Friday, May 17, 2013

A love-hate relationship

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,norton2 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.

20 comments:

  1. Truly has it become a love-hate relationship between myself and Valencia but really...not her fault. It was I who chose to "upgrade" her ignition for increased performance....little did I know.

    My URAL has actually done quite well actually, soldiers on in spite of leaking rear main seals (fixed under warranty), a head with an uncut valve seat (replaced under warranty). Heck, she went almost 30,000 km with that uncut valve seat! It was only the initial troubles with the "upgrade" ignition system that led to the discovery of the missing seat! :)

    Still, a long period of reliable riding would not be refused by me.

    dom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dom - Well here's hoping for a "long period of reliable riding" on your way home. Good luck with the latest fix.

      Delete
  2. I love my Road King

    I hate that I can't take it out and stay gone all summer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B.D. - Well said. As for the RK I think that's another bike I could love. I've ridden a couple but never owned one although I came close once.

      Delete
  3. I find the experiences that are the most worthwhile are those that require work.

    I wonder if your enjoyment of the Norton was perhaps partly due to the fact you needed to keep her maintained. Whenever you rode her it was always because you were integral to making her run.

    But I am no psychologist so what do I know...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David - You might have something there but still, there's a lot to be said for being able to walk into the garage, hit a switch, and ride without wondering if you'll make it home.

      Delete
  4. Have you found that same bliss that you had on your Norton with your current bike? I love the Norton's, but I am definitely not mechanically inclined so it's not something I would consider. A few months last summer I definitely had a love/hate thing going with my bike because of the dead CDI & trying to locate another, it was looking pretty bleak, but we are in Moto zen again. This moto love is a strange thing,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dar - Short answer: no. I love riding my current bike (I've loved riding all of them for that matter) and while I still periodically get into that zen state when riding it's not nearly as often as with the Commando. It might be an age thing as I don't ride as hard or as fast (usually) as I used to but I think that Commando just fit me better both physically and psychologically than any other bike I've ever owned. See? There's the heart talking again.

      Delete
  5. I laughed so hard during this post! I've had experiences with bikes, dogs, and relationships just like you described!

    Not YET with a moto machine, but I feel one coming on in my future.

    Many years ago I went in with some friends and we bought a VW camper bus. We spent all spring fixing it up for a trip to Florida. "Fixing it up" also included one of my friends upholstering it and sewing curtains and putting in carpet.

    When we were done it was absolutely amazing.

    Until it caught fire doing down the highway about 30 miles from home.

    No one was hurt, but we still talk about that bus to this day just lamenting about how it "looked so good". Yeah, it did. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Deb. I guess we can all relate at one level or another. And I love the bus story!

      Delete
  6. I too have a love hate relationship with all of my Volkswagons I have a '74 super beetle which I adored until it died at an intersection during rush hour and I heard a 'pop' & when I went to lift the hood 5 feet of flame shot out the back and it was on fire. There I was standing there in my work clothes & 4 inch stillettos spraying it down with a fire extinguisher. I shoud have let it burn to the wheels. We hauled it away and attempted to fix it and it's still sitting in the garage. Then my hubby bought a '71 super beetle & was going to fix it up for our kid, but now it won't go into reverse. Last but not least our 1985 Westfalia Toaster van which we have loved dearly, but it causes us angst every time we take Goldzilla on vacation it always breaks down and costs us minimum $2000 every time we go on a trip. I am done with everything VW, but my husband has been bewitched by them and insists he will keep them running. Me I just want a motorcycle with a side car instead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dar - Your husband has it really bad. Perhaps an intervention is required. :)

      Delete
  7. That was my 79 Kawasaki KZ400. Something was always going wrong with it. The starter motor, the carburetor, the fork seals, something. But, I wish I still had that bike.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve - Yup. Then you know what I mean.

      Delete
  8. Yup my hub needs a VW intervention.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great post. And yes I think we all can have that love/hate relationship with different vehicles of the two wheeled persuasion.

    Mine was the Ninja 650. Loved the reliability, looks and power. Hate the faring and top heavy feel of it. Sold it but don't miss it. I still think they are a gorgeous bike in that color combination when I see one though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trobairitz - Never ridden one - or any of the modern sports/sports-touring bikes for that matter - but it is a good looking machine.

      Delete
  10. My first scooter was wonderful...mostly. Except sometimes it wouldn't stay running. It would start no matter how cold it was, but after a little while...long enough for me to be out it traffic, it would stall and I'd be pushing off to the side of the road. Then it would start and away we'd go...maybe. Did all sorts of things to it, but the problem remained. Sold it and got my Symba. And as crazy as it seems there are still times I miss that damn little blue scooter. Go figure.
    ~k

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

Please feel free to comment, but any comments with commercial links will be deleted. You have been warned.