Listed below is a brief history of every motorcycle that I have been fortunate to own at one time or another. Some have been great, some have been awful; but they have all managed to keep a smile on my face and bugs in my teeth!
The year was 1971 and I had just graduated from high school. Having never ridden a motorcycle, my brother Dan's offer to teach me how to ride his Triumph 250 Trophy Trail was eagerly accepted. Along with a lifelong friend we loaded the motorcycle into the back of his pickup truck and headed across town to the local sand pit. My first few attempts at locomotion ended up with me getting a close up and personal look into the main ingredient of glass. Undaunted by my distinct lack of ability to precisely manipulate the controls I persevered long enough to, by the end of the afternoon, scale 30 foot high, near vertical sand walls and soar into the waiting sky. Thus began my long and exciting foray into the world of motorcycling.
The Triumph served me well for the first year until it was decided that I needed something beefier. Scanning the want-ads from the local paper there was a 1971 BSA 441 Victor Special for sale only a few miles from home. Still not knowing a whole lot about motorcycles and what to look for, I asked Dan to accompany me in order to check it out. I fell in love with the little BSA the minute I laid eyes on her and purchased her on the spot. "Vic" and I spent a lot of time in the next year running around the back roads of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. (That is, when I could get it started!) Yes, even with the compression release valve it was often a bear to start on cold mornings resulting in my taking the car more often than necessary. Looking back at the 14 bikes that I have owned so far, the Victor is one of the two motorcycles that I wish was still in my garage.
When I got tired of getting up in the morning and working up a sweat trying to start the Victor I decided it was time to go with a reliable bike. This led to the worst deal I ever made in buying a new (to me) motorcycle. On one of my frequent trips with Dan to Millis Cycle in Millis, MA I spied a relatively clean 1974 Honda 350/4 (the picture is of someone else's Honda) sitting in the corner with a fresh coat of gray primer on the tank. This is where I made a big mistake that I rue to this day: both the Triumph and the BSA were traded straight up for the Honda. Not that there was anything wrong with the Honda, but the Triumph and the BSA had soul where the Honda was just another machine.
The Honda was only in my possession for a year before I happened upon Freemans Cycle in Beverly, MA who is a BMW and Moto Guzzi dealership. There was a lovely black 1971 BMW R75/5 with white pinstriping that was calling out to me. They agreed to take the Honda in trade and soon I was tooling around in style! The difference between my previous steeds and the BMW was amazing to say the least. My first day out I thought that I was pretty much within the speed limit of 45; imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw that I was actually doing 80mph!!! That thing was smmmoooooooth! She took me through my first major ride; from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, Vermont (at Ausable Chasm), down through New York and back home to Newburyport, MA. We also traveled to Pennsylvania to participate in my brothers wedding. She was my faithful traveling partner for two years before hitting a patch of black ice doing 65 two weeks before Christmas. The frame was slightly bent and it needed some engine work while I went to work that night with only a slight scrape on my left thigh. Being young and poor I couldn't afford the repairs to the bike so off she went to Eastern Cycle Salvage (which happened to be right around the corner from Freemans) in Beverly. There she was traded for a...
...1967 Triumph Bonneville. It also needed a little work to get it running, but since my brother restores Triumphs for a living, I wasn't too concerned. Both years that I owned this bike it was taken apart each winter and stored in a spare bedroom on the third floor of my house.
It was during this period that I began a tradition that is continued to this day. It was one of those things that you don't consciously think about... it just happens. I found a 4 inch tall rubber figure of a British "Bobby" at a toy store somewhere and attached it to the rear view mirror in memory of my brother Bobby who died at the age of 3 back in 1961. Any British bike that I have owned since has this same figure attached to the rear view mirror. As my brother is building a "bitsa" (Triumph 250 frame and BSA Victor engine) for me I will soon be needing another figure for it. If you see one for sale somewhere, please let me know.
While I owned the Triumph I also was fortunate enough to purchase a 1980 Yamaha XS850 triple. This motorcycle had the worst seat that I have ever been unfortunate enough to encounter. Fifty miles was about all that one could stand before having to stop for a break! Of course, since the seat was so utterly horrible, I just had to use this bike for my cross country trip. Me and my soon to be second wife quit our jobs, packed up a pair of bicycle saddlebags and took off for parts unknown. We spent a week traveling from east to west and stayed with a number of relatives in southern California for a couple of months before the sheer lunacy of southern Cal drove us back to the relatively quiet woods of New England. A few months after returning I turned this bike back over to the bank because I could no longer afford the payments.
A short time later it was off to Houston, Texas.. I spent a few bucks on a derelict 1976 Yamaha XS650. We were basically starting life over and never had any kind of money to sink into it to get it rideable. Although I never did get it roadworthy in the year or so that I owned it - at least I had fun tinkering with it.
It was almost two years after first purchasing the Yamaha that I was in a position to borrow some money to purchase a 1982 BMW R65. I made a BIG mistake when purchasing this one: I trusted the previous owner. When I visited the owner and decided to take the R65 out for a test ride I believed the owner who said that he had just finished checking everything on the bike including the tire air pressure. While test riding the bike around a (fortunately) slow corner, the wheels slid out from underneath me. When checking the pressure when we returned to his house it was discovered that there was only 14lbs of pressure in each tire! Lesson learned, albeit the hard way. My right knee put a rather large dent into the tank which made it rather uncomfortable to walk for the next few days. This was an extra pain because that night was the night that I was planning on attending the annual motorcycle expo in the Houston Astrodome. Regardless, I attended the show that night and purchased the bike the next day. The owner felt pretty bad about his screwup causing the problem and gave me the option of either purchasing the bike at a lesser price or working with him to get the tank fixed. When I decided to buy the bike he went out and purchased a brand new tank cover to help hide the dent.
That summer, while back home in Massachusetts for a two week visit, I attended the vintage motorcycle races in Loudon, NH. Imagine my surprise when I found a used part dealer that just happened to have on display an almost perfect tank for my R65 in the exact same color! Fearing the worst when inquiring about the price, he replied that he was only asking $50. Money immediately changed hands and the tank was at my apartment in Texas when I arrived.
The other major purchase that was made for this bike was saddlebags. There was a motorcycle junkyard on Telephone Road in Houston which I used to frequent; Sam's. One cold winter day (the only one that year), when visiting the junkyard I spied a pair of BMW saddlebags along with the mounting brackets sitting in a corner. I asked the guy at the counter what they were asking for them and after looking around for help and not finding any he quoted me $150 for the complete set!!! Unfortunately, I had no money on me but got it in writing that the price was, indeed, only $150. An hour and a half ride home and back through an ice storm and the bags were mine. Only five minutes after I had the sales slip in hand, the owner came back. Boy was he pissed when he found out that they had been practically given away!
I sold the bike in a fit of insanity when I returned to New England. Found a job that was an hour and a quarter each way and thought that I'd need a bigger bike to make the trip every day. While the bike that replace the R65 is long gone and forgotten, the BMW lives on as one of my all time favorite bikes!
Bought this one from a friend down in Texas. It wasn't much to look at in the beginning but when it came back to New Hampshire with me it was repainted and the seat was redone.
It was lots of fun riding this one to the British Iron of New Hampshire meetings. Lots of people would take a quick look and say something like, "Cool, what kind of Triumph is that?". Once they realized their mistake they would turn their heads in shame! I loved it!!!
Due to money problems I was forced to sell this one a couple of years later though I wish that it could have stayed. Someday I'll, no doubt, find another one to take it's place.
For a few months I owned three motorcycles at one time: the BMW, the Yamaha and a Suzuki TS125 two stroke. One of the maintenance men at the apartment complex had one that he just wanted to get rid of and, being such a nice guy, I took it off his hands. Due to a loss of compression somewhere you had to kick and kick and then kick some more just to get it started. One day, while riding a short trail outside the complex, a three foot deep hole suddenly appeared before me as I was looking down at the carburetor. Although the doctors said it wasn't broken, the resulting fall broke my thumb which had to be fused six months later when the pain refused to go away. A month later someone offered me 50 bucks for it (the bike - not the thumb) and I took it without a moments hesitation.
A couple of years later saw us move back to New England into Exeter, NH. Money was tight so I had to sell the Yamaha. Shortly after that I found a new job and put some of the money from the sale into Widder electric clothing which was one of the best investments I ever made. With my new commute of 60 miles each way almost all of which is on a highway, I traded the BMW in on a bare bones 1978 Honda Goldwing. (This was the one with the instrument pod on the tank.) While it was a nice bike, the exhaust always seemed a little too loud for me; plus, it never really ran right. I had two different shops try to get it to run smoothly and neither one could help. I even tried another set of carburetors on it and nothing changed.
Finally got tired of playing with it and sold it back to the dealer I purchased it from without any regrets.
This was then sold and the proceeds were used to purchase a 1978 BMW R80. While this bike was OK I never really felt comfortable on it. I don't mean the seat, it just felt like a total stranger every time I took it out for a ride. It's real hard to explain so I won't try any further. The bike was finally sold and the proceeds were used to pay off some bills.
The next bike in my stable was the 1970 Triumph Tiger that my brother, Dan, built for me. Dan has been restoring Triumphs for Don Hutchinson Cycles in Wakefield, MA for close to twenty years and now works out of his home garage. A few years earlier we were talking and he informed me that he was going to build a bike for me out of his parts supplies. All I had to do was tell him what options I wanted (Tiger/Bonneville, four/five speed trans. etc.). I opted for a 1970 Tiger for a number of reasons. One was that he happened to have a frame and engine with matching numbers - that was a biggie! Then I chose a Tiger since there was only one carb to finagle with and a four speed transmission as that provides for a more relaxed ride. I chose paint, badge, knee pad, handlebar and seat options and off we went. When it was complete he handed me the keys and said to enjoy it! We should all be so lucky to have a brother like that!!!
We he built the bike it was done up with the blue and white paint scheme with stainless fenders. But, a couple of years later, the orange and white tank and fenders were available from a friend's bike. I couldn't resist the opportunity to switch on over to my favorite color.
In the fall of 1999 she won a first place trophy in a peoples choice show for a pre-71 Triumph at Great Bay Cycles (the local Hinckley Triumph dealership) in Hampton, NH. During their 2000 motorcycle show she was presented in the colors you see now (originally it was painted blue/white) and won the "Best of Show" trophy!
Attended the Motorcycle Expo at Rockingham Park in Salem, NH one cold February weekend I happened to stop by the booth of Motorcycles of Manchester (MOMS). Right in front of the booth was a gorgeous 1988 Kawasaki Concours that had only 10,800 miles on the odometer. Fortunately my wife was with me and when I told her that I had lusted after this bike since it first came out in 1986 she simply said, "Buy it!". Once the shock had worn off she stated it again, "If you want it, go out to the truck, get my checkbook, and write out a down payment check." I left her guarding the truck while I ran out to the truck. Ten minutes later I was busy shooing away anyone who even looked at the bike.
The first few months with the new Concours was a nightmare! I found myself actually looking for reasons not to ride. Unbearable wind blast and noise from the stock windshield along with excessive handlebar vibrations that had me shaking my hands awake every 30 highway mile were the problems. The bike was put away early that fall (sometime in late October) in the hope that by the spring I would be able to solve my problems. A friend, Mark Layden, also had an '88 Concours and we agreed to tackle the vibration problems together. First, even though his vibration problems weren't really all that bad, we performed surgery on his bike by adjusting the valves and the balancer shaft and also by removing the carburetor bank and performing the COG suggested surgery. Next up was mine. The end result was a machine that was much smoother although not the totally smooth bike that I had envisioned. After this I added a 19" Rifle windshield system and GenMar handlebar risers. These minor adjustments along with the Rifle and bar risers produced a bike that I have fallen in love with. Never before have I felt as comfortable on a motorcycle as I do on "Red Sonja". Yes, "Red Sonja" because she is, of course, red, long, lean, strong, willing to go on a moments notice and is fun to ride!!! (Wonder what Freud would have to say about that?) I have had this motorcycle for almost two full years and 16k and see no reason why this won't be my number one motorcycle for years to come!
Well, it's now April 19th and Red Sonja just left the garage for the final time. Had a lot of good times and went a lot of different places with that bike and will definitely miss it. There wasn't anything wrong with her, mind you. She sounded and looked as good as the day I bought her! The problem was that after I turned 50 earlier in the year I felt a sudden urgency to try and do different things before my time runs out. Figured that there are a lot of other bikes out there that I''ve always wanted to try and since I already had two other bikes in the garage that one of them had to go.
Couldn't be the Valkyrie since I just bought it and love it and it couldn't be the Triumph since my brother built it and just handed it over to me. Can't ever see me selling that one!
Therefore the Concours, unfortunately, had to go. Watching the new owner ride her away was pretty tough, but after talking to him, I know that he will take good care of her!
Well, the Concours remained my main ride through almost the end of the 2002 riding season. I was entertaining the idea of keeping the Connie but getting into a cruiser bike since that is the way I generally ride. Just love to sit back, cruise and look around. Most of the bikes looked nice but didn't seem to provide enough comfort for our proposed cross country ride we plan on making in the next year or so. A full fledged GoldWing was just too much... not so much that it is so large, but it just has too much garbage on it for my tastes. That's when a friend at work brought in a section of the local classifieds where someone was selling 97 Valkyrie.
While I briefly entertained the idea of purchasing it, it wasn't until I first laid eyes on it that I just knew it was the bike I was looking for. Bought it in late August and with the lousy weather we had for the last couple of months of the riding season I only got to put around 1200 miles on her and loved every minute of it! Looking forward to the 2003 riding season and our trip down through Virgina, Kentucky, Ohio, Canada and NY!
Feeling that she was a little too quiet for the hooligan looks, I cut the little "piggies" from the ends of the exhaust and now she sounds the way she looks. A bit of a growl but not enough to make it sound obnoxious.
Well, the 2003 season has come and gone all too quickly. Our trip ended up a bit shorter than hoped for but we did make it back to Ohio & Pennsylvania to see my cousins, Rob and Mark. The Valk ran positively fabulous as expected and proved to be a fun mount for the trip.
As seems to be the case lately I felt that it was once again time for a change and have purchased a...
...Road Sofa. I know, I know... most of you will say that it really isn't a true motorcycle and that a wheelchair will probably be my next ride! It may be, but lately the country has seemed a lot smaller to me and I plan on taking a lot more long weekend rides as far out of New England as I can! In doing so I want to be as comfortable as I can and don't want this old body aching every night when I stop for the day.
Bought and had the Wing delivered on October 15th, registered her on the morning of the 17th and we took her to a Kawasaki Concours rally in Lake George, NY later that day. It was about a 4 1/2 hour trip in 40 degree weather and both Carol and I stayed relatively warm despite the temps. The very next weekend I took the Wing back to NY to Saratoga Springs (about 15 miles south of Lake George) to a Barbershop competition. The temps were even colder but it was still a great ride.
It's now December 6th, 2003 and, since it is snowing quite hard, I won't be riding anytime soon. However, I did manage to put almost 2k miles on her in about a 5 week span and things are looking real good for next year. The only change I'm going to have to make is to another windshield as I absolutely hate looking through the plastic! Am going to splurge on a Wind Bender shield which purportedly does the job of a windshield in the proper manner. Will let you know in the spring!'
Well, it's now spring of 2005! Never did get the Windbender but went to a used stock windshield which was the perfect one for the bike.
Had a blast with the bike in 2004 but April of '05 brought it all to an end when a cage driver pulled out through a stop sign directly into up while we were cruising at around 40mph. The wife ended up with a broken shoulder, I had cracked ribs and the bike was totaled.
Three weeks later I bought...
Another GoldWing! My 95 was in fantastic condition and only had around 35k miles on the odometer. Figured that I'd never find another one for what the insurance company was willing to pay for my dearly departed bike.
Two weeks after the accident the wife and I went bike shopping on a rainy Saturday and our hopes were dimmed by what we saw for sale in the area. All crap... and all expensive.
Sunday morning I awoke, sat in my favorite recliner by the front window and saw that the newspaper fairy had made a delivery for me. This was unusual in that we never have had the paper delivered in the nine years we have been in our home. Not having anything else to do I went out and picked up the paper to search the classifieds.
Imagine my surprise when the first ad was for a black 1994 Goldwing , low miles and only $7k. I immediately called them up and made an appointment to arrive in 45 minutes.
When we got there he had the bike uncovered and looking good. The seller was in his early 70's and bought the bike from the original owner who was also in his seventies. To make a long story short (I guess it's probably too late for that!) since it had brand new tires and brakes installed and only had 6,300 miles on the odometer I couldn't pass it up!
I never did warm up to this bike. Maybe it was because it was all black and really made things look dark while riding it... I don't know for sure. All I know is that, even though I added a few lights and chrome, it just never really was an enjoyable ride to me. Put it up for sale in the fall of 2006 and the new owner brought her home early the next spring.
This should pretty much do it for me and Goldwings as it was my fourth.
Picked this bike up off of FreeCycle.com hoping to have the time to work on it and get it running. I soon realized that I wouldn't have the time or room to work on it and gave away to someone else after about a month.
I had originally intended to get a Kawasaki Drifter 800 but, after weighing the differences, the Aero was the bike that appeared to suit me better. While some would think that this is too small of a bike, you've got to remember that I was brought up on bikes of this engine size so, to me, it's just right. Used would have been cheaper but I'm real tired of dealing with problems left over from the previous owners. Considering I've only purchased one other brand new bike out of all of the above, I figured that it was about time to treat myself again.
It's now April, 2007 and the bike has just been sold. Bummer! I finally had it looking and sounding just the way I wanted and thought that it would be a long-term machine in my garage. Unfortunately, a number of things prevented me from keeping her.
Registering, inspecting and maintaining four bikes (GoldWing, Triumph, Aero and Carol's Rebel) was getting to be expensive as well as a pain in the butt. Can't ride more than one at a time and having three road bikes seemed to be a bit redundant. Plus, it was to the point that moving around in the garage was a painful experience; what with all those mirrors, handlebars and whatnot hanging out waiting for me to smack into with either my shins or ribs. Something just had to go!
First to go was the Wing as this particular one I never really felt comfortable with. There wasn't anything wrong with it so I'm guessing that it was either the total black color or a subconscious reminder about crashing on one. Either way... it was gone. Then, since I had to get a replacement distance cruiser and wanted a Road King, the Aero was the next logical bike to go since the Triumph will never leave my possession.
The Aero was a pleasant little bike that looked and sounded great but it just didn't get the use that I thought it would when first purchased. Other than commuting to work and the occasional trip across town it never did get much use. Just didn't seem logical to keep her in the garage just 'cause she looked so good. I really hated to let her go (which bike haven't I felt that way about?) but realized that it was the best course of action at this time. At times like this I realize how nice it would be if I could have kept all of the bikes I've ever owned in a big garage and revisit them from time to time. Guess that's why I've built this website!
OK... enough rambling now. On to the next bike!
Well, it finally happened. Ever since being a little kid I've loved the look of the police Harley you'd see in the old movies and finally got one of my own. Even though I always said that I'd never own a Harley - I knew that it was only a matter of time. I took it home on April 7th, 2007 with temps somewhere in the mid 30's but got a chance to put about 50 miles on her. By that time my fingers were gettin' numb so figured that I'd go home and pick up some of the trees that fell during the storm a couple of days earlier.
Flash forward to late October 2010 where I've now enjoyed four full riding seasons with the King and all I can say is 'Why didn't I get this sooner?!" This bike will do anything from a quick commute to work or a two week trip out to the mid-west. Most other bikes would be good at one thing or the other but never good at both. My number 1 favorite bike before the King was the R65 which was excellent on short trips and a somewhat longer trip but not real good at a long two up ride. The GoldWings were obviously great for long distances but too heavy to just ride around the area for a day ride. Whether it's a 3 or a 3,000 mile ride the King does it all!
Changes have been few and made mostly so that the wife and I can tour comfortably. First was an HD Pillow Look seat as missus didn't even want to go around the block on that one. It is comfy, but I still prefer riding with the stock seat as IMO it looks so much better. Along with the seat I figured that we might as well get a backrest so that she has something to lean on while we're out touring. If you're gonna ride you might as well be comfortable.
A couple of years and a couple of long trips later I decided that we could really use a TourPak. We ride with helmets and it's nice to have a place to stow your stuff while you're doing touristy stuff away from home and have a reasonably good chance of it all still being there when you get back.
That highlights the versatility of the King in that you can have a pretty much full boat tourer when needed and then, in less than five minutes, you can remove the windshield, TourPak and Pillow Look seat and replace it with only the front part of the stock seat for a one man cruiser. Can you tell I love this bike!?!
It's now summer of 2015. Towards the end of the last riding seaon there was some odd clanging and clunking noises coming from various undetermined places. Figuring it'd be easy to diagnose and fix, figured I'd start by making it look good so I had the King detailed by the Manchester, NH Harley perform a complete detailing job. I was definitely impressed as it almost looked brand new.
Then I put it on the lift and started a full service as best as I can do as a non-mechanic: all fluids changed, including brake fluid and fork oil. Grease the head stock, replaced the plugs, cleaned an reoild the air filter. Will be getting a new tire this week so hopefully everything will be completely sorted out. More later...