I still remember the thrill of buying copies of Cycle World as a kid. I remember pouring over each issue flipping through bikes, the riders, and all the latest gear. Somehow reading motorcycle magazines kept my desire for a motorcycle thriving until I was old enough to be on my own and make my own decisions.
I’ve been reading Cycle World for over 25 years, and in particular, Peter Egan. Peter has an uncanny ability to really capture the experience and emotion of riding. I remember his articles about being on the motorcycle in Wisconsin right before winter’s grasp took hold across the landscape. I remember him talking about vintage bikes and modern bikes as two expressions of the same thought. As I got older, I’d realize that sometimes Peter was the sole reason I subscribed to Cycle World.
Early on in my riding career (when I actually had a motorcycle versus pretending I had one via Cycle World), I came across Motorcycle Journeys Throughout California by Clement Salvadori. Salvadori was equally as skilled as Egan in connecting words on the page to the twist of the throttle. I’d spend hours reading his book early on in my twenties. That book squarely intersected Oh the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss for me. Was it going to be Lassen, Death Valley, the steep cliffs of central coast, or the tall redwoods of the north coast for the weekend?
The V-Strom and I had an incredible run together. I set a goal to ride that bike 100,000 miles from new. I actually put on hundred and 117,334 miles on it before sharing him with his next owner. From the moment I sold that bike – I regretted it. I’d been a serial monogamist in my motorcycling career. In 15 years and 150,000 miles, I had two motorcycles: the Vulcan and the V-Strom.
I’ve struggled with the BMW GS. The transaction at San Jose BMW was far from smooth. The Givi luggage still doesn’t work with no fix from Givi two years out (pandemic has strapped them for parts). The GS had two engine faults that required software upgrades at inopportune times. It seemed like I was hitting bump after bump after bump.
Two weeks ago, I saw the V-Strom up for sale. After a really tough year due to #manyReasons, I was hoping to recapture my happy place on the saddle of that bike. After a few days thinking about reuniting with the old bike, I reached out to the new owner. He fixed a number of the old age issues I didn’t have good answers for when I owned the bike. I decided to drive down and and see my former ride.
After years of reading motorcycle journalism, I came away from the collective set of magazines with this impression of “never sell ‘that bike.’” I’d hear story after story of regret once the bike was gone. I felt like a lot of me remained in that place. I was always excited to hear a V-Strom start-up in the distance, talk to riders about the modifications they’ve made to their bike, or just share the fact that mine got over 100,000 miles. I enjoyed and felt a home in that scene.
When I pulled up to see my old bike, I can’t deny the fact that my heart jumped! The owner and I talked, and he had done some well-needed modifications to the bike. Surprisingly, he tossed me the keys and said, go take it for a ride before talking money. When pushed, he said, “I know you. I know where you live. And you’ll buy the bike if you wreck it!” He was generous with time. He said go take it for a ride for an hour or so. I smiled and rode off into the distance, promising a full tank on my return.
Highway 180 is definitely a top-five ride for me in California. Highway 180 claims deep into the central Sierra Nevada and down into Kings Canyon – the deepest canyon in the United States. The turns are honest, and the views are spectacular. I spent 15 summers climbing 180 up to diabetes camp and enjoying a week amongst the mountains. Aside from the fact it was near 100°, the journey ahead couldn’t have been more perfect.
As I got into the ride in earnest, I began to realize that I had moved on. The throttle was stiff and hard to turn. I missed creature comforts of my new bike like a temperature gauge, shifting without a clutch, anti-lock brakes. My arms and shoulders felt awkward in the old bike as I’m adapting to my new one. In that moment I grasped, what is is, and what was, was.
I stopped in Squaw Valley. It’s not the ski resort on the north side of Lake Tahoe. It’s a small community of a few thousand people in Fresno County. This town represents several closures for me. My partner’s car died here as we went up to one of the last years of diabetes camp. An important but fleeting friend of mine lived here. As I was riding the bike, I realized, too, that this season of motorcycling had come to a close. Squaw Valley seemed like the right place to turn around even if I had license to ride great pavement further up the hill.
Somehow I don’t think reading the greats of moto journalism prepared me for this moment. I now disagree with the author that said to not sell the bike you fell in love with. We all have ties to “that bike” in our past.
I missed the fact that my ties were reaching back to the bike of the past and not the bike of now. I needed this weekend to reset those calibrations and realize it was okay to close that chapter and move forward on new adventures.
It felt okay to let go. It even felt good. Onward and upward to the next turn down the road.