The joy of old bikes (or perhaps, an ode to simplicity?)
March 18, 2008 at 5:38 pm #1233MattParticipant
I find it interesting, the way different people look at motorcycling.
To someone who has never been on a motorcycle (and even some who have), the very concept of putting yourself in such obvious harms way is unfathomable. To others (Most people reading this I expect), once you’ve experienced the freedom of being out on a motorcycle, sunroofs and convertibles just feel like cages with one less bar.
With the windows down and sun roof open, you get to feel the world pass by. On a motorcycle you get to experience the world as you pass through it.
And while bicycles give you even more freedom, the differences in speed and effort required completely change the way you experience the world you are passing through.
And so I find it interesting how I seem to meet two groups of motorcycle riders. Those who understand a love of simplicity, and those who don’t.
Those who don’t understand the simplicity enjoy the perks of recent technology. They enjoy not having to warm up a Fuel Injected engine. They enjoy never being lost, and always having a quick route anywhere thanks to a handle-bar mounted GPS. They enjoy a performance envelope of a sport-tourer that puts an old sport bike to shame. And a supersport is only a hair way from a current race bike, and miles more friendly and rideable than a race bike from last decade. And of course, reliability that means they never need to worry about being stranded at the side of the road
And then there are those who, while they may certainly enjoy those same perks, find enjoyment in stopping on the side of a road, pulling out a map, and trying to figure out where they are, and what would be the most enjoyable way to get to their destination. The heat on their legs and the vibration in their seat from an air cooled engine is a comfort, not an annoyance. Comfort is taken knowing that the rider can look at any part of the bike and figure out what it does, how it works, and how to jury rig it long enough to get home. Some might even enjoy the feeling of pushing a bike’s limits without entering the “Do not pass go, do not collect $200” realm.
The later view is obviously a fiction, a romantic notion. During a trip like that there are always surprises and events. Many of them unpleasant. And yet we look back on those hardships with warmth – once you’re out of them, they are no longer “circumstances”, they are Adventures.
Isn’t all motorcycling supposed to be a romantic notion, an adventure?
I was writing my Introduction thread, and thinking back to this summer spent riding my Dad’s 1983 Suzuki GS450. It is the classic UJM. Perfectly upright seating, air cooled parallel twin, a mere 40hp on tap, and not so much as even a windscreen. But twist that throttle fast enough and she’ll make you think you’re going to slide off the back of the seat. She was a sport bike back in the day, and she’ll remind you of that every chance you ask her to.
But unlike a modern sport bike, she was never meant to see the track. She was meant to ride the real world; dirt roads and all.
There is a comfort to riding back roads and two-lane highways on a bike like that. You don’t even need to push the speed limit to enjoy it. You just enjoy the sounds, the sensations of movement. And even that doesn’t take every ounce of concentration. You get to smell the fields, feel with wind, experience the world just a few feet away on the side of the road.
Say all the thing you want about Harley riders, as a whole they seem to get this.
I was speaking with the technician who did some work on my 84 Interceptor 500 (that was a bike that always reminded you it was a sport bike, and it most certainly was not a simple machine). When I asked him what he thought of riding the Interceptor he looked pained. He was obviously trying to be politically correct and not insult me or my bike. “Well, its interesting. Certainly not like a new bike.”
The bike was older than he was, and it was obvious he was used to the current crop of 600cc bikes. He couldn’t understand the appeal of the older bike to me. He’d only ever enjoyed the sounds and sensations of movement and speed. Maybe he experienced the world pass by him on his bike as a driver does in a car, stopping momentarily to marvel at nature’s wonders before continuing on his way.
My current bike is not as simple as my Dad’s. It certainly feels modern. And I expect when I move on to another bike, it will be even more so. Most likely it’ll be a middle weight water cooled inline four. With all the comforts and performance trappings that brings. But there is a part of me that hopes someday I’ll have the money, the parking space, and the brownie points with the Missus to pick up and old UJM or maybe a Lee Enfield to park beside it.
Keep an eye out for me, I’ll be the guy doing the speed limit with a contented grin on my face, waving to every rider I pass.
Or maybe I’ll be the guy pulled over to the side of the road checking my map while my bike leaves a few drops of oil on the shoulder.April 6, 2008 at 2:57 am #5481AnonymousGuest
Check out the modern Triumph Bonneville.April 6, 2008 at 3:56 pm #5485BenParticipant
I absolutley LOVE the old interceptors! If I were to get 1 bike from the 80’s it would either be the Honda Hawk or the Interceptor. There is one that parks at my work that is all white and it looks so clean for being so old. Older bikes definitely have a much different feel than modern super-bikes, and I think at least some of the time they look a lot better. Take the current crop of yamaha R6’s, I think they look UGLY as all hell. In fact, I think they’ve looked ugly for the past 5 years. They look small, cramped, and their fairings are split into so many pieces it looks like shattered glass.
Give me an old honda over a modern yami any day!
~Best Beginner Motorcycles Admin
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