The Machines I Have Known

A Work in Progress

I thought it might be fun to catalog all of the motorcycles I have owned. So here goes– beginning in 1974, and my fourteenth birthday….

1970 Speedway Super Spyder

This was a 125cc dirt bike with 15″ wheels. They were built by a mini bike company in Florida [it was actually Ohio –JRB] and they spelled Spyder with a “Y” which made it even cooler. It was their top of the line Big Bike.

Like most things I got for my birthday, this one was broken. Dad and I put it together from a basket full of two motors. It hauled ass, but the Fitchell & Sachs motor had a habit of mis-shifting if you revved it too high.

1978 Kawasaki KZ650 SR
KZ650-SR in front of the Oklahoma capitol.

I traded a `74 Fiat 124 Spider for this bike (no “Y” so it had to go). Such a sweet ride. Damn reliable motorcycles and not bad to look at either. If you frequented the Bleu Grotto you most likely saw the SR parked out front.

1981 Kawasaki KZ750
Didn’t have this bike very long. Probably had something to do with Jackie burning her leg on the muffler. My bad.

1989 Kawasaki KDX200
Me and the KDX during a trail ride near Prattville, OK

After a long hiatus it became apparent I never got the “dirt bike thing” out of my system. I bought the KDX and returned to motorcycling circa 1997.

It was a great bike for rejuvenating those long dormant genes. Cheap and plentiful, and just new enough to have a power valve to soften that two-stroke powerband.

The KDX is a versatile trail bike and I’d recommend one to anyone wanting to go play in the dirt. Scratch that… I’d recommend one to anyone. Everybody needs a KDX or two.

1995 Kawasaki KLR650

This dual sport was my first street bike in about 15 years.

It was originally this bizarre turquoise color but I changed out the plastic for the earlier blue color. The anemic muffler was replaced with a Cobra can that sounded nice and weighed several pounds less.

KLRs are fun. The 650cc single is a huffer. I had fun exploring gravel roads and some dirt trails. Getting very “dirty” was not so much fun. It’s just a little too big and heavy and underpowered to go very far off-road.

But the worst part of the ride is getting to the trail. Three chains and two balance shafts later they still vibrate your dentures loose.

1996 Triumph 900 Sprint

The only brand new motorcycle I ever bought. Hell, it’s the only new vehicle of any kind I’ve ever bought. Picked it up brand new from Atlas in 1999 (yes, it was brand new but three years old). This was our return to a real street bike and we took some wonderful trips on it.

Jackie still curses me for selling the Sprint (or Trumpy as she calls it). Comfortable bike, good power, smooth and reliable. But what a doggone top-heavy sumbitch. When these early Triumphs are dropped it’s usually in a parking lot doing about 6 mph.

What it lacked around town it redeemed on the open road. These early Hinckley Triumphs are well-built and the Sprint is a fine sport-tourer. That soft luggage is made in New Zealand by a company called Ventura. That’s great stuff too.

1994 Kawasaki KX250

This was my last “dirt bike” and was modified for trail riding. It had an A-Loop flywheel and fatty pipe to make it less a motocrosser and more a woods bike. Very fun. Still very fast.

I raced a season of cross-country with the OCCRA boys and decided I was too old for bouncing off of trees. Had a lot of fun and, fortunately, never really got hurt. Knock on wood.

Bad puns aside- after I sold this I quit racing off-road and started learning how to ride observed trials.

And now for something completely different.

1989 Aprilia 280 Climber
The Climber (in the background of the photo below) introduced me to observed trials riding and that was a real eye opener.

These bikes worked great for Tommy Ahvala. Didn’t work as well for me. The Rotax had a habit of selecting gears on its own despite the rider’s suggestion. I rode it one season and decided I liked trials enough to get a more modern bike.

1997 Beta Techno

A proper trails machine.

The photo shows the Beta shortly after arriving from Portland, Oregon and the Climber preparing to leave for California. We kept the Forward Air truck line in business that month!

The Techno was a fun motorcycle. It was the uprated version with the 280cc mod and could yank stumps right out of the ground! Of all the Italian machinery I’ve owned the Betas have to be the best built. Very well made.

1989 Honda XL600V Transalp

My next street bike was a cult bike I’d long admired. This Transalp came up on eBay and I knew it was worth a shot when I read the location: Woodward, Oklahoma. Who the hell within 100 miles of Woodward ever even heard of a Transalp?!?

To this day the Transalp is one of the most popular Hondas in Europe. But they didn’t sell squat in the US. They were only sold in `89 and `90, long before the term “dual sport” was even coined. But it’s no surprise they didn’t sell here- much too practical a motorcycle for the American market.

I really enjoyed riding this bike. Around town it’s great. Smooth 600cc V-twin and great, neutral handling. But on the highway or two-up the twin starts to show its relative lack of ponies.

2003 Beta Rev 3

More fine Italian aluminum. An excellent machine and an absolute blast to ride.

The Techno was getting tired and saggy in the rear end (quiet in back, please) and all signs pointed to the monoshock. Instead of shelling out for a replacement I sent it off to teach another newbie rider and bought myself a Rev 3.

Unfortunately my back started giving me trouble and I wasn’t dedicated enough to keep risking serious injury. This was my last trials bike.

1995 BMW R1100GS
I was hanging out at Brookside Motorcycle Company one day and made the mistake of riding a GS. I loved it.

I picked this GS up on eBay with full bags and an Aeroflow windscreen. Thought I got a great deal. Turned out it wasn’t such a great deal after all. A persistent problem kept it from making any go after about 2/3 throttle. Otherwise it ran great!

We had a few good trips on it (Show Me Mo)– enough to convince me I really like the BMW thing. The GS is a versatile machine that easily handles the gravel roads and far off trails, and it’s comfortable enough to take you to them. Jackie found it comfortable and only wished it would dependably run right! I could never cure the running problem and it made long-distance touring a real headache. I sold it and…

2003 BMW R1150R

..that brings us to the latest beemer.

This is a sweet bike. I bought it from a fellow in New Mexico (road trip) with only 16k miles. It originally came from Dallas and has been well cared for (unlike the aforementioned BMW).

I wanted another GS but they demand a premium price. Hey, they’re an icon. For the price of a mid to late nineties GS we’re stylin’ on a 2003 R. And I like it.

The R is also able to get it’s feet a little dirty. With the right tires some people get downright “off road” with them. But most importantly it’s comfortable two-up and handles great. Highway cruising really is cruising with the motor ticking along less than 4000 RPM at 80 mph.

Update: August 2009

2005 BMW R1200GS
R1150R meets its replacement: R1200GS

Okay, I admit it. I’m a GS guy.

The R (see above) is a great bike. But if the road turns into gravel or Jackie and I want to do some serious miles, it’s not the best choice. I’m just a freak for versatility, and the GS is versatile. Tour all day, explore a gravel road, commute in heavy traffic, you name it and it does it all pretty darn well.

When I found this ‘`05 GS available for well below book I had to have a look. It’s a beauty, matches my helmet and is well farkled, so we made the trek across Missouri to buy it.

Update: December 2021

So, it’s been a while. I found myself riding less and less, and eventually sold the GS back in 2018. It’s still in the family and I see it around town occasionally. It was a great bike and served me well for many thousands of miles. The only real complaint I had was the odd design of the center stand. The early 1200 hexheads deviated from usual BMW convention and did not balance on the center stand. Compared to earlier models (and post 2007 when they corrected this flaw) the GS was difficult to raise up on the center stand. Or at least, it wasn’t effortless like most other BMWs. 

So, I honestly thought I was done with riding — then the pandemic happened. Then I retired. Then I bought a vintage Italian motorcycle.

1978 Moto Guzzi V50

This was sort of a “lockdown project” bike. Bought online and shipped up from Florida, this was my first foray into Italian street bikes. I had always admired these little Guzzis with their clamshell gas tank and colorful switchgear that was quite possibly designed by Fisher-Price. The V50 was intact and pretty original, so I planned to save it from the chop-shop bobber crowd. After a bit of twiddling I had it running pretty well and the first ride revealed the brakes were rather unwell.

The fun project turned serious one afternoon during a test ride along Avery Drive. Interesting scratching sounds emanated from below and eventually corresponded to lurching and coasting. The clutch disc had shelled out, trying to take the gearbox casing with it. If you’ve ever changed a clutch on a Moto Guzzi you probably just shed a little tear. My cosmetic restoration had become a full-on dismantling of the entire motorcycle. 

Eventually it was all sorted and the little Guzzi found a good home with a local collector. 

2011 Ducati 1200S Multistrada
A roadside stop on the Ducati Multistrada in Tulsa.

Not satisfied with the frustrations of a vintage Italian motorcycle, I had to buy a modern one! We got this from the dealer in Oklahoma City back in July 2021. It was originally sold in Austin and I’m the second owner. So far I’m smitten. The power and balance is mesmerizing, and it’s just a joy to carve through the twisties. It’s the first motorcycle I’ve ever owned that had a comfortable seat from the factory. 

Of course, with 30k miles it was due for some expensive service work. I’ve already plunged headlong into replacing the infamous timing belts, the desmodromic valvetrain service, a custom ECU tune and new chain & sprockets. What?!? No driveshaft? It’s quite a different beast compared to the GS. 

 

Alfa Romeo GTV during a trackside yoga session at Hallett
The End
(for now)
 

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