Safety First

I learned about another mod this weekend that I really need. For about $54, you can get a module for the Sportster that will change the rear turn signals into a running lights/brake lights/turn signal combo. That should provide a little extra visibility, just like the three headlight auxiliary lighting combo does for the front.

More visibility = Good Thing.

The Kearny Mesa store for San Diego Harley didn’t have them in stock, but fortunately the Downtown store did, so they said they’d fetch the module today, and add it to the work order for my bike.

Ah, my bike. Seven more days, not counting today.

I Must be a Bad Influence

I mentioned my friend at work with the V-Star 1100 hundred. Well, he doesn’t have it any more.

When I pulled up to work this morning, in his parking space was a brand new, shiny Midnight Venture 1300 touring bike. It’s got everything. Am/FM stereo, cassette player, cruise control, the whole nine yards. So, while I was buying my motorcycle this weekend, he was, too. Apparently, he went in to find some peg clamps to mount road pegs on his engine guards. Instead of getting them, he got a new motorcycle instead.

He says all my talk about getting a new motorcycle must’ve influenced him. He also said that, as soon as I pick up my bike, I have to drive it over to Oceanside so he can see it.

I think he’s looking for a riding partner. As it happens, so am I.

Making Mommy Unhappy

My mother hates the very idea of me getting on a motorcycle. I talked to her on the phone the other day and when I mentioned it, she told me she didn’t want to hear anything more about it. She just wants to pretend that motorcycles don’t exist.

The thing is, I’m picking up the bike on 2 July, the day after I graduate from the MSF course and get my full M1 license. I’m also taking 2-4 July off work, basically so I can take some rides in the low-traffic roads around my house, and get used to riding.

If I feel good about my skills, I’m gonna start commuting on Thursday the 5th. We’ll see.

Now, my grandmother is still alive, and lives with my mother, and she is having her…I dunno…89th or 90th birthday on Saturday, the 7th of July. And if I do feel good about my abilities, a ride to my mom’s house would be great. Even though she lives right off Interstate 215, I can pretty much take the old, sparsely-traveled 395 highway to Temecula, which is a very nice ride, and goes through part of a national forest, then take the desert roads that parallel the 215 north up to my mother’s house in Wildomar.

On the other hand, my mother will have a cow if she hears the Harley snarl, and sees me show up at the door in riding gear.

Maybe it shows a lack of respect for her fears and feelings, but I’d really like to do it anyway.

I’m not a Biker…But I am a Harley Owner

I went into the Kearny Mesa store of San Diego Harley this afternoon, and actually signed the papers on my XL 1200C. It’s in the Service dept now, so they can put all the extra goodies I bought on it.

San Diego Harley wasn’t my first choice. I actually have a much closer dealership a couple of minutes from my house. But, when I went in there last Sunday, they let me wander around for about 25 minutes or so without asking if I wanted any help.

One guy did ask if I needed help, and when I told him what I was looking for, he sent me over to the Sportsters and told me he’d be right with me…and disappeared. I finally had to go grab another salesguy. The funny thing is, while I was waiting, I overheard a sales guy complaining that business was slowing down.

OK, well, here’s a clue: If business is slowing down, letting a customer wander about for a half hour with no help isn’t gonna make it pick up, ass.

About the only thing that was good about that trip to that dealer–who I will not even name–was that the sales guy did sort of explain to me why I should probably go with the 1200cc version rather than the 883cc version of the Sporty.

But, I decided that, overall, with the lack of service and the attitude of the people there, I just didn’t want to give them my business.

San Diego Harley-Davidson was like night and day, though. What a fantastic dealer experience! Everybody there was as helpful and friendly as can be. They had exactly the Cobalt Blue Pearl bike—with Pacific Blue Pearl pin striping—that I wanted. 45 minutes after I walked in, they were taking my picture with the bike as its new owner! They even waived the $500 for dealer prep. The bike looks pretty much like the one on the right.

My bike has some things the picture doesn’t. The picture isn’t the actual bike, it’s one from the Harley web site’s customizer feature. My bike also has the triple headlight auxiliary lighting package and chrome engine guards. The color and everything else are close, though.

Affordability was still a question. I’ve got a good job, but I’m not rich, so I really wanted to work out the numbers.

For the last several years, I’ve been paying off an old credit card debt. I’ve been paying $200 a month for a long time. But, the balance is close enough to zero that I can just pay it off. So, there’s $200 a month. Then there’s the gas savings. Right now, I’m shelling out $200 a month in diesel for my truck. I figure that going from an average of 17MPG in the truck to $50 MPG for a ‘cycle will bring the gas down to about 60-80 a month.

So, that clears out about $310-$330 a month.

With that, assume $250 a month for a motorcycle, and another $60 a month for insurance, and I’m back up to $310 a month. As I do the math, that makes it come out just about a wash financially, with what I’ve been paying every month up to now.

A regular 1200C doesn’t cost all that much. It would be way below my $250 a month budget for the cycle payment, anyway. With my budget, I was able to trick out the bike with the big bucket seat, chrome engine guards, sissy bar, touring backrest, triple headlights, chrome luggage rack, etc. Total cost was slightly north of $14,000, and the monthly payment came out to $253.

I was very happy with the purchase, and I pick up the bike next Monday.

Well, I thought I was done, once I had bought the bike.

Still needed some riding gear though. So, I was in the accessories store, getting ready to shell out $275 on a new helmet and $50 for gloves, when my salesman, TC, walked up to me with a gift card for $2,126.48! Because of all the extra parts I bought with the bike, they comped the price of parts in a gift card.

I have no earthly idea how they can afford to comp me all that gear for the parts, but it was just great. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I bought the deluxe leather chaps, one nylon and one leather jacket—both with body armor—boots, helmet, leather vest, some stuff for my chick, and more. I’ve never had a shopping spree like that in my life. I burned every cent of that two grand, but I’ve got just about every piece of riding gear I could possibly want.

I can’t wait until 2 July to pick up my Sporty! Until then, I’ve got all the riding gear…and nothing to ride.

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.


Most of you don’t know me yet. Some of you do, because I blog on politics at a fairly well-known libertarian blog, and you might recognize my name. That’s all I’m gonna say about the other blog. If you’re interested, you can Google my name, and it’ll be easy to find other stuff I’ve written.

But this isn’t about politics. It’s about motorcycle riding. That’s really all I’m interested in talking about here, and if you’re interested in it too, then I hope you’ll check back here.