Monday, February 16, 2009

Bad luck...or old-guy grumpiness...?

Because most of my blog readers are bicyclists, I do not write much here about my motorcycling. Truth be told, were it not for writing about motorcycling, I wouldn't be able to get by. If you ask my tax man, I'm a motorcycling writer whose hobby is scribbling about bicycling.

I'm afraid that my motorcycling and the writing I do about it are sliding into the ditch. I'm not having my full complement of fun with my motorcycles. I can't love them; their flaws loom large. I can't tell if I'm running a string of genuinely unsatisfying motorcycles - or if I can't be satisfied. 

I'm afraid I'm growing old ungracefully, turning into an old grump right before your online eyes. 

I can't sustain a simple, happy relationship with a motorcycle. I flip-flop: I love it today and hate it tomorrow. And I bitch both days.

I like the motorcycle I have now but I hate it too. It's riddled with issues, fewer now than when it was brand new, but still enough to trouble me. They're not problems today, really, nothing is broken. Number of glitches have to be remedied to prevent (potential) problems down the road. 

I've lavished hours of labor on it this winter but still have stuff to fix before I sleep. 

The online forums have, with the best intentions, ruined my ownership experiences with at least one bike. Thanks to the forums, you can see your bike's every tiny possible fault. Your bike is no longer a pleasure; it's a series of projects. My present bike certainly is.

I'm amazed that a major motorcycle producer would offer this model as a finished product. It's nothing like a finished product. Or maybe it is. Maybe all the faults are in some online poster's imagination, and I am unfairly believing the worst of my bike. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Of the last five or six motorcycles I've owned, I've liked two. I lived with the others until I could sell them. It was one thing about them or it was another. 

My lovely blue Triumph twin got terrible gas mileage and had a smallish tank. I had to buy gas every 125 miles max. Not a problem around town but a pain when traveling in remote areas in the west. When you saw a station, you bought gas. Five times/day on a trip. 

I wanted to sell the Triumph and at the same time I wanted to fix it, to make it go further on a tankful of fuel. I was going back and forth about it when a guy called and bought it.

My yellow 750 Kawasaki's controls felt wooden. It didn't respond smoothly to its throttle. It simply failed to inspire love and loyalty. I'm a motorcycle journalist; why should I ride a bike I don't like? Or one that makes me feel like a crummy rider?

I enjoyed my green ZRX1100 Kawasaki (that's it in the "wounded blogger" photo) until my neighbor knocked me off of it in her car, totalling the bike. I surely loved my GB500 Honda (pictured on my blog) but it was just a bit underpowered to haul two people up mountains at altitude. Not a fault, really, just a reality.

My K75S BMW, "one of the best bikes BMW ever made," cost me a fortune to ride. Eventually it broke and had to be pushed home, one of three times that's happened to me - in 46 years of riding. 

Before the BMW, I rode a green, 900cc Triumph sport-tourer for 60,000 miles. I didn't love everything about that bike, but I had great luck with it. It was a fine, practical, over-the-road mount. But Triumph kept losing dealers. I'd move somewhere; the dealer would quit Triumph.

Other than the ZRX and the Honda, I haven't loved a motorbike for years. If love is supposed to be blind, I find I no longer close my eyes. I've had my newest bicycle eight years. I've been with Tamar for almost ten. I'm not always buying clothing or other sorts of equipment. 

It's just motorcycles...

Often I find fault with motorbikes that delight most people. So it's easy to suspect that it's me - not the bikes. What's worse: bikes with the best reputations for reliability give me most agony.

I don't have similar ambivalent feelings about my bicycles. I love my bicycles. After crashing on it, I sold my small-wheel bike, but I miss it. I liked riding it. 

I love my Rivendell and my Lighthouse. My LeMond frame has been hanging in the Bisbee Bicycle Brothel for three years. I miss it and think about bringing it home to Denver.

But I can't find peace with my motorcycles. There's always something, some fly in the motorbike ointment. Something about the bike irritates me: A mechanical thing or an image thing or a practicality thing. Something.

I'm afraid, as I said, that it's me. When I write four articles in six months about my baffled frustration with my current bike, risking boring my readers, and no one else in print seems to agree with me, I begin to doubt myself. 

Some of my complaints are valid, no question, but... Do I look at a sunny sky and see the one tiny dark cloud? That's not an easy question to answer. Often the issues that bother me about the bikes aren't visible or exposed in print. The magazines are advertiser-supported; they may not be the best place to look for the unvarnished truth. 

Or maybe I'm not a typical owner. Maybe no one else travels on Bike-X and realizes that he must buy fuel five times each day. Or maybe Bike-Y's reputation is based on praise from true-believers, who can see no evil in their bikes-of-choice. Or praise from guys who welcome any opportunity to work on their whatever-it-is so they can properly bond with the machine. Who'd have known that there are as many of those guys as there are?

I'm not consciously reaching out for support here, honest I'm not. I'm thinking out loud, typing my fears to bring them into sharper focus, so I can live with them. Tamar thinks that if my budget was larger, I could buy better bikes. Bikes I'd probably enjoy more. Perhaps she's right.

And perhaps also a writer cannot avoid a certain amount of self-consciousness, especially a lucky one like me, who can write about what he's thinking about. 

No need to write me reassuring comments unless you've known me for years....and know that I am indeed turning into a cranky bastard as you watch.


Addison said...

Well sort of known for years,so maybe I can add something new. The trouble with bikes is they take up more funds and space than bicycles.If this were not the case the solution would be simple, different bikes for different uses....441 Victor to tear around town,996 Duck to blast to wherever, and some nice tourer to go two up to same wherever. Hard though to have a bunch of bikes and maintain them in the manner they need( bicycles are easier in this respect).
Thing too is that the scene is different today. More choices, more bikes on the road, more traffic period. We are also in the enviable position of having seen most of it before, sometimes second time around is not so cool.
But ask yourself if the trip to Lubbock would have been as memorable sitting in the tin box peeking out the glass, betcha the answer is a definite no!
I am currently without motorized two wheels, hope to change that again, but for now the legs will do the propulsion.

beth h said...

What if you winnowed down to the two most essential/beloved motorcycles and worked with that for awihle? If they're giving you that much grief, maybe it's a sign that on some deeper level you don't need them anymore.