Most of us have a special kind of relationship with our motorcycles. Usually we love them (Why else would I have bought it in the first place?), sometimes we hate them (My ass hurts after 10 minutes in the saddle!) and it varies by day or even hour.
I got to thinking about that third option, that love-hate kind of relationship, as I was reading about Dom’s over at Redleg’s Rides trials and tribulations with Valencia on his Alaska trip. As much as he loves his rig I’m sure there were many days recently when he’d just as soon drive it off the pier into the Gulf of Alaska and hitch-hike home. But as a rational human being (who decided to ride to Alaska in April!) he’ll most likely get her home, fix the issues, and rebuild the trust lost on that trip. We’re all waiting to see how that works out, but mostly just want to see him home safely.
I count myself lucky. Of the many motorcycles I’ve owned I can honestly say I only really hated one. It was my first ride, a Yamaha RD200, and I had no sooner ridden it off the lot than I knew it was the wrong bike for me. I had made a rash, uninformed decision and bought a bike that was too small for me and underpowered. I rode it only long enough to save up the few extra dollars needed to trade up to a Honda CB350 – about a month as I recall. This was 1971, a long time ago, and I still hate that bike.
Most of the rest I have loved. My Yamaha RD350-LC was quick, scary fast, and would throw the front wheel in the air if you but breathed hard on the throttle when releasing the clutch. The Kawasaki Z-1 was just plain AWESOME! Power and looks that couldn’t be beat, THE superbike of the day, as long as you mostly rode in a straight line. The various Honda 4’s were all dead reliable, pedestrian machines that could be counted on to go from A to B and back again carrying ridiculous loads with nary a peep and minimal maintenance. And my current ride, an H-D Low Rider? I love it. Power, style, reliability, and (considering it’s not a touring model) reasonable medium- to long-haul comfort. I expect I’ll keep this one for a while, or until the lottery finally comes through. (I’m due!)
But what Dom’s experiences brought fresh to mind were my Nortons, in particular my ‘74 Commando. Now there was a love-hate relationship. Not unlike Canada’s Sea King search and rescue helicopters, every hour of riding time required about 35 hours of shop time. If I wasn’t tightening bolts I was looking in the bins for replacement parts for bits that were lost on the road somewhere between here and there. And if I wasn’t lock-wiring every nut and bolt I was trouble-shooting the Lucas electrics, whose company motto was “Get home before dark.” (Why do the British drink warm beer? Lucas also made refrigerators.)
The long-suffering spousal unit would often show up in the garage (or the kitchen before I had a garage) and ask if all those parts on the floor meant we wouldn’t be going for a ride to the lake after all. And I’d reply, just as soon as I finish this engine rebuild dear. After a while she stopped asking and would simply come in, roll her eyes, and leave. At those times I hated her. (The bike, not the missus!)
But when Black Beauty decided to be on her best behaviour it was bliss. Carving those TT100’s around curves at 70, 80, or 90 mph to the thrum of a large displacement parallel twin with a shorty exhaust was magical. It was the easiest bike I ever had to become ‘one’ with, where I was a simple extension of the bike, or it of me; I was never really clear which it was. When we were ‘on song’ as they say we didn’t ride around those bends, we flowed around them, and then raced to the next set of twisties to do it all again, and again, and again until we ran out of gas, Lucas lived up to its motto, the exhaust system fell off, or the local constabulary put a halt to our fun for the day – all of which happened on more than one occasion.
I finally sold her but even then it was a case of the head (and the missus) saying it was the right thing to do and the heart saying Noooooooooo! I still miss her even though I know that makes no sense. I’ve moved on (age and experience does that) and my riding style has also moved on. If she were now to suddenly become mine again I expect she’d be quickly added to the hate list. And I don’t want to spoil all the great memories.