Sep 27, 2008

Cheap Bike and Me Part II

Any married guy who has taken an extended motorcycle trip knows that there is payback to be settled when you get home. I would have loved to spend all of my time on the rat bike, but the evening of my first night back my wife said, "Let's get started on the the attic, so you can get your music crap out of my office." So, now I have two major projects; the rat bike and remodeling my attic. Maybe three projects, counting the beginning of school in my headlights and two new classes to plan for. Four, I still have to clean up and reorganize the garage before winter. I left it a mess when I headed east at the beginning of August. Now, it's a catastrophe. To get to the woodworking tools I need for the attic job, I need to shovel out the garage. Not being one to allow common sense to interfere with my over-commitments, I charged into looking for a project bike as soon as I got back from my trip. The attic, of course, got first priority. I'm may be a fool, but I'm not suicidal. I simply stumbled around the crap in the garage, putting that odyssey off for later.

I had a line on an 80's 700 Nighthawk. I hung on to that, hoping that it would work out. The Nighthawk is sort of the style of bike I like to ride. The deal hung on another guy who had been promised the bike, but hadn't touched it in months. I was never clear about the ownership of the bike, but why ask until it becomes available? "[The other guy] is dug in for the long haul with the goal that it will be on the road in April. Sorry. I would have been yours if you'd done the first cast about 2 weeks earlier." I'm out of luck and back on the hunt. The beater KLR is looking better, even if still impossible.

Next, a KZ440 that had sat on Craig's List from before I left for Nova Scotia until I came back. I wrote the owner who said it was available, but the title was still in the mail from the state. No problem. I asked to see it. The next day he wrote back, "Sorry, Tom. It's sold." Oh for crap's sake! Is there a Minnesota-wide plot to defeat my rat bike hunt?

I got my wife's Yamaha scooter, last year, for $300. I went out into the garage to start it up for the first time this year. It fired up after a moment on the charger. Maybe I should enter it? Cheating, I know. Still . . .

My last hope was a 70's CB450 or an '83 550 Kawasaki Spectre. A friend tipped me to the CB and a Craig's List spam ad picked up the specter of a Spectre. Both bikes need lots of work and I'm in the last week of preparation. If these don't come through, I get to toss in my raggedy towel. "The other buyer wants to buy the bike still. If things change You will be the first to know." I didn't know there was another buyer, but there goes the Spectre.

Mike Etlicher, one of the other contestants had a momentary change of heart, "Over the next day or so I'll think about whether or not the additional obligation of cash, time and storage space is worth this particular Pursuit Of Glory. So Tom, you still wanna buy a bike?" His XS400 was close enough to the kind of motorcycle I was looking for, so I wrote back to see if he was serious. Labor Day, Sev calls to be sure that I got his latest email joke and to see if I have a bike yet. I don't. He's bummed. He reminds me that Mike seemed interested in selling his rat bike. I've already replied to that offer, but haven't heard anything since. A few days later I learned that Sev applied his persuasive talents to Mike and he decided to stay in the competition. On the positive side, I managed to get all the attic sheetrock hung and finished most of the taping. The evil parts of the attic are all but finished. Is there a state-wide conspiracy forcing me to the CB450? Only my last call will decide.

Sep 21, 2008

Cheap Bike and Me

If you know anything about me, you know I"m not a big fan of ancient technology. I'm not one of those geezer bikers who rants about the good old days when motorcycles were unreliable and only super mechanics dared to ride across the street without a following pickup. I like new stuff. My 2000 Kawasaki Super Sherpa is about as old a bike as I want to own. It's carburated and that's about as far back in engineering time as I'm interested in tolerating.

So, when my Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly editor sent an email, last July, asking for volunteers for a Cheap Bike Challenge, I expected to be riding an 80's bike, at the oldest. If anything had gone right, I would have been.

The other "competitors" got a big jump on me. I probably should have passed on being a competitor at all, since the contest deadline conflicted with my 2nd annual "big ride," this year to Nova Scotia. My ride plan put me on the road August 1 and got me back anywhere between August 20th and the 30th. Tight schedules are not my deal. July 4th, Victor announced the competitor list and, surprise, I was one. I spent most of July getting my V-Strom ready for the trip and the rest of the month finishing up my work at school, my day-gig, for the semester. My mind was on the trip, though.

I checked out a few bikes before I left, but the best prospects disappeared before I could get to them. Most of the under-$300 ratters couldn't have been restored for anything less than an additional $300 in parts. My great, green hope was a KLR250 Kawasaki with a "new" motor still in the box. I really wanted a small single for my budget entry and this sounded perfect.

When I saw the KLR, all hope died. The motor was in a box and had been stored under a picnic table for several years. It was rusted and seized. The rest of the bike had seen better days, although maybe not in my lifetime or in its current incarnation. Wiring dangled from the frame in almost every location. The tank was full of rust. Still, the KLR was still tempting, because I really like the 250 and have wanted one since they came out. If I had all summer to fix it up, maybe. But I'd have about two weeks, max, when I got back from Nova Scotia.

I left without a rat bike on line about on my trip east. Being saddled with traditional Midwestern Guilt, I thought about the Low Buck Challenge all the way around the Great Lakes and back. Having volunteered for this event, I didn't want to completely blow my side of the bargain. It would be one thing to find a bike, get it running, and have it die on the way to the contest starting line. It's another to not even have a bike to fail on. From Minnesota to the furthest eastern point on our continent, I thought about a solution to the missing rat bike.

Thinking/worrying about problems you left at home is insanely unproductive and I have to admit that it wasn't the first thing on my mind each morning as I set out to explore the east coast.

As soon as I got back, on August 20, I started looking again. The story of how I ended up owning a 1971 Honda CB450 (pictured at right) is a story of betrayal, heartbreak, torture, setbacks, mental retardation, disappointment, poor mechanical skills, inept planning, idealistic foolishness, and an example of having far too few friends in low places.

Sep 1, 2008

Very Boring Rally II and US Trials

The past weekend was the 25th anniversary of the founding of Aerostich and Mr. Goldfine and company threw a terrific party to celebrate. They coordinated the party with the 4th, 5th, and final round of the US observed trials championship. Motorcycles, great farkles and gear, famous adventure touring speakers and workshops, food, music, poetry, and usual competition, what more could you ask for?

One thing, a great traveling companion, I got that with my grandson, Wolfe. We left fairly early, Saturday morning and arrived (after experiencing a bit of Duluth cold and wet) in time to watch the last two laps of the trials riders and the beginning of the party. It was a little bit of old home week, running into lots of people I know in the Minnesota motorcycle community. Dinner, provided by Famous Dave’s barbeque, was their usual brand of excellent. Smores, provided by the creative folks at Aerostich, were a nice touch. Music, especially that provided by Junior Brown, was a cap on a terrific day.

Weird for me, I didn’t do an interview, write a column or review or a spiffy analysis of the event, or even think much about doing those things. I discovered that the whole Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly crew were at the event, so if they wanted an article written I figured they’d write one. Not that I had different plans if I was there solo. My whole reason for going was to hang out with my grandson, after being away for twenty days. This was his first real motorcycle trip and his mother probably kept her fingers crossed all weekend. He loved the trials, so that’s what we spent our day enjoying. Camping out is a big deal to him, so we made the most of that. Best of all, he really enjoyed riding the bike with me and we explored a bit of the Duluth area together.

I took a picture, or two, of the crazed old guys who make up most of Aerostich’s customer base and their rides and a few more of the trials. See below:

I took even more pictures of the trials guys, since Wolfe wanted that to remember the trip by, see below: