Philosophy and Motorcycles

Philosophy and motorcycles are two of my favorite things in life. This blog will be bits of wisdom gleaned from a misspent youth and an adventurous dotage. People who like/love wisdom or motorcycles, classic or modern versions of either, are welcome to visit and comment.

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Location: Wisconsin, United States

I have been married to the same lovely woman for decades. We have one son, two cats, and live in rural Wisconsin, USA. I ride and rebuild motorcycles, and I am semi-retired. Favorite bikes are Yamaha XS650, FJ1200 and Ducati 900SS. My wife is a home care nurse. I am a Myers-Briggs INTP. She is ESFJ. Our son works at the Apple store in downtown SF and is teaching English as a second language in San Francisco, no grandchildren.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Cheap Seats

Over the decades I have owned a lot of motorcycles. I still own quite a few. I have found that no one motorcycle does it all. Being a man of limited means I cannot afford a stable of new machines. For the price of a couple new bikes, or one expensive one, I have a good variety of rides. Individually they are each a fairly cheap seat. One of my long term favorites for every day riding is a 1977 Yamaha XS650. It is basically stock except for Bub headers with Harley Sportster mufflers and dual discs up front. I grew up with BSA and Triumph. I enjoyed those old 650 twins but grew weary of their limitations and breakdowns. I have spent many hours beside a road kneeling to the British electrical gods, muttering strange incantations. No Yamaha has ever failed to get me home.

The closest I came to being stranded was at a roadside cafe about 30 miles from home. My blue '77 burned its main fuse. I replaced the fuse, started the bike, got on and the fuse went out again. Luckily a gas station had a couple boxes of fuses of the correct amperage. I went through the same routine a few more times. Start the bike, put on my suit, get on, blow fuse. I had begun to think that there were gremlins laughing at me. It was damn hot in a jacket, helmet and gloves. I finally sat and thought through what it might really be that was causing the problem and it occurred to me that every time I got on I pulled the brake lever. Sure enough it was the brake light circuit that was the gremlin. After disconnecting both switches I was able to ride home without incident.
During a quarter century one of the wires had rubbed inside the headlight housing until it had a bare spot. That was my only nearly stranded experience. I can forgive that.

I find the basic vertical twin to be a beautiful machine. From Turner's original Triumph to the latest versions I like the look. I also like the broad torque with the light weight and compact size. Another thing I like about the Yamaha roadsters is their flat seat and standard riding position. It is good to be able to move about a bit while riding. Moving forward or back can ease the strain of longer rides and alter the handling and control on more spirited rides. Many more modern bikes tend to lock the driver into one position. Most cruisers place the feet forward which makes it impossible to put weight on the feet/legs. An old XS isn't a great handling machine but being able to move about helps. If I want to go fast the XS isn't a good choice so I don't try to make it something it isn't. I'm satisfied with what it is. It's a great way to spend a comfortable afternoon on a classical styled, classic sounding, reliable and affordable machine. The '77 XS650D is often my choice for the 25 mile ride to work, and the 35 mile ride home.

2 Comments:

Blogger sari gordon said...

You know, if you weren't such an amazing rider, flawless philosopher, and author of an nearly-convincing defense of your Yamaha fetish, I'd almost forgive you. Alas. It's your fault I bought a Ducati after I rode the one you have wasting away in your garage and I must say that yes, every position on the Duc is awful, but they all make the bike go fast. Plus they feel good in all the right places (well, except the wallet.)

7:30 PM  
Blogger Lupus Noire said...

Yes dear but I promised I would slow down in my dotage. Us old folk break easily. I still love my Duc, and on those occasions when my vital signs are above those of a tranquilized three toed sloth, I'll play. LN

8:12 PM  

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