Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Live With It

I just walked back into the house from my garage a few moments ago. What I saw was something that's been laying heavy on my thoughts of late. I have too many bikes.

I hold to an older school of thought. The school which teaches that you own a thing and use it. You don't keep stacking another similar thing on top of what you already have for reasons of absolutely having to have it. You either replace the one with the other or you keep what you already have.

How many times does it need to break before I replace the thing?

This is an age old question. One that really takes on relevance to this age of automobiles and motorcycles. Years ago people kept what they had instead of constantly eyeing next year's new models. We used to believe the differences were too small to justify the time, money and effort to go through getting the "next big thing". We also spent time working on our own equipment. Things were built more simply in years past. Computer aided fuel and exhaust mapping has changed this for almost all of us, for example.

Life expectancy for many of the vehicles we own may never be realized under our own ownership of them. In some ways progress is indeed good. We even have the good fortune of car and bike manufacturers creating "retro" versions of the bikes we rode or remember. All the looks, none of the functionality issues of generations past. Sometimes though, that new model's design easily surpasses what the repair shops could reasonably be expected to be know about its new and improved design. Changes happen almost over night. Its the price of exclusivity. We become the test mules so to speak.

I did the same thing back in 1987 when I bought the first year Yamaha Virago 535. Granted its a bike from a reputable motorcycle manufacturer but I could easily have been struck down under the test mule premise. Luckily (or not) it was then that I started hoarding when I should have been a little smarter. I bought the bike I wanted when I was but a wee lad. A brand spankin' new Harley Davidson Sportster. In '93 they moved up to belt final drive and an actual overdrive gear. And they had a newfound reliability! I was sold when I realized I could fulfill a kid's dream.

I took to riding that Sportster more than the Yamaha. Even though the Virago was smoother. Oh, and it has better acceleration and brakes. And a better seat. Its lighter too. I can take my hands off the bars and negotiate sweeping turns the bike is that well balanced. Still, nostalgia kept me riding that HD. It was our honeymoon vehicle of choice. Who says an 883 Sportster can't take a couple from central Minnesota to Sturgis and back? Ok, my speedometer broke on the way down. But that's it!

Another time the vibration ate its way through the wiring harness under the seat. Fix and reroute. I learned to use a little felt between the zip ties and the wiring in the hidden places. The bike has had little... ideosynchrasies. Not-so-new Harleys tend to shake themselves apart.

So why ride that one when I've got a better machine?

The answer is in the right riding accessories. I bought a king/queen saddle. A tall sissy bar. Highway pegs. An unbelievable choice of bags and a very strong dealer network was available to me. If you add in the aftermarket parts and accessories network you can easily change your bike into as many different variations as you could possibly imagine. I'm thinking I'll morph it into an XLCH next time around. Yeah. That'd be bi... never mind. Quirks? Sure, but the possibilities made it easier to live with.

New bikes develop age and use related problems. You either trade up or fix them and live with it. As has happened to our friend, dealerships also have a heavy hand in weighing that decision.

I looked at the six bikes in my garage. I thought about how I've been trying to justify selling a few off in order to make room for the "next big thing". A thing I really don't need. You see, I've always wanted to pile the miles onto just one machine. Since I was young, I dreamt of that one bike with a tome's worth of chapters in it. Like the use-worn spine of a book worth reading, I mean to wear that bike into a road earned patina.

The others collecting dust have to go. I'll miss em, but I have to break free.

That one though, if it's got minor issues in its future, well... I've resigned myself to just live with it.



Bryce said...

Too bad you have to sell them all. Too bad I don't have disposable cash on hand to buy any of them, that GL in particular.

Steve Williams said...

I have never collected cars or bikes or scooters though I am familiar with using them into the ground. Every car I have was run to the bitter end. I suspect the Vespa will share the same fate with the road worn patina quickly giving way to cosmetic indifference and natural decay.

I was a collector of too many cameras though. Each one a new solution to a life long creative problem---procrastination and indecision. It wasn't until I cleared the photographic house and decided on one that I began to work seriously. I certainly cut myself off from many photographic possibilities but they didn't matter if I never used them. Turns out I am the kind of person that flourishes in a simpler physical environment. Who would have known.

Good luck ridding yourself of stuff!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

irondad said...

Plenty to think about. Whether one agrees or disagrees, they have a chance to do a little looking into the mirror. That's good for anyone no matter the cause.

I'm on both sides of the fence. There's a 25 year old Honda residing here. It's been with me since new. I keep it more as a channel to the past than for any quality is has. Parts are getting harder to come by and the thing's not too reliable these days despite by mechanical tinkering. It just flat feels like a tractor compared to the ST.

Sophie, on the other hand is rock solid. She fires each and every time. I don't have the time or inclination to put up with trying to fire a bike up to go to work and being denied the rumble of internal combustion starting.

I didn't buy Sophie because she was the newest and latest thing. I bought her for a specific purpose and will keep her as long as she serves the function. In fact, I'd like to see just how far she will go. There will come a point when I consider her "broken" and will let her go, though.

I don't collect bikes just to have them. I totally agree with you there. I also have to admit that on really long rides I miss the highway pegs, etc. that are on the old Honda. The older bikes did seem to be more versatile in what you could customize for your needs.

Although, the truly rounded rider needs a few bikes, right? Long rides, short rides, dual purpose?

Kano said...

I used to admire this guy that lived close by for his always having whatever one needed. His house, yard and garage were chock full of anything one might possibly need. If you needed a 3/4" wingnut at 2am he was the go to guy. Then I noticed that a good deal of his energy went into acquiring more stuff and managing the stuff he already had. Seems like there is more important things in life to spend energy on than that.

I also have moved from place to place quite a few times. Each time loading up the truck with boxes full of stuff unused or no longer needed. hmm.

Then came a financial disaster I went through and had to sell or give away nearly everything I owned. Instead of being bummed out about losing my stuff, I felt more free than I had felt in many, many years. I had learned the final lesson and now keep my inventory to a minimum. Not easy to do though with all the temptation out there.

Good luck with figuring out what to do with your bikes. For me too, it would be a tough decision. I probably would keep my best bike and maybe one more. Like irondad mentioned, a dual sport bike would be nice.

Bill Sommers said...

Boy can I ever relate to this post. Not only in my experience with the Sportster, but in how something shiny and new can easily become more important and desirable than what you may already have. Sounds familiar to me at least.

Have fun,

Joe said...

I'm a believer of riding what you have and not letting bikes sit in the garage. I've pared my fleet down before. Currently I've got two super scooters that my wife and I ride.
Now, do I want 20 or 30 bikes? Why, of course I do. I'll admit to that. But, as Mick and the boys say, "you can't always get what you want."

Anonymous said...

I understand the pull to "pile the miles" onto one bike. For some reason that appeals greatly to me as well.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) my cashflow is not such that I am realy even tempted to own multiple bikes. However I've recently started getting the itch to move from my 2006 Vulcan Nomad to a Goldwing. My wife keeps eyeing those comfortable passenger seats and amenities and I've got to admit they appeal to me as well. However I REALLY like our Nomad and have over 11,000 miles of great memories on it. Do I really want to trade out of that and start anew? Decisions, decisions...

twistngogrl & vespajitsu said...

I miss the fact you don't blog to much's to bad really, your are one of the better writers in the blogging world. Go see my final blog Harv.
Take care amigo!

American Scooterist Blog said...

Thanks guys. I apologize for the length between posts.