They just fade away……………to smaller bikes!
It’s a gradual process. They perpetually enjoy riding. They perpetually enjoy the camaraderie of other riders. But there comes a time when the light fades and they are not seen as often. It’s not something you notice immediately, but one day you stop a friend and ask, "Have you seen Harry around?" They are gone.
The day will never come, one thinks. When the age of discovery sets in early in life, getting drenched, dumped, thrown off and banged up is routine and natural. That works fine in the teens and twenties. Then, with the expanded family and bigger job, the riding time gets sandwiched and squeezed in the process of life. Sport touring and more specific and focussed trips become the escape. Tossing the bike during track days and occasional dumps off road are no big deal. A collarbone or rib break here and there are compensated for, then quickly forgotten. This works great in the thirties and forties.
By the fifties, the kids move off to a life of their own, and the "old" man can now afford the ride of his dreams. He adds more farkles than a Filipino taxi. He plans and rides several trips per year of 10 days or more, often accompanied by the wife. Hopefully experience gained in other decades keeps one out of danger, for a ding of earlier years is now a trip to the hospital.
Sometime after sixty, the heaviness of Reality sets in like a slow moving fog, and the fadeout begins. For a few years it is appearance only at a few favorite rallies and select meetings. The bike is no longer the big tourer, but a smaller, more manageable airhead, hack or trike. Then it’s more likely that they show up in the pickup. Then, they "just don’t seem to be able to get around to getting there any more."
The transition from "World-Wide Adventurer" to the sale of the last bike can take years. God willing, its not a body slam, it’s a long, slow ride into the woods from which there is no return. The invigorating breath of riding gets shallower, then ceases all together. The stickers on the touring bags just keep fading, cracking and falling away with each wash. The patches and pins on the vest hearken to events that occurred decades ago. No new ones show up.
It’s insidious as carbon monoxide. It creeps in without notice, and drains the spirit of the will to adventure. Oh, to be sure the spirit outlives the physical capabilities in most cases, but often it’s a close race. It’s hard to tell whether the bike is sold because he doesn’t trust himself with it, or because it has become too much, too much, too much. It is overwhelming to go for a ride. The bike goes, and soon the gear…and soon the rider.
For me the first buoy was the GS Adventure. It’s a bike most would lust for all of their riding life. That’s what it was for me for several years. This is the one I’ll keep to the end of my days; days that will include Alaska and Mexico, and the grocery store. Then came the change in the tides. It crept into the base of the brain, then wormed down through the body through the marrow of every bone. When the process was complete, I recognized that I had come to hate that bike. When did it get to be so damn big and clumsy? Why did it always want to tip over, and jerk on take-off? When did it get to be a big pain in the butt to move it around? The hard bags used to be just accessories. Now they loomed as colossal cargo ships lashed to each side, always in the way, always sticking out, heavy, bulky, and, a pain in the butt. It’s just too much. In three short years it went from the bike of dreams to the biggest...pain in the butt in the garage. I was relieved to sell it in the summer. I don’t miss the bike at all. I do miss the feeling of wanting it and loving it. It became all too much, and now it’s all gone.
As big a pain as the GS Adventure was, I still have the K1200LT. It is still a joy to ride. The tippy nature of the LT at low speed, its 800 pounds of heft and shear size still don’t bother me. It is total cmfort and control at the same time. But instead of a bike forever, it is starting to look like an elephant in a dog house, and perhaps I should be looking to move it on…a thought that wouldn’t have occurred just months ago.
A fresh breeze has been an old KLR 650 that spent most of its life as a campus commuter at Clemson and Colorado Universities. The long-term owner was happy to move on to a big truck, and I had a manageable restoration project for a few hundred dollars. So far, the bike is a ton of fun for nearly everything. It is my second KLR, which is a complete head knocker; "Why the hell did you get rid of the first one?" Sure the GS/PD that replaced it was a kick, but it was big, heavy and under powered. I also had a XX Blackbird at the time, so I knew what pure power was. And the Adventure was everything to all things riding, right? With "okay" power, it was still very heavy and a pig off road. Could you do a bunch of off road trails? Yes, but was it fun? To be charitable, not as much as it should have been.
There are some wondrous 650 selections being marketed today. They are very well built with most of the electronic and brake technology of the liter bikes and much bigger tourers. AND, they’re cheap. Light is nice. Nimble is nice. FUN is nice.
A 650 could be a twenty year ride…it feels that good. Here are a few options;
F650 BMW Class of the class
New 650’s BMW Look interesting
650 R Kawasaki Great Bike, mostly street, mostly ignored
DL 650 Suzuki Wee-strom. Universally liked
KLR 650 Kawasaki Classic do it all bike, best bang for the buck by far
DR 650 Suzuki A bit edgy, small tank
XL650L Honda Old iron that wasn’t that well accepted
Plus lots of dirt oriented models, and naked bikes, and sport bikes; all of which don’t fit, are uncomfortable and/or are out of my league.
One of those will be my next new bike, but I do wonder how soon it will be before they start looking like climbing aboard something the size of a city bus. At that time, I’ll look for a place to mount the token box!
Looks like I’ll be riding a long time.
CCR 02, 03, 04, 08, 10