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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.
 

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Video

So Pete, you've seen the video that's been playing in my head the past few years. :) I am 55 and am a year into my first big GS, farklizing, baggin and making it so compfy it'll be "my last bike". But, like messenger13, I know what looms in my future and regularly check out the latest and greatest developments in the 650 classes. The 2008 KLR with upgraded alternator has really got me thinking. But for now I will stay in my denial stage, farkle the hell out of my 1100GS and keep the K1200LT for 2 up with my very understanding wife.
 

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Pete,

Great post; and very well written.

For the last 20+ years my buddies and I have met for a Saturday morning breakfast ride. While our core group has remained intact we have seen a lot of faces come and go. And, as you so expertly described, many have just faded away. It starts with them missing some of our weekend overnight rides. Then they miss our (1 or 2 week) Spring Ride and Fall Ride. They start showing up in their car (with an excuse) for Saturday breakfast and after awhile they only show up when they're sure the weather is bad enough that we won't ride somewhere to breakfast. Eventually we don't even realise they aren't there anymore, new faces fill the void... never an empty chair to remind us.

Your post made me remember a lot of those faces........thank you.

Bruce Hodges
 

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1st thought: Pete, what a beautifully written post! Carpe diem, my friend.

2nd thought: Holy crap! I just bought a KLR, what does that mean????

3rd thought: Joe, you're only 41? No wonder you're such a prolific poster, you can still stay up after 9pm!
 

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I plan on coming full circle - in another twenty five years I see a 3 and 1/2 horsepower Briggs and Stratton mini-bike parked in my garage - with gold metal flake paint and servo assisted ABS rear "scuff" brake.

The apple of my eye. :D
 

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RonKMiller said:
I plan on coming full circle - in another twenty five years I see a 3 and 1/2 horsepower Briggs and Stratton mini-bike parked in my garage - with gold metal flake paint and servo assisted ABS rear "scuff" brake.

The apple of my eye. :D
I dunno, Ron -- I'm holding out for that Schwinn with the banana seat, and the plastic playing card attached to a front spoke with a clothes pin. Or -- if I'm really lucky -- a Varroom mounted on the handlebar. Anybody remember those bad boys from the 60s?
 

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hschisler said:
I dunno, Ron -- I'm holding out for that Schwinn with the banana seat, and the plastic playing card attached to a front spoke with a clothes pin. Or -- if I'm really lucky -- a Varroom mounted on the handlebar. Anybody remember those bad boys from the 60s?
Kind of like this? http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5874497295497895885

I had a knockoff bought from a garage sale. My mother banned it after using it on my paper route at 5 AM. I just had the motor taped with hockey tape on a Pea Picker green Stingray. The damn handlebars would slip and spin on jumps causing the chin to hit the clamp. What a great bike.

Dale White
 

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Creative Thinking required

I'd like to jump in. I will be 60 in 3 weeks and haven't even considered a smaller bike. My 06 1200 RT has been the "perfect ride" for me. Today's 60 is yesterday's 45. Age is only in the mind.
Having said that, and hedging my bet a bit, why not a transition to a trike? Better stability but still affords the wind in your face and freedom one seeks in your ride.
 

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Bheckel169 said:
Having said that, and hedging my bet a bit, why not a transition to a trike? Better stability but still affords the wind in your face and freedom one seeks in your ride.
yup, but you can't split lane anymore (or at least I sure hope you don't try!:eek: ) :D
 

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Hey, Pete. Great piece of scribe work; I read with interest and some pangs of reality. I'm gonna hold out as long as the ole bod flexes a bit; then like my good friend, George Young (ex-BMW RA club registrar), may take a look at hacking an LT. He's really enjoying his Hannigan sidecar, which enabled him to ride to Fairbanks and beyond last year. No slowin' down for that guy, and I hope I find a like solution when it comes time to count more'n two wheels on the ground.

Thanks for the post, Pete. Drop it over to ON or RA sometime and lett'em work it in with some of their musings.
 

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Great post Pete. Ya hit the nail on the head! I'm only 66 and still riding and loving the LT but thoughts of a smaller bike or maybe a sidehack occassionally dance through my head. Don't think I'll ever do the trike thing! But hey, I'm active in a "RETREAD" group here in Florida and I'm second youngest in the group of 25 or so riders. Most are in their 70's and have GW's and a bunch have them triked. My idle however is Ira. His birthday is tomorrow and he'll be 93 years young. He was in an accident about 4 years ago when his trike was "T" boned. Fortunately he survived and with a bunch of rehab is still riding. As soon after the accident as he could get out he went to the Honda dealer and bought a new silver wing and had them trike (training) wheels bolted on. He rides that machine all over the area and shows up every Tuesday morning rain or shine for our breakfast meeting!! So don't give up! Hope I can do as well!!
 

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I had given in to the same lust demon you had for that bike, thought I could make the adjustments needed to keep things on track and flowing smoothly.
In the end I was wrong and we got divorced :eek: I can't fathom what she did to get stuck with me for 5+ years, but I think she is up for sainthood soon. :rotf:
Ride flat out till you see God
Rock
 

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I turned 60 in September. I'm not even thinking about giving up my R1200GS or my Paul Smart but I sure am interested in the new '08 Kaw KLR 650. Maybe it's a nostalgia thing. (The Paul Smart certainly was . . . ) My first bike in 1977 was a Kawasaki ??-250 – the two-stroke with the orange tank. I could ride “in the woods” and if I dropped it I could pick it up! I would like to be able to do that again.
 

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Nice post. I don't really have anything else to say but need to type this sentence because the forum will not let me post a two word reply
 

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Nicely written Pete!

I just turned 64 a few weeks ago, and have had some of the same thoughts. My wife does not want me to get another bike until we move, which seems to be only a dream now since the real estate market tanked.

If we do move though, another LT is still on the top of the list, but also on that list are the GT and GS. I would have to make that decision after the move when I see what type of riding I will likely be doing. My wife does not ride with me much anyway, so a one up type of ride may win out. Personally, the LT just "fit" me like on other bike. Yes, it is heavy, but I got used to that and did not think about it much at all. The GS looks good for occasional "unimproved" road riding, but too heavy for "off-road" in my opinion. The GT I rode sure handled great, and had loads of power, but just was not as comfortable to me as the LT was. Surely will stay in the "short list" though, especially with the "new" non servo brakes. The extremely touchy brakes on the '06 I rode were a show stopper for for me.

For some reason though I just cannot see myself on a small bike. Don't know why, but things like KLRs and F650s just don't ring my bell. Who knows though, I may ride one when the time comes just to be sure. Maybe a BMW 800 twin?
 

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fade away

Remember the old trite but true:

You don't get old and quit riding....but if you quit riding you get old!

Ron
 
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