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.
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.
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?”