May 26, 2008

The 6th Annual Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Show

I’m reading a book by a Frenchman, American Vertigo by Bernard-Henri Lévy, that attempts to follow the path of Alexis d Tocqueville across this country. More accurately, he tries to cover all of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America bases, not necessarily in the order that he touched those places but in the spirit of that journey. One of Lévy’s continual features of amazement is our fixation on our own history. Not only do we spend a lot of time formally and institutionally collecting pieces of history and storing them in expensive buildings, we, individually, collect bits of history and display it as if it had some deep meaning. As individuals, we seem to think our personal history has interest to other people, as if we are all worthy of published and well-read autobiographies. I suspect he is implying that we are a bit self-absorbed.

A few days ago, on my way to a beginner’s MSF class, I passed a motorcycle shop that had some sort of convention going in the parking lot. There were loads of weird looking, and totally, ordinary bikes in the lot and a pretty decent sized crowd wandering around the bikes. So, I had to go back and check it out. Turns out it was the “6th Annual Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Show” and it was more than entertaining. All of the self-historical aspects of American character that Lévy described were on full display in this parking lot.

For me, the most entertaining part of the show was the spectacle of “collected” cheap bikes that were practically throwaways when they were in their prime. Most of these bikes were still in their prime, too. Many of these motorcycles cost a fraction of a month’s income, back when a month’s income was today’s pocket change. Kids would save up their lawn mowing money to buy these little Japanese motorscooters. There was a Yamaha DT1 with less than 100 miles on the odometer. A Honda SL350 with 256 miles of road experience. In fact, most of the bikes were barely broken-in. While most were attempts to recreate a brand new 1970’s replica, some of the bikes demonstrated the “personality” of their owners in either creative or psychotic ways. At least one, not on display but for sale just off to the side of the show, had as split a personality as any weirdo ever depicted on CSI or Homicide. I met the owner, he seemed relatively normal, but his bike made me more than a little wary.

Here’s a quick look at some of the better moments in the 6th Annual Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Show:

I’m trying to establish this blog site as a place to go for motorcycle stuff. If you have comments you’d like to make regarding today’s subject, I’d appreciate it if you’d make them on the blog instead of emailing them to me. I’ll receive whatever you have to say the same way (through my regular email), regardless of how you send your comments. The more hits and comments I have on this blogsite, the more likely it is to get flagged by Google and that means even more hits. And so on. Feel free to pass this on, write bad things about my posture and grooming on the blog site, or add your own take on the state of American motorcycling. Thanks.

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