Why a Harley?

It’s funny, but I never even thought of getting anything other than a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Well, that isn’t entirely true. I looked at some scooters, initially. Piaggio makes a three-wheeler that leans. It’s kinda cool. But, though they make a 400cc version, it isn’t sold in California, and I don’t like the idea of doing any real street driving with a 250cc bike of any kind. I looked at the big 600cc Honda Silver Wing scooter, too.

But, after a day or so, I wondered, “Why a scooter at all?” For the price of a Silver Wing, I could get a better motorcycle. And, really, the only advantage a scooter has is an automatic tranny.

But, when I test drove the spyder, working the 5-speed gearbox wasn’t any trouble. The most difficult thing about the Spyder, in fact, was the lack of a front brake handle, since the Spyder’s three disc brakes are all operated by the foot pedal. So, I kept grabbing for something on the handlebars that wasn’t there. But working those 5 gears to upshift or downshift came back to me in no time.

And the Silver Wing was almost $10,000. At the end of the day, why get a half motorcycle when for the same price, you can get a real one?

And that brought me to Harley, and the Sportster.

There’s just nothing like a Harley. No other motorcycle company has that…oh, I dunno. mystique. Prestige. Image. Whatever it is, only a Harley has it. And the price of a cruiser from Honda, or Yamaha was the same as–or more–than a Sportster.

I don’t know what it is, but riding a Harley just means something that riding another make doesn’t. There’s a…mythos to the damn things that you can’t escape.

So, I went to the local Harley dealership to start looking.

Getting Started

I really didn’t mean to start riding motorcycles. It was a complete accident.

A few weeks ago, I took a test ride on the new Can Am Spyder. It’s a cool, new high-tech three-wheeler that Bombardier is putting out under the Can Am brand. It has a Rotax 990cc V-Twin engine, 5-speed tranny, and a whole host of electronic monitoring gear that prevents you from overturning it, or having the back wheel slide away from you in a turn. Since California doesn’t require a motorcycle license to drive a trike, I went ahead and took a ride.

I rode if for over an hour, and it was fantastic. I took it on hilly roads, through city traffic, and even on I-15. It was a blast.

The trouble is, it costs $15,000, which is pretty pricey. And, apparently, the first year’s production run has already been more or less sold out. That kinda makes it hard to get one, even if I had the 15k.

But, that ride got me thinking.

You see, twenty years ago, when I was a young kid in the Air Force, I did ride motorcycles occasionally, borrowing them from friends. And when I was younger, we had a 185cc Honda ATV for a while.

Somehow though, I got away from riding. Probably from moving to Europe on assignment, where not to many people I knew even had a bike, unless you count little 100cc scooters. So, when I rode that Spyder, I thought to myself, why haven’t I done this for 20 years? Why have I been missing out on something this fun?

So, just out of curiosity, I went to the Harley-Davidson web site, to look at prices. And I saw that for a basic motorcycle, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

At work, I have a friend who drives a V-Star 1100, and he loves it. He drives it almost 10 months out of the year. And he does it not only because he loves to ride, but because the gas mileage is so good.

I have a new Ram 2500 with the Cummins Diesel engine. On the highway, it gets better than 20 miles per gallon. But with gas prices shooting up, and with me having a 30-mile drive to work every morning, it costs me about $200 a month to drive the truck. The initial reason for even going to look at the Spyder was that it just got a lot better gas mileage–about double that of my truck.

There are some drawbacks to having a motorcycle, the first of which is just getting a license to drive one. You have to go to the DMV and take two written tests in order to get a learners permit for a motorcycle. That allows you to drive during daylight hours, with no passengers, and no highway driving.

To get the full license, you either have to pass a DMV skills test, or you have to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, a passing grade on which allows you to waive the driving skills test, and get your full M1 drivers license.

I actually have thought about getting a ‘cycle over the last few years, but having to jump through all those hoops just seemed too inconvenient.

Bu, after riding that Spyder, the inconvenience just didn’t seem important any more. In fact I couldn’t wait to do it. I got my Learner’s permit, and I’m scheduled to take the MSF course on the 29th of June.

So, I started looking at bikes. At 43 years of age (Well, 44, really since my birthday is on the 28th), after not riding for 20 years, here I am wanting to ride again.