A tale of 2 wheels…

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650 cc Kawasaki Vulcan S on the LEFT and Honda CB1000r on the RIGHT………..

I bought my first motorcycle when I lived in Taipei back in 1995. It was a 125cc  Taiwanese made Sanyang, with 4 speeds. I had no training and no one told me how to ride, I just rode out into the chaotic traffic endemic to Taipei and figured it out.

I almost died every. single. day. No traffic rules in Taiwan back in 1995, and hundreds of scooters, motorcycles and crazy taxi drivers at every intersection!

When I came back to the states after in Taiwan I found an old rusty 1978 Honda Hawk with a 400 cc engine and rode that bike from the 1990’s until about 2015, when I sold it on Craigslist. I was always impressed with the reliability of that bike, when I sold it the damn thing was 37 years old and still burst to life with 2 or 3 kicks on the crank.

Honda really knows how to engineer a motorcycle.

They don’t make motorcycles with kick-starters anymore. If you lose battery power those kick-starters will get you home without changing out the battery.

Fast forward to January of 2018. I had just finalized my divorce, college was already funded for both my daughters… so I decided to purchase a Honda CB1000r. The CB has a liter engine, with a close ratio six-speed shift. It revs to 14,000 rpm and goes like a scalded cat. When I’m merging onto the freeway it’ll be at 125 mph by the end of the ramp and 145 mph very soon after.

Any motorcycle with a 1,000 cc engine is too fast for a beginner. In the first few months of ownership I was very careful about learning how the Honda handled and how it felt on the road. An engine that powerful demands respect, an inexperienced rider would be dead in a month on a machine that fast.

I’m also a full gear type of rider:  helmet, boots, ballistic jacket, gloves… I even have a pair of riding pants lined with Kevlar! I recently saw a guy pulling wheelies on the freeway on a sportbike… he had a t-shirt and jeans on, no helmet. That dude is gone as soon as he goes off that bike at 80 mph.

Below: CB1000r….  gotta love that one sided swingarm set up on the rear wheel!

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This past summer I got a little blue (250 cc) Yamaha for my daughter Grace:

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Grace drove her Yamaha around the neighborhood, then took the local motorcycle safety course and earned her motorcycle endorsement…  On our first long distance ride Grace ran her Yamaha off a country road and high-sided in some grass. She was OK, but that experience shook her up so much she did not want to ride again.

Grace was wearing full gear when she flew off her Yamaha, so she walked away from the accident with only minor scrapes and bruises, thank God!

Riding motorcycles is dangerous, especially for first timers, but I learned how to ride when I was 21 years old, in crazy Taipei traffic, so I figured Grace would be ok if she had a slow bike, took the safety course and wore full gear. Guess I was wrong.

An old saying among riders:  there are 2 types of bikers; those who’ve crashed and those who are gonna crash!

I wiped out on my Sanyang on the streets of Taipei a bunch of times, then later on my 1978 Honda here in the USA. These were minor crashes that taught me major lessons. I’m a safer rider now because of all that road experience going back 24 years.

I fixed the broken parts from Grace’s crash and my girlfriend started to learn how to ride the Yamaha. The bike has a low seat height, it shifts easy and the 250 cc engine is pretty easy to manage, so that type of bike is easy for a new rider, especially one smaller in stature. The smaller engine equates to lighter motorcycle as well.

I would recommend that all new riders learn on a lighter and slower motorcycle.

This past week I was selling solar to a client and she showed me a 650 cc Kawasaki Vulcan in her garage. It only had 120 miles on the odometer (never been dropped) and she could no longer ride it due to her bad back. She was asking $4,000 for it, and when I looked up the same bike for sale on they were all selling for $6,000 to $7,000 new…

I had made a decent commission off that solar sale, but I already had 2 bikes……

My girlfriend bought the little Yamaha, so I used that money towards the Vulcan.

Love my new Vulcan, it has a low seat height, is nicely balanced, has a smooth shift and ride, and plenty of power from zero to 100 mph. I’m going to hold onto both bikes for a long time.

2 motorcycles is kinda excessive, but both are paid off, and the registration fees are only a few bucks each year. Some people are into boats or old cars, I figure that my motorcycle habit is not as expensive and takes up less space around my house.

Ben Alexander

11/24/2019

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