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.


Anonymous said...

T.W., I don't know if you are looking for any feed-back or not. But my take on bikes is that the whole matter of what kind of motorcycle turns your crank is completely subjective. If one really analyses ones own ideas on motorcycles you sometimes get to where you don't want to go! So I know that it's just a game I'm playing with my mind, the motorcycle thing. Practically, we'd all probably be better off without a motorcycle. But man does not live by bread alone (yes, I know who said that]. I'd probably be crazier than I am if I didn't have a motorcycle. To fit my idea of a motorcycle, however, it must some semblance of practicality. Thus, I like the looks of bikes back when they were for more than sport, in Europe, and America. When they were (and are) transportation, courier, and law enforcement vehicles. To me they look like "motorcycles." I don't like the idea of a "dry-land snowmobile" motorcycle, the dirt bike, which is made for going nowhere, like a dog chasing his tail. Bikes that sit high like a mosquito bracing to sting you, are not my idea of what a bike should look like. I have three bikes: a '59 Harley FLH, a '70 450 Honda which started out as a CL - so it has the smaller tank, but CB pipes, and a '54 Zuendapp. These bikes are by this time worn out junk. But they look like motorcycles! They have that shape and form. At least for me. And if you want to know, I don't like plastic motorcycles, either. Even though some of my best friends... Well, you know the story. So, to each his own. And maybe we shouldn't analyze.
---------- Ross G Kiihn, St. Paul, MN

T.W. Day said...


I always appreciate your comments. Feel free to fire back either through email on on the blog site ( where others can read your opinion. I'm trying to build the site into a conversation location where I can hear what the magazine's readers' think and where I can write about things I won't find a home for on MMM. The more comments the merrier and maybe I'll learn something.

In my geezerdom, I sort of like the idea of a motorcycle being practical transportation, as it is in much of the world. However, if bikes like the BSA 441 Victim, the CB450, and my old "friend" the Harley Sprint were my only choices, I'd have probably quit riding after a few years. Between getting run off of the road by Wild Ones hating Kansans and the unreliability of old street bikes, I wasn't having much fun on a motorcycle until I went off-road. For my first 20 years on two wheels, "practical" wasn't much of the equation. I often rode my bikes to places where I'd race them, but only if I could get there on dirt roads.

If I were young enough and tall enough, I'd love the hell out of modern dual purpose bikes. I'm not, so the V-Strom is as close as I'm likely to get until gas gets expensive enough that Japan starts bringing back 125s to the states. I ride a 250 Kawasaki Super Sherpa almost everywhere I'm not carrying gear or passengers or going more than 250 miles. The "big bike" 650 is for really long trips.

It's all perspective, experience, opinion, and such. I write because I learn things about me, you, and everyone who bothers to comment on what I write. I would never try to convince you to like/dislike what I like/dislike. I'm just putting opinions out there for the fun of it.