I HAVE A PROBLEM
It's not a bad problem, per se. Other people have worse problems. Drugs. Disease. Poverty.
Some of you have fungus...
Look, I'm not here to judge. My problem is of a different sort. I can't seem to find the right motorcycle for myself. And yeah, I can hear you snort at me, through the internet. And no, you're not wrong for doing it. I definitely have some self-loathing on the subject matter myself.
But hear me out. I've been riding since 2015, when I took a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Class at the behest of a dear friend. I've been in love with it ever since. But not in love with my motorcycle choices. Until this year. Until now that is.
But before we get into that, let's talk about the first four motorcycles that came and went through my hands.
1977 Honda CB750
I found out about this little piece of history from a friend of a friend. He owned his own shop that he was in the process of selling off. Since I was new to the whole motorcycle thang, I didn't really know what I was aiming for. I only knew of two kinds of motorcycles at the time. Sports bikes and cruisers.
I liked the look of this one though. Classic. Vintage. Upright. Unlike anything else I'd seen before. This kind of thinking would eventually lead to my current bike.
I learned to ride on a 250cc Honda Rebel. A tiny piece of garbage, though it did it's job, I suppose (I'll give you this, Honda, the 2017+ models are sweet). And now I had a 750cc beast that was old and heavy to boot. I did the bulk of my actual learning on this guy. However, I knew that I'd want to take a long trip, come summer time. And I trusted this rusty pile of steel about as far as I could push it. Which I had to do a few times cause I didn't know friction zones were different from bike to bike and kept stalling out. In any case, I decided to get something more comfortable and reliable, and settled on something shinny and blue.
2000 Suzuki Marauder
Now this was a completely different riding situation all together. A mid level 800cc Japanese cruiser, ripped off directly from the Harley catalog. I loved it though. It was light. It was zippy. Sounded great. It was comfortable. Loved everything about it. Except for the paint job. I mean you be the judge. A little dated.
Ok, so maybe I was a cruiser guy? I still had no idea. But around this time I started to really get into the Cafe Racer craze. Something about the shape of those things. Again, vintage. Retro. Classic. The whole thing just spoke to me. I started to go deeper into the history of motorcycles.
2002 Suzuki SV650s
In the mean time, yet another bike landed in my lap, so to speak. My boss's neighbor was selling her kid's naked sports bike. Cheap.
Cause it wouldn't start.
My friend and I picked it up, got it restored and just like that, I was a sports bike guy all of a sudden? Now I had two and no place to put them. Mo bikes mo problems, as they say (Editor note: no one says that).
The real issue, as I looked at it, was that I liked the comfort and long range capabilities of a cruiser, and the speed and looks of the sports bike. If only they made a motorcycle that could combine those two aspects, and also have an awesome vintage look to it.
2015 Yamaha Bolt C-Spec
Come spring 2017, I finally found what I was looking for. Or so I thought. I sold both Suzuki bikes in favor of a brand new Yamaha Bolt C-Spec (stands for Cafe). Yamaha wanted to jump on the Modern Classic bandwagon by taking their very successful cruiser, the Bolt, and modifying it for the Cafe Racer crowd. It didn't quite work. Having ridden it for a year, I now understand why.
It is a beautiful machine with some great qualities. But ultimately, when you remove the cowl seat, the fork gaiters and the clip-ons, it becomes very apparent that it's still very much a cruiser underneath. That's not a bad thing. It's just a little too big and a little too heavy to be a true Cafe Racer.
Yamaha knows what it has. It just needs to stop trying to cram all of these fads onto a platform that can't support them. The Bolt is great at being a cruiser, not a Cafe Racer or a Scrambler. Take your time to perfect that. Make it better. Not change it.
My own gripes with the C-Spec are minor. But they were really put into perspective when I attended the International Motorcycle Show in Chicago this past winter. I bobbed and weaved through all sorts of great rides, dragging my poor girlfriend behind me as I pushed my way through the crowds. There I sat on two wonderful machines.
One, the BMW R-NineT Racer, was a gorgeous sports bike, styled in an aggressively retro manner. I'll tell you this, with 110% honesty, if I had a garage that could hold two bikes, it would be there right now as my #2 ride. Why #2? Because the riding position is just way too punishing. You're basically laying on the tank the entire time, and for someone of my height, it's not exactly ideal. I think my spine snapped in half just looking at it. That's why the other motorcycle that I sat on... well. You know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
2017 Triumph Street Cup
That's right. I found myself at the Triumph section of the Motorcycle Show. And wouldn't you know it, style met comfort met substance for me. It was just the right size. Just the right color. Just the right weight. Everything about it spoke to me. I felt like I was finally there, five bikes later.
Dual clocks. Anti-lock brakes. Traction control. Fuel gauge. USB & SAE connectors. Liquid cooled. Chain driven. Stunning in appearance...
Phew... Lost my breath for a second.
And Triumph. What can you say about this company? It has pedigree. After all, it's older than Harley Davidson. It leads the pack in Modern Classics. Steve McQueen rode one. I mean that alone, right?
And now. Now I sit here, typing this, slowly running out of words and hoping that I'm finally done looking. Yeah. I think I'm done. What a machine...
... that R Nine T Racer though.