Choosing a new best friend…it’s hard
In 1972 I was riding a ’69 BSA Lightning 650…the A65 model to those of you who are technically minded, my riding friend at the time, Eddie, was on a Honda CB500Four. The BSA had a much higher cool factor, handled and sounded better, but…the Honda was faster, smoother and had an electric starter. Eddie and I rode everywhere…his bike always started with a push of button and my BSA…well, most of the time, until my leg got tired.
One day, while picking up a part for my BSA at the dealer…which also sold Triumph and Kawasaki, I saw the new love of my life…a brand new Kawasaki H2 750. I picked up my part and the sales brochure for the Kawasaki then headed home to get the Beezer running again.
I spent the entire night reading that sales brochure…’Fastest production motorcycle’… ‘instrument cluster angled for aerodynamics’ (or something like that), more technological and design features than any sane motorcycle rider could handle, plus I kept seeing the bike on the showroom floor with my name on the ‘SOLD’ tag hanging off the handlebar.
At breakfast the next morning I was talking to my stepfather, the man who started the motorcycle sickness in me and a staunch British bike rider himself, about the Kawasaki. After giving me his version of ‘stink eye’… he said “well, if you want it, get it”. I truly believe he left for work that day with a sick feeling in his stomach. He had good reason, what twenty year old whose been riding a ‘slow'(???) old Brit Bike wouldn’t want the fastest thing on two wheels? I mean…really? I had the green light.
I left work at three o’clock and made a bee line to Triumph / Kawasaki of Burbank with pink slip and cash in hand. This was my last ride on my BSA, I was trying to be nostalgic, but I couldn’t muster nostalgia up…I was lusting after the new H2…the fastest production bike on two wheels and all I could think was “Why is there all this traffic?? Don’t you people know I’m getting a new motorcycle?? Get out of my way!!”
A little after 5PM, I patted the gas tank of my old BSA, thanked it for all the great rides then kickstarted my new bike to life…yes, I’m still using a kickstarter, but it was a whole lot easier than kicking over that BSA. As I rolled out of the dealership my pulse was racing, my mind was racing and I was truly the happiest kid on the block…I owned the fastest motorcycle you could buy. Oh, and I guess my ego was racing a bit as well. I spent that night getting to know my new love…we rode and rode and rode everywhere.
The next morning I was back at the dealership when they opened, the man that sold me the bike asked if something was wrong I said “no, I’m here for the 500 mile service”. He walked over, looked at the odometer and walked away shaking his head and laughing. A few moments later the service manager came out, looked at the odometer and he too walked away shaking his head. I didn’t get what was so funny, I just rode my new motorcycle all night, what’s wrong with that?
For the next eight years that Kawasaki and I rode all over the western US, it moved all my worldly possessions to Las Cruces New Mexico and back to southern California. Well actually, it rode in the trailer back to So Cal with all my and my new wife’s worldly possessions…geez women collect a lot of junk. In 1980 disaster hit.
One day while working on a little BSA 350 I took some time off to go inside and make a sandwich, twenty minutes later I walked back out to an empty garage. My heart sank, as you can imagine. What was I going to do without my H2?? Well, after all the police and insurance stuff I sat down and cried, I had lost my best friend. And, my only source of transportation…now what?
Insurance money in hand, which wasn’t very much, and credit apps all filled out I went motorcycle shopping. After a day of sitting on motorcycles, listening to salesmen telling what a great deal I could get, I had a huge question in front of me, do I go forward or do I look backward? I spent another sleepless night going over brochures…and attending to my newborn daughter every couple of hours. When the sun came up in the morning I had narrowed the choice to two and a pot of coffee was gone. Who knew that choosing a new best friend would be that hard?
I arranged test rides on the finalists, grabbed my helmet, borrowed my grandmothers car again and headed for the dealerships. First up was a beautiful black 1980 Honda CB750F. I was in love…maybe. Down the road was a new Yamaha XS650. I sat on the 650 twin, hit the start button and the feeling up through the seat and the handlebars was familiar…I like this, I like it a lot. A few miles later, I dropped off the Yamaha, said thank you to the salesman and drove back to the Honda dealer. Over one hundred thousand miles later, that black Honda was still my new best friend.