Archive for May, 2006

Honda Hits A Milestone With The Bike I Craved

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

One of the big events in motorcycling recently has to do with one of the smallest bikes. Honda recently announced that it has sold more than 50 million of its 49 cc Super Cub bikes. This bike was introduced in 1958 and is still in production.

For me, the bike has meaning because it was the first bike I ever dreamed of owning. Back in the early 1960s I was living in Nebraska and in those days you could ride a motorcycle at the age of 15. I believe it was in 1963 that Honda came out with the advertising campaign that said “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” I still remember the brochure, with the shiny red and cream-colored bikes on a white seamless backdrop and young, happy people riding without helmets, without eye-protection–you know, the way it was back then. Up to then the biker image had been defined by Marlon Brando, James Dean, and the excessive partying that went on at Hollister, CA, and was then over-inflated by the media. Honda set out to turn that image around, showing that everyday, clean-cut folks rode bikes, too.

As I turned 14 I desperately wanted a bike, and the “Honda 50,” which was the only name I ever knew it by–none of this “Cub” business–was the least expensive and therefore most accessible bike around. It cost $300 new at the time. I had a paper route and I announced that over the next year I was going to save my money and when I was 15 I was going to buy a Honda 50. I saved scrupulously and by the time my 15th birthday rolled around I had $300 in the bank and I was ready. I announced my intentions and then, to my horror, my mother finally spoke.

“You’ll never own a motorcycle as long as you live in my house,” was what she said.

“But, but, but . . .” I protested, “I’ve been saying for the last year that I was going to get this bike when I turned 15 and I’ve saved my money. You never objected before!”

True enough, but the fact was that she would not budge. And all my dreams came crashing down. Years went by and I got sidetracked away from bikes so that even after I was no longer living in her house I didn’t get one. Finally, though, I did. And the way I did it at least balanced the scales a bit.

I was unemployed at the time. My reserves were running low and I didn’t know how I was going to make the mortgage payment. I finally decided I needed to ask my parents for a loan. They were happy to oblige but then I decided to take some of the loaned cash and buy a bike, instead of using it for the purposes stated when I borrowed it. So I paid $900 for a 10-year old Honda CB750 Custom with 19,500 miles on it. It wasn’t until years later that I told them where I got the money to buy that bike.

I still have that bike and I ride it plenty. Back in 1999 I also bought a new Kawasaki Concours so I split my time between the two. But it was that Honda 50, the Super Cub if you will, that I once craved more than anything in the world. And at 50 million sold, there must be a lot of other people out there who have found it appealing as well. Congratulations Honda.

Question About Running Your Bike At Altitude

Friday, May 19th, 2006

I got an email recently from someone in Vancouver, B.C., asking about how a bike runs in Colorado, particularly in places such as Mt. Evans, when they’re tuned for lower altitudes. It strikes me that that’s a question a lot of people planning to come here might have so I figured I would reprint here the reply I sent him. Here it is.

With the understanding that my bikes are tuned for the altitude in Denver (5,000 feet, more or less) I’m happy to say that I’ve never had any problems. They start, run, and act just like they do in the city. Also, I had a note from a guy who lives in Atlanta who came out to Colorado and he went to the top of Mt. Evans and didn’t have any problem either. I’ve been all over the state and seen people from many states stopping to enjoy the view at the top of passes and I’ve never seen anyone having trouble starting their bike or had anyone mention anything about a problem. Hopefully that means you won’t have anything to worry about.

So that’s what I told him. If any of you have had bad experiences please write and let me know about them and how you handled the problem. Thanks.

Why Motorcycles Are Better Than Boats, Airplanes, Whatever

Monday, May 8th, 2006

Reading the May issue of Cycle World magazine I came across a column by Peter Egan where he talks about how the best two days of boat ownership are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. He goes on to talk about a conversation he and his buddies had about why motorcycles are better than just about anything you could name. The list includes items such as “When the engine stops, you can pull over and put your foot down, instead of doing a dead-stick landing in a cornfield. Or getting towed to port.” Another is “During a big storm, you don’t have to lie awake at night and picture your motorcycle bashing itself to pieces on some rocks.” You get the picture.

I totally identify with what he’s talking about. In fact, that’s exactly how I came to buy my first motorcycle, back in 1987. I had been flying a hang glider but there were way too many days when I’d get up early, load the glider on the car, and drive a couple hours to the flying site, then set it up and haul it up to launch, only to sit there all day and never get good flying conditions. Then after sitting all day I’d break it down, load it back on the car, drive home, and the whole day was shot for nothing.

Finally I decided I would sell my hang glider and use the money to buy a motorcycle, because at least with a motorcycle, when I threw my leg over the bike I’d be doing what I came to do, right now. That was one of the best decisions of my life. And I still have that bike.

Deer Win A Big One, Motorcycling Loses

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

My latest issue of Rider magazine arrived yesterday and the irony was very heavy. There inside was the regular column on motorcycle safety by Lawrence Grodsky, who has been writing that column for Rider at least as long as I’ve been reading the magazine, about 17 years. The irony is that on April 8 Grodsky was killed by a deer that ran in front of his bike. Long lead times on hard copy national magazines mean this issue was already put to bed when he died. I’m sure the next issue will have the story.

You can read about the tragedy on the AMA site or at the magazine’s site.

Here in Colorado there are many collisions between cars and deer, though I don’t hear of many motorcycle/deer collisions. I know in other states there are riders who won’t even ride outside of the city after dark for fear of hitting them. I’ve had a couple close encounters and I’ll bet most of you have, too. It’s not a reason not to ride; it’s a very good reason to ride carefully.

Our sympathies are with the Grodsky family. We’ll miss you buddy.