10 June 2010

I Have An Itch. Should I Scratch?

Frequent followers know at age 12 I bought my first motor vehicle, a Cushman Motor Scooter.
It had a top speed of 35 miles per hour. Thank goodness it wouldn't go any faster than that... it had NO front brake. I rode the wheels off that thing... delivering newspapers, riding it to work at the root beer stand... all before I turned 16.

I've always loved riding bikes. It's impossible not to be more aware of your surroundings on two wheels-
Go downhill in the summer and you'll frequently feel the temperature drop as you encounter the cooler air that has flowed downhill like water... it's heavier than warm air, so gravity pulls it down into the valleys. Pass near a dead animal or polecat that has "skunked" and you are immediately aware of it. You're more aware of outside sounds like cicadas or other critters on a bike. Outside "the box", without the aid of environmental controls and dynamic sound systems, life touches you more. But obviously that can be good... OR bad.

I took Sara Jean with me to Indianapolis for the Indy 500 time trials on the last bike I owned, a Yamaha XS1100SF. It was a VERY powerful, smooth, quiet and comfortable touring bike. We woke in Indiana on Saturday morning to the sound of rain...
Rain that canceled that day's activity on the track. Sunday morning was a twin to Saturday... rain, rain, rain. We both had to work on Monday so we waited as long as we could for the rain to stop before starting home... to no avail.
We donned our rain gear, plunked our butts on the seat, and set out for home in a steady rain with temps of about 60 degrees.

Three hours later we were stopped by a light in a small town. A family of four pulled up next to us in a Geo Metro... Dad driving with Mom seated next to him and two kids in the back seat. The two of us looked over at the kids, smiling and waving at us. Shivering, we waved back, and I thought to myself, "What's wrong with this picture? That car gets nearly the gas mileage this big bike gets. There are FOUR in that car and they are smiling, dry, and WARM."
Big Bubba was born shortly after that and I sold the bike.

But I'm tempted now and then to buy another. The pros and cons are still there...
Riding is dangerous, and many of those dangers are out of your control:
-The little blue-haired lady who doesn't see you when she's making a left turn in front of you.
-The explosion of deer mentioned in the post below that dart out into the road 3 feet in front in front of you at night, so for me, riding at night cross-country would be impossible.
-You can buy a good small car for what you'll have to pay for a good bike these days.
-Riding is exhilarating.
-Ridden at a reasonable speed, bikes CAN get marginally better gas mileage than cars.
-I'd once again be rubbing elbows with other people who ride... interesting, fun, risk-taking people.

So I'm looking strongly at the bike pictured above... a Harley Davidson 883cc Sportster. I rode Sportsters quite a bit years ago and loved them. It makes the "Harley sound"...
a sound like no other. The price is not out of reach, and I think I might be able to get 60-or so miles to the gallon if I ride it at a reasonable pace to and from work.
(But the cost of insuring the thing would eat up any savings on fuel, so that's a stupid issue.)

It really all boils down to this-
Would I enjoy riding the thing enough to make it a worthwhile buy? Sara Jean likes to ride too, so it'd be a great way to spend time together on nice days.
I just have to sit down and figure out if it's worth the trouble and expense to own a machine I'll only ride 7 months of the year during daylight hours.

Or maybe I should just buy a Kia Rio for about the same price?


camerapilot said...

KIA, the company that has the lowest quality control........ nix that.
Practicality of owning a motorcycle...... nix that.
The joy of wind and speed at your finger tips, open sky and the unknown riding just ahead of your two wheels...... Fantastic.

ddf said...

tick, tick, tick,....Make your decision now. In a few, very short years, the decision will already be made.

the golden horse said...

I guess you could always buy a Smart Car with a sun roof and pretend. Wind and gas mileage.

Greybeard said...

My soon to be 85 year old Mother is concerned about her 63 year old son...
"Do I get a vote on this motorcycle thing?"
And of course you know how she voted, don't you!

jinksto said...

Do you actually NEED another car? If so, get the Rio. If you have a decent vehicle then get the bike. No discussion. A Rio and a Harley are as different as an attack helicopter and a Cessna. They both do the same thing but they do it in very different ways.

Interesting that you bring up the left turn suicide drivers. I had a guy turn in front of me today close enough that I had to give the ABS a good work out. I was in an F250 at the time and he never saw me. Of course, that hurts worse on a bike.

BUT... your life is all about risk management. One hopes that as a fling wing driver who's been around for more than a decade or so you're pretty good at risk mitigation. I'd say that puts you in a really good spot for lowering the impact of that. You can mitigate this further by enrolling in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course locally. Even though you've ridden before this course is INVALUABLE. If you're on a bike and haven't taking it you're missing out on something great.

Gas Mileage? Bah. Who cares. It takes $12 to fill the bike up. Even with "bad" gas mileage it's 140 miles before you have to spend another $12. Whatever.

I'll be honest with you. There are only two times that I'll ever let out a yell of sheer joy. Those are climbing out of a takeoff roll at Vx solo and as I accelerate on the VTX as I gun it from zero to a safe and sedate 60mph in about 5.34 seconds (give or take)

So... the real question is: Do you want to be flying an Apache or a Cessna 150?

camerapilot said...

"Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well."
Even if your at home on a bike you will find tools in this book that will serve you well.
I highly recommend a safety course too. I took one and it was a hoot.

Linnnn said...


Greybeard said...

You doin' a "Progessive Insurance" commercial Linnnn?

cary said...

Get the bike.

Crown-n-coke said...

I have been riding since I was a kid. Rode many decades before my first wreck, in my early 20's I got a 380 suzuki 3 cyc, 2 cycle 6 speed, that little bike would screem. Then I got a 750 Honda 1974, it look great and ran perfect till 2004 when some jackass ran a stop sign 4 blocks from my house and I t-boned his car. Totaled out the bike and I didn't ride again till my wife found me a great bike for my 50th b-day. A 2001 Honda Shadow, 1100cc, black with lots of chrome and leather. The v-twin sounds great and I love the ride, Takes the sting out of losing the CB750. I try to be careful and watch out for the idiots, but my wreck 6 years ago taught me that you can do everything right and try to allow for idiots, but you can still be on the losing end of a bike verses car match up no matter what you do, but if you wanted to live a totally safe life you wouldn't be flying rescue missions in a chopper, so I say ride on brother, ride on!!!

Bumps Stump said...

Greybeard . . . No contest. Buy the bike. Stay out of traffic. Don't get a full face shield helmet. The guy that said: "tick-tick-tick" covered everything else.


jinksto said...

Interested in the "don't get a full face helmet" comment. Why?

The Old Man said...

1. You know what I think you should do (see "Retirement Vehicle" on my blog)- and there are damn good V-twins out there new for less'n half the price of the Hawgs.
2. Nationwide charges me $174/year for $100/$300K. Cheap as can be for riding.
3. Wear the face shield or safety glasses - a horsefly at 60 can TAKE YOU OUT without eye/facial protection.
4. You're damn lucky SJ rides with you - the L&T wife gave it up two bikes ago...
5. Best way to ensure that you get into work in a good mood. (Unless a cager tries to take you out...)

6. DO IT!

Bumps Stump said...

Greybeard . . Bought the bike yet?

jinksto wonders about my full face shield resistance. I've had 'em and don't like 'em. Something missing when I ride. Air in the face maybe? Losing a tiddle of hearing prehaps? I'm not certain but I know I much prefer a windshield and a helmet that has great side vision, good acoustics (able to hear a pin drop), and fairly light weight. The windshield keeps the bugs away from the teeth and the wind blast over your head . . . but still let's you enjoy a bit more freedom without much of a safety penalty.

Sorry Jinksto, I'm an old guy who fondly remembers the "no helmet days", wind in my hair, taking the baffles out of the exaust pipes and charging down the boulevard with a huge smile.

I'm still here.


Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Some thoughts:

1. I had a 1980 XS11. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

2. I am a LE authority motor instructor. That means I teach cops how to ride their motors and certify their initial instruction and their updates.

I've ridden the current HD motors, as well as the new BMW R 1200 RTP, the new Kawasaki Concours 14 and the Honda ST1300 PA.

Without a doubt, unequivocally, unquestionably, the HD is the poorest performing, most maintenance-intensive and least productive motorcycle I've ridden, tested and compared.

When riders from other agencies bring their HDs in for the course, they spend a portion of their time down whereas other students spend their time completing the patterns and making the freeway and surface street rides.

My suggestion: unless you have an astonishingly-short inseam (short riders love the low seats of HDs) avoid HDs like plague. There is a reason, in my profession, they are called Hardley-Ablesons.

HD also stands for "Hundred Dolla." Meaning that any part or service will cost you a minimum of that.


Greybeard said...

No Dix, I have not yet purchased a bike, but I'm still leaning. Question is, with respected contributors like BZ (and also an old female friend) chiming in against the Sportster, I may have to start a new search. I rode an 883 back in the day when it was about the fastest bike on the road, and realize it is not the bike for touring. My idea was to use it for back-and-forthing to work, but even at that task I'd want something reliable.

I bought my first full-face helmet in 1971. Shortly after I bought it there were a rash of folks with similar helmets who had broken collarbones where the helmet made contact with it during the crash sequence. The helmet did a great job of protecting the face, but injured its wearer in the process.
There's new technology out there so I think I'd still like one of 'em, but obviously that's a decision everyone will have to make on their own.