We have to be legion. I know I can’t be alone in letting the urge to ride remain dormant for so many years. Some of us just have motorcycle ownership interrupted by life for a while. Certainly the reasons behind these pauses span the normal human experiences: timing, family, shifting economics.
I never expected my personal ownership gap to last so long. The day I sold my 1978 Suzuki GS750, I already had a replacement in mind. I was lusting for one of the mind-bending V4s that Honda was producing at the time. That was in ’85.
Divorce, finances, business ownership, marriage and parenthood were all, in retrospect, valid priorities. But I still have a hard time understanding why the expected short dry spell turned into such an extended drought.
I’m lucky, though: Firmly entrenched in my life is a pilot light that made sure the fire was never completely extinguished. Vern Ebert is the embodiment of a true motorcyclist, and friend for eternity. He never gave up on getting me back on two wheels, even in the darkest times when I could only peer into the future from behind headlights spaced 4 feet apart. If all riders had someone like Vern to occupy a lane with, there would be few who actually sold their last bike before the final blip on the oscilloscope.
The year 2000 provided a brief return to biking. Casting about for a way to spend a free day in Australia, I happened upon a shop in Sydney that rented motorcycles. That prospect was much more appealing than splashing about under a sail in the harbor.
A credit-card signature later, I was out the door leg-hugging a dazzling pearl-yellow Honda VFR. Royal National Park was my playground for that gloriously sunny day of cobweb cleaning. After dinner and some sleep, I crossed the Bay Harbour Bridge at 6 a.m., and spent the remainder of my lease touring Sydney Harbour National Park. How I hated to return that uninhibited mistress at the end of our 24-hour affair! It took most of the day-long flight back to reality before my heart rate returned to normal. Leaving such a willing, thrilling and capable partner behind was tough.
Another four years passed, and I was still waiting. My buddy schemed to get me involved in true insanity: riding a very small bike with a group of the afflicted in a one-day blast around Lake Erie. He was picking up a Honda CB125S, and the seller happened to have a cherry ’90 Honda NS50F. The world seemed to tip an extra degree on its axis, and that little two-stroke wound up in my garage. In ’06, it was joined by a ’75 Yamaha RD200B obtained with another Lake Erie Loop in mind.
Bikes that small are great for around-town riding, but actually getting out and going somewhere with any semblance of comfort means more and bigger holes in which to burn fuel, with a chassis and seat to match. Fast-forward to the spring of ’08, when gas prices accelerated to $4 per gallon. Feeding my Chevy Suburban and its eight injectors could easily run between $75 and $100 per week. Much of my drive time was spent transporting two teenage sons to school and various athletic endeavors. My econo-box wasn’t running, and the RD wasn’t enough bike for two.
Necessity and serendipity collided. Along came an ’83 Honda V45 Sabre. Not showroom-clean, but nice-looking and well maintained. All that summer I played two-wheel taxi on a bike that I had lusted for 25 years before. I was undeniably reborn. Ears once sentenced to silence have now enjoyed many hours of sweet V4 music. I have risen from the ashes to claim my rightful place astride a bike.
For those who have likewise found a way to escape a period when personal transportation was limited to a “cage,” welcome back. For those still waiting: End the drought. Pour yourself a ride.