2002 Triumph Thunderbird 900

Me & My Bike

NAME: Paul T. Begley
AGE: 60
HOME: State College, PA
OCCUPATION: University Professor

It was probably inevitable that I returned to motorcycling. At my age, I am certainly part of the big demographic trend. But that hardly tells the story of how I ended up on a T-Bird 40 years later. I bought my first bike, a shiny red 1968 BSA 500, for practical reasons when I was 18. My old car had thrown a rod and died. Britbikes were king in those days, unless you were into Harleys. The Honda CB450 was around, but that was mere foreshadowing for the CB750 Four that appeared a year or two later. By then I was riding my second bike, a Triumph T-150 Trident 750 Triple. An overly slippery wet clutch made drag launches difficult, but that bike was really fast for its time. Gearing was high enough that you could "do the ton" in third and then startle your passenger with a shift into fourth as you resumed accelerating toward its indicated 125-mph top speed.

"When I finished university, I was determined not to become a cog in a big corporate machine. My first job was as the sole sales rep for the Canadian importer of BMW motorcycles. That lasted about six months-you hardly need a national rep with annual sales of just 500 units. My second job was selling Triumphs and Hondas retail in Toronto. Those were heady days at Cycle World on Dundas Street West. We moved a lot of bikes, especially Honda 750s. By then, Triumph was heading toward its demise. The company was leaking money and the bikes were leaking oil all over showroom floors. Still, there was something about the Thunderbird 750 twin that tugged at my heartstrings...

"In '73, I met my wife-to-be. She was heading off to teacher's college and invited me to come along. I said goodbye to motorcycles for a decade. I was a school principal by the time I found my way back to bikes in '83. The kids at my school thought it was just wrong for the principal to be riding a blue Honda CB1100F sportbike with gold wheels. Now, that was an awesome machine!

"It's funny how life circles around. I sold the Honda in '85 and 20 years passed before I returned to my roots. By '05 I was a professor at Penn State University. Central Pennsylvania has to be one of the best riding regions in the USA. Head off in any direction and within minutes you are into a biker's nirvana of twisty back roads and mountains. Kissell Motorsports in State College set me up with the T-Bird in the picture. The photo was taken in June at university convocation time. My wife refused to take the action shot I wanted, saying the academic robes would catch in the chain!"

2002 Triumph Thunderbird 900