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.