I began recording my thoughts and impressions after I purchased my motorcycle in April of 2013, but the journey began almost two years before then. Or maybe it began decades ago and was placed on hold. Either way, in July of 2011, it began.
Every year, I go to Otakon with my kids. It is a large anime convention and convention-goers dress in colorful costumes from their favorite shows or movies. The dealer room has lots of anime and anime related products, and some of the video retailers have grab bags. In the grab back I got was a season one set of the anime, ‘Ah, My Goddess.’ The anime is a comedy and was fun to watch with my kids, but it is in watching this anime that the dream of motorcycling took hold. The main character, Keiichi Morisato rides a BMW motorcycle with a sidecar. As I watched the video, I realized that a motorcycle would be well suited to the majority of my travels. The sidecar was particularly appealing, but for the most part, not needed.
From this day, I began my research into the practicality of motorcycling. I started off looking at a Suzuki Boulevard S40. My search expanded to the Harley Davidson Sportster 883 and the Honda Shadow 750. I was trying to stay under a litre. I voraciously read motorcycle reviews and began buying magazines to read up on the various bikes. I was relatively unfamiliar with motorcycles, but I was very familiar with cars and their specs, having worked in automotive parts and service for years and having been a regular reader of Car & Driver and Motor Trend. I knew the kind of information that I was after and it didn’t take me long to find it.
After much reading and research, I took the next step and obtained a Motorcycle learners permit in September. I began visiting dealerships and actually sitting on the bikes and questioning the salesmen. It surprised me at how few dealerships remained in Montgomery County, as remembered at least seven in the area that had been around for years but were now gone. Cycles USA, which had been on Georgia Avenue ever since I was a child was gone. Wheaton Yamaha, where I had looked at a Virago when I was eighteen, was gone. There were others that I remembered, all of which had simply vanished. But one that hadn’t vanished was Rockville Harley Davidson, though they had moved to the Airpark and changed their name to Battley Cycles. They were also a Yamaha, BMW, and Ducati dealer. Of all of the dealerships that I visited, they were absolutely, far and away the most helpful and the most welcoming. They were also the least pushy.
Around this time, I also began dating a lady with whom I had been friends for several years. Her name was Carina, and she was a motorcyclist, though at the time, she was between bikes. I ran a lot of bike choices by her and asked her a lot of questions, which she very patiently answered. Most importantly, though, she was incredibly supportive of my decision to ride. Though we no longer are dating, we have remained friends and she continued to be encouraging and supportive. I ultimately have her to thank, as I’m not sure I would have followed through without her encouragement. I had other good friends who were also very supportive as well and who frequently would engage me in conversation about how my search was going. By April of 2012, I took the Harley Davidson Rider’s Edge class at Frederick Harley Davidson. I learned on a Buell Blast, a 440cc sporty standard bike. The course was about six hours a day for three days and it was, like the name of the bike, a blast! As a child and as a teen, I was an avid cyclist and had raced BMX bicycles for several years. I had ridden mopeds and minibikes as well, and have continued to cycle ever since then. These experiences all came back to me when riding that little Buell. The last day was the test and I passed. With a total of about twelve hours of riding under my belt, I went to MVA and turned in my paperwork and was presented with my M class endorsement.
It would be another year before I would buy a bike. I continued to research and now, go out and ride the bikes that I was interested in. Unfortunately, most of the dealers won’t let you test ride the bikes. The exceptions? All Harley Davidson dealers. I test rode several bikes and concluded that unless I got one with forward controls, a Sporster would be too small. The Suzuki Boulevard S40 was actually much smaller than the Sportster in spite of having the same wheelbase. This is because it has a much greater rake angle to the forks, which makes it resemble a mini-Wide Glide. The comparison tests I was reading were consistently putting Harleys ahead of most of their competition as well, particularly in the areas that interested me, speed not being among them. By this point, the other bike that had drawn my interest was the Kawasaki Vulcan 900, but without being able to ride one first, buying it wasn’t happening. Also, I was trying to stick with an air cooled engine for simplicity’s sake.
By the end of 2012, I was in a new relationship and thankfully, with another lady named Lynda who was very encouraging of my intent to ride. We went to the bike show in January with my younger son and I got to at least sit on a good number of bikes. At this point, I was coming to the conclusion that I would need a larger bike due to my height. At 6’4” with a 36” inseam, many of the bikes that initially interested me as a new rider were simply too small for me to comfortably ride. By April of 2012, I still hadn’t found a bike and had ridden less than a full hour since taking the class. But that changed on April 19th.
On April 19th, I looked at a used 1996 Harley Davidson FXD Super Glide at Battley Cycles. Sam Yang, the salesman who had been patiently answering my questions for over a year, had informed me of this bike. It was in near mint condition. It looked almost like it had just rolled out of the factory. Only the faded leather bags gave away that it wasn’t brand new. The test drive was my first ride in several months, but I was immediately comfortable on the bike. I was initially concerned that a 1340cc engine would be too much, but its power delivery was very well modulated. It never gave too much and power built slowly and progressively. Handling was very predictable and the ride was nicer than any of the Sportsters. It had a windshield, saddle bags and a tool bag. I went back on Saturday to finalize the purchase. It was at this point that I began regularly keeping my riding journal.
Rock hard, ride free!
Rock hard, ride free!