I’m one of those guys. I’ve owned more motorcycles than I have automobiles. I don’t know what it is exactly that I find so appealing about motorcycles. Perhaps it’s an outlaw thing, could be it’s a cowboy thing. You can’t deny that riding a motorcycle around is the closest thing we have today to getting around on horseback. Whatever the reason, I just love the feeling I get when I’m riding around on a motorcycle.
I got started on motorized two-wheelers when I was very young. It seemed almost every kid in my neighborhood in Arizona had a fat-wheeled mini-bike powered by a lawnmower engine, and many days of my childhood were spent scooting around in the desert on one of these contraptions. My first real motorcycle wasn’t much bigger, it was a Honda MB5 2-stroke with a 50cc engine.
As I grew older, my bikes got bigger and bigger. My next motorcycle was a little BMW 100 that I managed to wreck not long after I got it, but on my 16th birthday my father still gave me my first full-grown honest-to-goodness big-boy motorcycle. It was a 1981 Honda CB650, brown and copper with a luggage rack and a big windshield. He bought it from a guy named Sarge Patterson in Columbia, TN. It may have been the most influential and life-altering gift I’ve ever been given.
When I got my 650, I was in heaven. It was big, comfortable to ride and really cool. More importantly it had a large seat and plenty of power for me to carry a passenger, preferably of the female persuasion. I’ve had quite a few experiences with girls who like motorcycles and the boys who ride them in the days since then, but this was the bike that started it all.
It was not the largest motorcycle I’ve ever owned, and nowhere close to the fastest; but this bike put the desire to spend as much time behind the handlebars of a bike deep into my soul. It wasn’t the first bike I wrecked, but it was the first one I wrecked bad. It was built for comfort and not for speed, but still I used to tear wide-open around my neighborhood at the crack of dawn before everyone else got up and out on the roads. I had a couple of different courses plotted out through the subdivision, and I’m pretty sure my morning rides made all of the mostly-retirement age population of our neighborhood hate my guts.
One morning I was going for a new speed-record on the longest course I ran through the neighborhood. As I set up for a wide S-curve that I had never taken above 60mph, I checked the speedometer and saw that I was doing just below 65mph. Then I rounded the first curve of the S-turn, and to my complete surprise I saw a flatbed pickup towing a trailer loaded with a lawnmower and landscaping equipment. Someone was getting an early start on his grass-mowing contracts and was right in the middle of my driving line, headed straight for me. How rude.
Discretion told me that I’d stand a better chance of surviving the ditch than a head-on collision, so I laid the bike down and settled in for a painful new experience. I might have made it through the ditch relatively unscathed; it was very wide and not too deep, with gentle sloping banks on each side. Unfortunately, there was a culvert for a driveway directly in my path and I hit it dead-center. I flew up and over the handlebars, breaking one rib and bruising several others in the process. After I travelled about 25 feet through the air, I landed head-first on the pavement behind the pickup truck. All I can say is, thank God for the helmet laws in Tennessee.
After the wreck and a painful summer recovering from my injuries; I was still slightly mummified in appearance on the first day of a new school year, road-rash sure takes a long time to heal. I learned the mantra of bad-boys everywhere–“Bones knit, wounds heal, and chicks dig scars”. I’ve learned the truth of these profound words. I’ve also learned to never take a blind curve so fast that I won’t be able to stay in my lane.
I’ve owned bigger and faster motorcycles than that old Honda in the past couple of decades, but none that taught me as many valuable life-lessons. I can honestly say that my adult life began on the back of a Honda CB650, or at least it began as I was abruptly leaving the back of one.