~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Silver Smoke Fountain of Youth

1974 BMW R90S in factory style "Silver Smoke"

on the road, 1974

You guys that pay attention to my ramblings might recall I bought an R90S new in late '73 when they first came out.  House of Yamaha / BMW in Santa Monica, CA got in two of them, I bought one and Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers comedy duo bought the other.  I was 22 years old, had a decent job working for UniFilter, and good credit.  22 years old living in So. California just about 10 miles from Mulholland Dr. and the Rock Store, and a new BMW R90S under me, was a sweet moment in life.  The bike left eventually, as they tend to do in my life, but the fascination with the machine never died. I have a model of it, I have all the major magazine articles, I have the original sales brochure the dealer gave me in '73, and I have a lot of great memories.



After the Gold Wing left I got it into my head that I should get another R90S, recapture a bit of my youth and enjoy owning a truly classic BMW.   Wonder of wonders I spotted one on Phoenix Craig's List a week or so after I started looking.  What were the odds?  They didn't build vast numbers of the 90S and 40 years on they don't just turn up in your town every week.  They are around, some very nice ones, too, but usually far away.  

So I went to look at the 90S in Phoenix. The price was too high, the bike needed some stuff, and the owner did not seem real flexible.  My gut told me to walk away so I did but not without some regret.  One fellow on the R90S group on Facebook commented after I related that story "In two more years it will cost you twice as much." He may be right.   R90S values are climbing and pristine examples or museum quality restorations are bumping $20k.

So yesterday out of the blue I get an e-mail from the seller offering to lop $1000 off his asking price. I did the logical thing and wrote him back offering $500 less than that. We settled on $1250 off his original asking price. I met up with my buddy David and we went up to get the bike and I rode it home last night.

Then:
late 1973.  Life was good even if I wasn't smiling
Today:
2014.  Life is still good, maybe a lot better.
I think the R90S has held up better than I have. I could use some fresh paint and an overhaul but will have to rely solely on my charm to get me by.

The R90S cockpit, complete with quartz clock, was a revolution in 1974
This bike looks better in the pics than in person, it does have some cosmetic issues and some mechanical faults but nothing major. New shocks first, the ones on it are flat. The forks are off a later model and need to be changed out to be correct.  The odometer is kaput and that will be a little more problematic to resolve, I think.  Near as I can tell the bike has about 50k on it so the motor should be good for a while.   It rides very nice, I have no complaints, so I can wander around on it while I sort out the mechanical and cosmetic issues over time. The paint is near new and is very nice, not quite "correct" but close enough. The previous owner didn't have it pinstriped so that's on my list; the bike should have some simple gold pinstriping.




Riding it home last night in the dark I had a lot of thoughts running through my head. I was making a mental list of the stuff that would need to be addressed even as I recalled riding my original 90S to Canada from SoCal in '74, to Colorado in '75, and doing 922 miles of twisting roads one Saturday in an old event called the California 1000.  I have lots of history with the 90S and racked up a lot of little stories. The bike means something to me, it's not just another bike like so many I've own.

I'm not clear how much I'll ride it, the riding position is still young and I am not, but I think the riding I do should be thoroughly enjoyable. I have no quibbles with the functions of the bike, some things are obviously 40 years old but nothing about it comes up short enough to spoil my fun.  The adventure continues...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The 10th Anniversary of 40on2

Gold Wing Sunset

Ten years ago today Forty Years On Two Wheels sprung to life from the flotsam and jetsam of motorcycle stories and thoughts rattling around in my head.   Something past 400 blog entries have been made, some of them good, and there are a handful of which I'm really proud.  I only rarely used anything but my own writing and photos; for good or ill I want the blog to be a reflection of who I am as a motorcycle enthusiast.

I am in my in my 48th year of riding and I confess that I'm getting a little burned out.  During the past several years bikes have come and gone from my garage, I believe in part because I thought another bike might buy me some new enthusiasm.   Out of that parade-of-bikes-through-my-garage situation I have discovered, as my friend Simon, over in the UK, wrote about himself at one point "Somewhere along the way I went from enthusiastic motorcyclist to motorcycle enthusiast."  I love nearly all things motorcycle, riding is only a part of that.  Simon stopped riding for a few years after a bad crash and shifted his focus to photography of bikes but he's been back for a year or three now, first on Triumph and now on one of those new Honda 750's with the dual clutch transmission.  Bike fever might go into remission but you're never really over it.

For what it's worth, I sold the Gold Wing a couple of weeks ago.  It seemed like the time to do that as the bike was sitting too much, only accumulating an additional 3000 miles in the eleven months I owned it.  My timing must have been right in deciding to sell the Wing because after only a week on Craig's List only one guy contacted me, came to look at it, brought a fat envelope of $100 bills, and rode the Wing away.

What's next for for me bike-wise after 48 years, and for Forty Years On Two Wheels after 10 years?  I dunno.  No rush.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Art, Individualism, Or Just Stupid?



I spend too much time on-line but at least a lot of it is spent on motorcycle sites.  As I look at what's being done in the custom world these days with so-called bobbers, rat bikes, or even cafe bikes,  I get the feeling that a lot of what's being feted out there in publications and custom bike blogs was never intended to be ridden, or not ridden any further than from its trailer to the bike show floor.  

Going way back to the '60s and '70s customized bikes started getting stupid with suspended frames swapped for hard tails, mile high sissy bars, and forks extended to the point that a bike couldn't make a continuous u-turn on a two lane road.   Giant ape hanger bars?  Look cool?  To a few.  To others it just looks stupid, like an accident waiting to happen.   

Yes, yes, I can hear people saying "Hey, it's their bike, they can do what they want with it!" To that I would agree, everyone has a right to self-expression and no one has the right to tell another person how to express themselves; I understand that.  I also understand that I have the right to call stupid impracticality what it is.  What people do in the privacy of their own garage is their business, how they parade around in public makes them fair game for criticism, if not laughter.

Seriously?  One slip and you're gelded.
That over done Wing above is no worse, nor less lacking in art, than some of the "customs" and "bobbers" that I'm seeing around the 'net.  Huge, impractical Firestone balloon front tires that would play havoc with steering, little tiny thin seats at steep angles that would give you hemorrhoids in 30 miles, are stupid.  They are not even esthetically pleasing to anyone with a genuine sense of taste and function born of experience.  I can understand a bike as art but I don't have much sympathy for bikes-as-art that are barely rideable or even unsafe.  A bike that doesn't work well has little meaning to me.  A motorcycle should still have some reasonable practicality and function left in it and not torture the rider or be outright dangerous to ride.

Same goes for the current fad in helmets.  Somehow, now to be cool you need to get some crappy old helmet from 1967, re-do the liner, and wear it, preferably with two days growth of beard on your angst ridden face, and also a flannel t-shirt, and low top sneakers or lace up Red Wing work boots.  Don't forget to have a pack of unfiltered cigarettes in your pocket, too.   I hate that look.  It's an affectation, a copying of motorcycle world past that never quite existed as it's imagined now.   It's not much different than dressing up as a character from a science fiction movie. Think of is as motorcycle cosplay.  Bikes and bike clothing moved on and riders got smart and moved on from the old days.   Helmets evolved for practical reasons like...oh...safety.  Wearing an old, refurb'd  helmet is stupid.   Want to ride in low top sneakers?  Your choice, but also stupid (If you're doing it because you have no money for boots, fine, try the Salvation Army thrift store).  If you're wearing your sneakers, battered metalflake helmet, jeans with rolled cuffs, and a flannel shirt so you like like some imaginary rider from the 1950s or 60s, you're just a hipster motorcycle poser and look stupid.
Having strip mined biker culture, HD moves on to hipsters.

Years ago I wrote a piece about the gawdawful Icon Skull jacket.  I didn't think motorcycle apparel could sink lower than that ridiculous piece but it has.  Barbour International, formerly an actual motorcycle clothing company of renown, has brought out a fake Steve McQueen jacket or several of them.  So what's the big deal?  We all like to think we might look just a little like the King of Cool if we just had the right gear, were handsome, and immensely talented.  

Barbour International has over 100 years in the rugged apparel business including motorcycle jackets
and they've drawn own their illustrious history to being you the Babour Steve McQueen MacGrain jacket (MacGrain?).   To help you look cool, to look just a little more like Steve, the jacket comes with fake rubber mud applied to it.  Yes, fake mud.  How desperate for an identity do you have to be to wear a jacket with fake mud on it when it's not Halloween?  I'm pretty sure any mud on McQueen's jackets got there honestly.   I don't believe in ghosts but if I did I'd be hoping McQueen would come back and haunt every moron that buys that joke of a jacket.  At the least, decent motorcyclists everywhere should laugh out loud at anyone they see wearing it, especially since the owner paid $835 for it.

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence



An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison