What a long strange trip it's been


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I just want to babble a bit ...

I'm 55 plus . My leather shows the wear and use of four decades of use on the roads of three continents , six foreign countries and at last count twenty eight of these United States of America . I have continuously held a motorcycle endorsement since 1972 . I learned basic mechanical skills from my father , his father and a tolerant neighborhood filled with mechanics and machinists of widely varied disciplines . I have built most of my motorcycles with the exception of those I rebuilt . I have never owned a new off the showroom floor motorcycle .

In something of a chronological order I have owned ...
A CA72 Honda Dream , yes , the square fender , rubber band , leading link , beginning of the end for the British and American motorcycle industry .
A BSA 441 Victor . By the time I was done only I could start it . I vowed to never again own an Amal carburettor .
R5/RD-250/350/400 . I had so many spares just to keep them running I still find them every time I have to move .
TZ-250 . Other than the water cooling what the hell was I thinking ?
1969 XLCH . Rather than a simple what the hell was I thinking I really need to elaborate . This example was indiscriminately abused simultaneously from behind and from the front by the bumpers of inattentive drivers . I got it cheap . I got it cheaper than a Bonneville , CB750 , or any Italian bike I could pronounce . Then again I had to learn how to straighten frame ,forks and swing arm . The 1973 Kawasaki was a rumor at this time and it was a year before I actually heard one . In the mean time I did everything possible to defy the gods of speed and destroy the structural integrity of the Harley Davidson engine . I did finally find a way to increase the displacement , valve size , fuel consumption , noise and rear tire wear to the point where the transmission was the last weakest link in the chain . I got real good at replacing transmissions . The only thing I choose to remember was the dawn of the 1973 Kawasaki Z1 in the hands of inexperienced squids and the look on their faces as the Charley Horse drove right around them . Hours later I could be found in my parents garage replacing clutch plates , primary chain and yet another main and counter set . The following season saw a better crop of riders and aftermarket parts for the Z1 and even after resorting to Cox Motor Airplane Fuel (at least 20% Nitromethane in my day ) as a major fuel component it was trial by fire . I don't know if I was more thrilled by the now diminishing ability to demolish the egos of overly enthusiastic rice pilots or spectators were more stunned by the occasional spectacular catastrophic metallurgical destruction of the Harley Davidson .

Interlude consisting of long periods of boredom and brief moments of absolute terror . My demons are my own and only in this one area of my life will I say " You weren't there , you weren't me , what good would it do to explain ? " Non sibi sed patriae .

A return to the world at large brought me into the grips of visceral contact with the combustion process . I knew I couldn't beat them so I joined them .

R5/RD-250/350/400 .I still had all those parts remember
Triumph T140 Bonneville 750 . A British anachronism with deplorable brakes and miserable carburettors mixed with oddly stunning road manners great looks . I saw a restoration recently sell for near five times what I paid for my used 1973 . In inflation adjusted dollars a net loss .
The Z's . So many rice pilots had turned so many of the Z's into scrap in my absence that it was a kid in a candy store moment . The aftermarket had caught up with and in some cases passed Kawasaki's original offering by a large margin .
TX/XS650 Yamaha I still have this sickness to some degree . I was a failed motocrosser and amateur road racer (read here "not very good") but I seemed at home on the dirt . Keeping all the spinning bits in the Yamaha cases was a bit of deja vu . This experience on the dirt lead me back to the pavement as a much improved road racer and somewhat humbled competitor .
TZ250 Again . They had improved a bunch
Liter Bikes . They resembled the parent Kawasaki Z's like , well , you get the idea . Fully race prepped drag race from corner to corner true superbikes . Chassis development lagged far behind engine development for several years . Unless you lived through this it's difficult to explain bending handle bars getting the bike to turn in or straighten out .
750's . The AMA obsoletes my years of engine development in a stroke and relegates the class to 750cc . Again any resemblance to the parent KZ750 was incidental if not accidental .
GPZ/KZ550 Fun
Honda VF500 Different kind of fun .
Putting a license plate on the 750 race bike and surviving several near misses on the street lead to the sale of all race equipment in the span of a single weekend . On pavement I was frustrated and reduced to racing with my own money . On the dirt I was being forced into an extremely large expenditure for an XR750 just for a chance to be competitive . I find it odd that the insurance premiums for motorcycle racing were significantly larger than deep sea diving , Lloyd's of London does not .
KZ1000 Police . I was without a motorcycle for all of three weeks . I was so deep in spares from these engines that I still have complete engines in boxes to this day. I was not going to quit riding and what sold me on the bike was the floorboards .
And there I stayed for twenty seven years .
ZN1300 . The Battlestar Galactica (or Gigantica depending on who...) A 120 RWHP behemoth with cross country legs .

I saved the best for last .
1973 Harley Davidson FLH . I originally built this for a friend and ended up with it on his death . I like the bike and know its failings well . I attempted to out think Harley Davidson at every opportunity and fairly succeeded on most points . Just a few of the modifications were a real carburettor , a complete rethink of the combustion chamber , dry clutch and belt primary , STD cases , real starter motor and hours of work in the front end .

This is a fairly complete history of my experience .

Only now can get to the heart of the matter . I ride . In most cases I ride very well . There have been glaring exceptions . I have owned or ridden a wide variety of motorcycles . I can't wait for the next ride . I find excuses to ride . I build kit to suit conditions and ride in bone dry near freezing temperatures because I can . I can't pass up a disabled motorcycle . I love to point out that my KZ1000 Police was built in Lincoln Nebraska . When asked what motorcycle I'm riding I am as likely to respond with "one with two wheels " as a simple "mine" . If in a group of media led leather clad lemmings I'm the one by myself in the corner laughing quietly but obviously enough that the enthusiast and compulsive obsessive people watcher can't miss me . Squids and the stereotypical credit card biker get ignored only as much as they ignore me . The squid need not be a Hyabussa owner any more than the credit card biker need be a Harley Davidson owner . They have one thing in common . They ride to be seen riding . They deserve and have earned nothing from me . I anticipate the next conversation with a rider wondering if it will be a humanoid or an over priced , self entitled mockery of motorcycling in general . Any reasonable question will be answered reasonably . I have brought many new riders into the community simply by listening . Gaining an understanding of your audience even and especially if it's a solitary hopeful motorcyclist requires the disciplined mind of the objective observer mixed with the experience of a lifetime of all things motorcycle . It's humbling indeed when you feel not just obliged but compelled to give not just the whole truth but the very best truth you can when asked something as innocent as "Why do you wear all the leather" by a 10 year old .

Sorry for the jumble of thought above but you get it as it is . I'll just end with ...

Some ride to be seen
Some ride because they want to
Some ride because they have to

Cool story! I had an old 'iron barrel' 900 Sportster myself.

I'm 54, started on a lawnmower engine minibike at age 5. We had a long driveway (lived in the country) and I wiped out in a big stickerbush the first time I rode it. Coud not WAIT to get back on it. I rode dirt bikes exclusively including a bunch of MX racing from that time until I was ~21 y/o, got a Honda CL360 for cheap and started riding on the street also. Traded that up to a Seca 750, rode it for a year or so till some dumb twat in a Lincoln tried to kill me. Sold the Seca, went back to dirt bikes. Rode dirt and got into enduro/hare scrambles big time. Did that and autocross/hillclimb in sportscars, stayed off street bikes till a bud told me his kids had a disassembled Yamaha which turned out to be the bike I now own, at the time I was bikeless. I had sold my last dirt bike (WR400 Yamaha) in 2007. I now have the itch to buy another dirt bike.

I built my bike because I have always wanted one like this. I don't really give a tin shit if anyone else likes it or looks (although it does turn heads in this day of cookie cutter H-D's, their clones and 15,000 RPM consonant bikes). I just like riding it.
Great write-up. It was a really nice read.

I keep sayin it, and will continue to say it. Im gettin me a shovel one of these days!

Im happy to say, that my xs is a really great do it all bike. At first, I wanted it to look cool, and of course sacrifices were made. Things changed, and now it is officially built on "fun factor" and nothing else. Built to ride, and give the biggest of smiles.

I hope one day I can look back, and have my personal odometer racked up as high as yours.