and various ads and only keep returning to the happy fact that, for me, I got the most bang for my buck.


steven hudson
12/1/2011 8:29:31 PM

For me the perfect bike would be much like my '73 R75/5 BMW except with the larger displacement and superior brakes of the current R models. With the old R75's simple carbs and point coil ignition, repairs and maintenance were easily done at roadside with the tools that were included in the excellent kit and shop towel that was standard equipment back then. Seat height was low and the bike always felt under-stressed regardless of your speed. The low seat height and center of mass made the bike stable and gave the rider confidence whether on dirt or gravel. I've owned many bikes since then but none have ever matched the overall satisfaction that the Bimmer gave.


oldwingratbike
12/1/2011 7:19:27 PM

oldest to newest 1971 Honda SL350 , 1973 BMW r60/5 , 1978 Honda CJ360, 1999 BMW K1200LT w trailer ,2000 BMW R1100RT-P 2007 Suzuki SV650S


mingh
12/1/2011 3:37:04 PM

i think you need an XT500. For me, the perfect bike is really something entirely different. I had allroad bikes, i had reliable bikes with faultless electric starting in the cold. But i have my fondest motorbiking memories on crossing asia on a russian 125 2stroker and crossing the high himalaya on an enfield that broke down 3 times in 4 weeks. I believe my perfect bike is the one that takes my heart and sod all other considerations. I currently have a laverda 1000 and a bultaco 350cc enduro, both from the seventies, both unpractical and currently in need of some true loving care, but boy does my heart race every time i'm going out for a ride. If i had to own only 1 bike, it may be a triumph TR6C, blending road and trail in a sizzling hot package, and leaks oil.


cory williams_3
12/1/2011 3:05:15 PM

Ducati GT 1000 Sport Classic is the perfect bike for me.... I'm also fond of my Yamaha SR500....best of both worlds


douglas whitbeck
12/1/2011 2:22:52 PM

The question "What is your favourite bike" is a bound to generate a lot of discussion, especially with a few beers on a winter night. Is it the "fastest bike of the week", the latest from some particular brand to which you are loyal (for whatever justifiable or unjustifiable reason), the cheapest bike (hopefully running) in the Want Advertiser, or just that bike you're riding at this particular moment? I find it hard to choose one that covers everything well. I like to have something I might be able to fix without a dealer and/or computer diagnostics. Simple is good for me, though I do admire Honda's 6-cylinder 297cc GP bike. I'm partial to many older Hondas, having had several -- so let me nominate the Honda CB125/160/175. Or the Honda 350 twin in one form or another -- CB/CL/SL. Maybe the Honda Transalp? FWIW, I'm now riding a '76 Guzzi.


hacksawsgarage_2
12/1/2011 12:19:38 PM

well i like the honda XR's. but the one in this article is typical of why i dont have one. way too tall. i just dont like riding anything that high up. i'll take an actually old xr. twin shocks and motorcycle looking!! but honestly, and having had several japanese motorcycles in my time, mostly in the 70's, there are very few that i care to own, much less consider perfect. my only jap bike at the momment is a 73 H1 project bike. i like it for all the reasons this blogs author likely wouldnt. lol. my perfect bike is one that i can readily modify, chop, bob, cafe out , bag , whatever. every commercially successful motorcycle is limited by its genericly broad appeal. i prefer motorcycles that appeal to br..., well i wont say it. lol! but i would beleive most riders of any brand motorcycle would agree the perfect bike is going to take a bit of massaging by the owner to dial it in to his/her needs.


jordan grant
12/1/2011 11:58:20 AM

test


leonard vosburgh
12/1/2011 10:33:06 AM

I own several bikes from Ducati, Norton, Suzuki, Kawasaki and BMW. I have driven my 998 Ducati to Seattle and my Kawasaki H1-500 triple on long trips. I often go into my garage and think about which bike I would keep if I had to get rid of all of them except for one. At this point in time my favorite "all around" bike is my R75/5.


tonycarlos
12/1/2011 9:18:03 AM

FWIW, your song has been sung by thousands of car enthusiasts every year as the new generation of cars is rolled out. What they have come to accept is that yes, the cars are more complex and less wrench-friendly, but they also require far less attention due to better build quality and vastly improved materials and design. Same applies to bikes. You may not know how your fuel injection system works, but odds are you won't have to. Can you say that about an old carb? The other answer is for you to improve your wrenching skills. There are plenty of newer bikes that can still be maintained in your garage.


vicky de meo
12/1/2011 7:25:46 AM

My 1996 Honda Shadow VT1100C is everything you listed. It's too heavy for hill climbs, but it can handle dirt roads. I ride it all year with minor changes in winter (trickle charger overnight, higher octane gas, new tires, connect the Gerbing's), and I change my own oil. People bother me about getting a new(er) bike, but this one is so great... reliable, economical, comfortable, FUN... that I think I'll be keeping it until it retires itself. Thanks for reminding me what a great bike I have!!!