Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's happening with your Honda?

Almost two years ago I bought a 1990 Honda GB500, the bike you see in the rear-view photo on this page. I found it online, flew to Los Angeles, paid the man and rode the bike home to Tucson.

Not powerful by today’s standards, it was powerful enough to ride around SE Arizona or for the occasional solo trip elsewhere in the west. It would cruise at 65-75mph and climb long freeway grades in top (fifth) gear.

In November,’06, Tamar and I moved to mile-high Denver. The good riding lies to the west – at higher altitude yet. My Honda makes 35 horsepower at sea level, and gradually less as the air thins with increases in elevation.

If Tamar and I were to ride into the Rockies two-up on the Honda, we’d be asking a lot from those 35 horses. Especially on long mountain grades at 8,000 or 9,000ft, we’d be cruising at less than the limit.

I mentioned my reluctance to take two-up trips on the Honda to my friend Jim Widner in Bisbee, Arizona. He said that if I feel like it’s time to replace the Honda, he’d love to own it. I’ve always admired it, he said.

So… I’m preparing the Honda for its new owner and I’ll be buying a replacement, as yet unselected as to make or model.

If you get along without a car or pickup and you live in the mountain states, moving your motorcycle any distance in the winter is difficult. Riding it over the inevitable passes is scary and uncomfortable.

Renting an appropriate vehicle to haul it – one-way – is super hard. Even renting a motorcycle trailer isn’t easy, nor is renting a reasonably sized vehicle equipped to tow the trailer. Shipping the motorcycle is easy if a bit expensive, and shippers don’t want to carry unattached extra pieces.

So if you have a racing stand, a spare seat, a spare stock muffler and a few extra parts, you have to pack those things in a heavy, bulky box and ship them via UPS - not cheap either.

I suppose if you’re shipping a Bimota or a custom Harley, these charges seem insignificant. But if the bike you’re selling isn’t worth a ton of money, the shipping cost is a sizeable percentage of the bike’s price.

Changing motorcycles even without shipping hassles is an emotional rollercoaster for me. Always has been. In truth I’ve loved nearly every motorcycle I’ve owned, but I’m always sure I won’t like the next one as much as the last. I haven’t mellowed in this regard, unfortunately.

While I lived in Tucson, I owned two successive bikes that I didn’t love. I enjoyed riding the first one, a BMW, but despite a reputation for reliability it failed catastrophically more than once, ruining my ownership experience.

The Kawasaki I bought to replace it never earned my affection; it was perfectly dependable but its incurable controllability faults spoiled it for me.

I was afraid for a year or so that I’d lost my taste for motorcycling – after four decades. But I nerved myself up and traded the second disappointing bike for a different Kawasaki, the green bike behind me in the “cane” photo.

That was a terrific bike all around. Broke my heart when it was wrecked by an illegally left-turning motorist. I’d have bought another just like it but insurance proved to be brutally expensive: A grand a year – for an old guy with no tickets and no at-fault accidents.

I bought a smaller, lower-performance Honda and it worked out great – at Tucson’s 2400ft of elevation. But now…

I had begun preparing the Honda for Riding Season ’08 when I learned that Jim wanted to buy it. I checked the valve clearances and the nuts and bolts all over the bike. Nothing needed attention – it’s a Honda after all.

The chain and sprockets are new. I put a spark plug in it and charged the battery. I’ve replaced the rear tire and will replace the front one next week.

At that point, the bike will be ready for its journey to Jim’s garage. I’ll let you know how we decide to move it from Denver to Bisbee – in mid-winter.

1 comment:

John M Flores said...

Mr. Maynard,

First things first, I was a fan of your writing when I was a rabid (not rapid) cyclist in the 80s and 90s. I've recently rediscovered cycling and rediscovered you and your blog. Thank you for making me laugh and making me think.

Glad to see that you enjoyed a GB500 for a spell. I did too - it was my brother's, whose garage was too full with other motorcycles and asked me to babysit his. I enjoyed it fully - there's something special about working for speed, about wringing out a bike and hearing it sing. We had good times

The good times came crashing to an unfortunate end when a car attempted to occupy the same point in time/space that I was occupying with the GB500. My broken foot is all but healed and my brother still speaks with me, so I guess I'm lucky.

Anywho, thanks again for your words...john flores