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I guess I have always been attracted by quirky motorcycles. When I was a kid (12) I got my second motorcycle. It was a Harley Davidson Baja. it was a horrible bike for its intent. My friends dad owned a Harley shop and my buddy had a custom HD dirt bike made by his dad. While a rather poor bike for adults trying to make a trials bike of it, it was a great bike for a 12yr old hitting the neighborhood dirt lot. I can't tell you how much fun we had together. As I got older I bought my first street ride. It was a Honda (CB360). I had a Yamaha, a Suzuki, and a Kawasaki before I took a break from motorcycle riding. When I got back into riding, I picked up what was a then out of date FZR600. It was the first motorcycle with the Delta Box frame. It was a crazy little bike. It was unrefined and a bit primal in nature needing to be wound up constantly as it had little torque. It didn't make the horsepower of modern bikes but it was a joy to make cry and scream as you rode it though the twisties. It never failed me.

I later got a Honda F4. This was a turning point for me. The F4 was modern and slick. It made power as if scooped from the ether and the suspension was forgiving of all mistakes. It was easy. It was fast and I was enamored for a while until it occurred to me that it wasn't as fun as that old FZR600.

I learned that Americans are often number crunchers. Pick up any American motorcycle rag and it's filled with numbers. You see, for some reason, we have a drive to be first so anything that makes it around a track with a Troy Corser (I pick him because we have the same B'day :p ) aboard 1/10th of a second faster must be the better bike…right?

Searching for something more stimulating, I found British motorcycle rags. I found the Europeans in general loved motorcycles in a way different than Americans did. They didn't care who was faster on track day other than putting in a good show so they weren't the ones buying the beer at the end of some tarmac twirling. These people focused on what it felt like to be on the bike. How much fun it was in the saddle. They made modifications during the course of a season on their rides that any hooligan biker would make. They didn't have time for calculators and dreams of being Max Biaggi as they were more worried about the joy the particular bike brought to them.

This brought me to a rather odd purchase. I bought a 1996 Buell S1 Lightning. I bought it on eBay, flew down to San Diego, and drove it back up to the Bay Area while straddling the worst seat ever conceived by man. My ass hurt so bad at the end of the 10 hrs (had to stop for gas every 100mi) in the saddle that I thought of having it surgically removed (I promptly ordered a Corbin seat). This bike was a monster! It had torque like nothing I'd ever ridden. You couldn't keep the front wheel on the ground. If the torque was off the charts, it was only matched by the 6 piston calipers on the front end. It was HEAVY for a "sportbike?" yet, it would lean further than it had a right too. It had the smallest little windbreak on the front which did almost nothing to free you from the Bay Area gusts. Yet, this was the funnest bike I ever owned. It was a true hooligan bike and looked it. It would pull out of a turn in the most amazing fashion and most importantly, it left me laughing maniacally every time I rode it. Sure, I couldn't stay up with the metric sports but I know when they pulled their helmets off that they didn't have the perma-grin that bike put on my face.

I eventually sold the Buell and picked up an Aprilia Falco SL1000. You might think that this would be like the F4 but it wasn't. This bike WAS intimidating. It had an ego of it's own…a confidence and would eat you alive if you didn't tame it. You had to man handle this bike into turns and it would reward you by keeping a confident line before you had to grab it by the throat and yank it out of one turn into another. This wasn't a bike for someone timid. It was built by a company with a heritage of racing and the attitude of an Italian! It would argue with you before every turn and let you have a sip of wine at the apex. I adored this bike for it's horrid manners and stubborn behavior. It became a good friend. I eventually sold it to the person I bought it from. I guess he missed the bastard just as I do now.

Somewhere between the FZR and the Aprilia, I wanted something more practical and rode a number of bikes around. In the end, I picked up a new 2002 BMW R1150R. What was so great about this bike? Well, the BMW boxer engine made only 85hp and 72lbs ot torque. It wasn't really a cruiser. it wasn't any kind of a sport bike. I guess you could call it a "standard" which is usually not an adjective attached to anything BMW makes. What it did right was not worry about the numbers!! It was gorgeous! The boxer engine, telelever front end, and massively wide tank with split oil coolers gave the motorcycle a very unique look. The Boxer engine, since it laid flat, gave the bike a bit of a torque to the left when rev'd because of the crank's rotation. The 500lb bike rolled the power on smoothly and handled well enough for me to stay up with my friends on metric sport touring bikes. It was a joy in almost any situation and the first bike I think I've ever owned that was a jack of all trades. It's why I still have it today. While it's quirky, the boxer engine is legendary in it's reliability and I can't think of another motorcycle that you can hop on and go anywhere with any crowd and fit right in.

A year ago, I moved out of the SF Bay Area. Coming out to Ohio, I found that I could no longer find world class riding spots within 10 mins of my home. The ocean, mountains, wine country, and such were now 2500 miles away. I spent some time poking around the roads over the summer looking for riding territory. I realized that riding out here was likely going to put me further from home than I was use too so, I started looking for a motorized traveling companion.

I thought about outfitting my R1150R but, that would require a good deal of extra money and move it into a role never intended for it. Again, I looked at the metric bikes. They were smooth alright and had plenty of power. Most, like the Goldwing were non-intimidating, non-confrontational, and ultimately very bland to ride.

I started to think about what my goals were out here in riding and came to the conclusion that I didn't just want to ride. I wanted to do something impossible back in California. I wanted to explore the culture of middle America. I wanted to attach with a culture that, while American, was very foreign to me. Mostly, I wanted to eat up some miles and have fun.

Last month, I bought a used 2006 Harley Road King. It's a rolling land mass! It vibrates, is loud, a bit under powered even at 88ci. I'm not sure that it has enough cornering clearance to do much in the turns. What I am sure about is that its a bike that people out here can identify with. It has comfort for a long day of riding with character and a primal quirkiness that I loved about the Buell only in it's own oversized lumbering style. I'm hoping I'll learn to love it and the people I find out here in the same way. I'll see that their character is endearing and unique with no pretense at perfection. I'm hoping that I'll find the people and the bike treat me well and I'll do my best to treat them the same.

Date: 2011-02-24 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluefistsfox.livejournal.com
*chuckles* Being middle america bred and raised myself, now your starting to delve into my view of the styles eh? I hope you enjoy the bike! Maybe I can take some time off and we can do a massive road trip someday.

Date: 2011-02-26 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baja-hyena.livejournal.com
Dude...I'd love tripping with you! Come down and we'll do a roady.

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