Monday, March 8, 2010

The Perfect Garage

One of my friend Paul’s favorite stories from Cycle Guide was “The Perfect Garage.” In it, CG editors each picked three bikes to fulfill all of their two-wheeled desires—street, dirt, track, in any combination. That story ran before I joined the magazine, so since I’m grounded for a few days I thought I’d turn in my entry now, only about 25 years late.

Honda GL1800 Gold Wing

I first rode a GL1800 in 2000, when Rider shipped me a bright yellow pre-production unit for a long-term write-up. I was appalled by its outlandish bulk and the sheer amount of natural resources required to build something that large and complicated, and at the same time hopelessly smitten by how well it worked not only as a tourer but as an all-around motorcycle, and by the way it seemed magically to shed 300 pounds as soon at it got rolling.

I put 4,000 miles on the Yellow Submarine and loved every one of them. But the relationship was doomed from the start, since all pre-pros eventually met the same fate—the crusher.

One of the Wing’s many functions was the “opening ceremony,” which was two or three screens of text that appeared on the LCD screen in the dashboard when you turned the ignition on. The default message was “Welcome to Gold Wing” or something like that.

One day I discovered the text was programmable through a complicated series of button pushes, so I added my own message. I really wish I could have been there to see the face of the tech who took the Sub for its final ride to the jaws of destruction as he turned the key and read, “PLEASE DONT CRUSH ME.”

Honda Interceptor

I have only a few miles on a VFR, in this case one belonging to Paul’s wife, Ess, but that was enough to make me want more. After years of reading how well-balanced and competent the bike is, I’ve always wanted to find out for myself. When Honda came out with the anniversary color scheme on the Interceptor, I came that close to buying one. Last year, when Honda announced it was blowing the few unsold Interceptors it had left out the door at a killer price, I came even closer.

Two things held me back. Money, of course, was the big one. The other was VTEC, about which I’d heard enough mixed reviews to make me hesitate. So I passed on a VFR, which I’ll likely regret more and more as time goes by. But since we’re talking hypothetical here, we’ll just go ahead and park one of these right next to the GL1800 I can’t afford, either.

Yamaha SR500

Shortly after I moved to Southern California, I got a call from a friend back in the Bay Area. He’d been in a BMW shop and had seen a mint SR500 sitting in the corner of the showroom like an unwelcome guest at a fancy party. The shop had taken it in on trade in exchange for a box of parts someone needed to restore an old BMW. About the same time, my father offered to give me his 1969 Ford F250 pickup if I came and got it. So I booked a flight to San Jose, met my dad in the airport parking lot where he handed over the keys to the Ford, and drove straight to the BMW shop, where for $750 I became the owner of an SR500.

It was a matter of right bike, wrong place. The SR500 was a lot of things, but a fun ride in heavy commute traffic on the 91 freeway wasn’t one of them. I was living in Lakewood, California, at the time, about a tank of gas away from any road that might be even slightly entertaining on a big single. Still, despite it being already well behind the technical curve the year it was introduced, I loved the little thumper dearly, and rode it every chance I got.

Then another love entered my life—a 1982 CBX that a friend who worked at Honda’s old Gardena HQ had spotted in the back of a warehouse. It was a retired test bike/Honda-rep loaner/service-school cadaver that had been ridden hard, put away wet, and finally taken apart and put back together so many times that everyone got sick of looking at it. But it was a CBX, the legendary six, and that’s all I needed to hear.

I paid $2,200 for it and brought it home to my tiny garage, which already held the SR500 and a Honda CB400F. There was literally not enough room for all three bikes; one had to go, and it was with genuine regret that I sold the slender Yamaha to make room for the double-wide CBX. Odds are I’ll never find another SR as nice at a decent price, but in my Perfect Garage I already have one, right next to the GL and the Interceptor.

That’s my Perfect Garage. What’s yours? Post it to the comments section.


Anonymous said...

Great topic! I'd have to go with the RC30 that I could never afford, a VF1000r with Yosh pipes (because I have never forgotten the two fun filled hours I spent on one), the 1988 Hawk GT that I sold.......stop me - I could keep going!

YamaBice said...

My garage is almost The Perfect Garage because it's filled with Yamahas. 1975 RD350B (my first bike purchased in 1976), 1986 SRX600S (trumps the SR500 in coolness), 1997 YSR50T (pocket rocket), 1992 TZR250R (the last great sporting 250 two-stroke), 2004 TT-R125E (converted to dual sport for terrorizing the neighborhood). I only wish I had a YZF-R7 to complete the perfection.

Anonymous said...

I'll go with the following:

Street - Triumph Speed Triple (because I own one)

Dirt - This is a tough choice, but a new Yamaha WR450R should be sufficient.

Track - Yamaha R1, MotoCzysz C1, or Ducati Desmosedici RR.

Farmee said...

Cool choices, although I can't imagine having three bikes without one being a dual sport. Maybe a DR-Z, WR, or KLR.

Anonymous said...

We must be long lost cousins. I've owned a Gold Wing, and will own another one. My opening ceremony will read "Vertical Operation only." I do have nestled in the garage a 2000 VFR800, complete with gear driven cams, that I purchased from a great friend whose first entry into motorcycling was acquiring, and rebuilding, an SR500. So, for me, it's the Wing, the VFR, a KLR650 for occasional "off asphalt," use, and my nostalgia stick will point to a Hodaka 125 Wombat. My first "new," motorcycle.