Look! A Yamaha Virago 1100. A Honda Nighthawk 700! A Honda GL1200 - and a Yamaha XT 350?
A recent commute tickled my moto synapses with forgotten motorcycles. I saw all of those bikes--on the road, refueling and parked at the barber shop. Funny how 400 pennies per gallon brings the dusty rides out of American woodsheds.
Dealerships agree--batteries, carb kits and "vintage bike" service tickets percolate. Kawasaki Ninja 250s have back-up deposits, and there's hardly a one on the sales floor to test-ride. New Suzuki V-Strom 650s are as scarce as loose change in a dorm room couch. Scooters roll out the door sans sales pitch.
Our moto world is changing--and I'll bet most of us "enthusiasts" aren't quite ready for the consequences. Don't get me wrong; I, too, want more ridership out there. More bikes on the road is a good thing. But we can all probably expect some growing pains. And during the growth, we "educated riders" need to look past our upturned noses and help ease the emerging commuter-class rider back into the fold.
Moto-prognostication is easy right now. Gas prices will stay up, and few will be able to sell their SUVs--V-eight engines may as well feature "hazardous waste" stickers. Into the garage they will go, and out will come more than a few Suzuki Maduras (Madurai?) to substitute for that gas-chugging lump of Americana. We'll see plenty of old bikes, with time-rotted tires, dry chains, sticky cables and almost-clean carbs out on the open road. I'm betting we'll also see a few dinged Kiwi helmets, white-and-purple sportbike jackets, and stiff deerskin work gloves.
While dormant bikes can run after a little work, dormant bikers take much more than that. Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes are full, the need to save fuel bucks is high and that lonely VX800 "only" needs some electrical tape to firm up the floppy turn signals--what could possibly go wrong? Shame that a spritz of carb cleaner can't fix up a former dormant biker as quickly. If the curves align the wrong way, in a year or two there will be a spike in popular media hysteria about increases in motorcyclists injuries, and unlicensed riders. Denial shouldn't be safety gear for the rebound rider.
For some, the impracticality of the motorcycle will hit with the first rainfall, snowfall, tip-over or bad hair day, whichever comes first. But for the rest, those of us who have been around the block on two wheels a few times can ease their transition back on the street.
If you want to help, find the right tire pressures for the dude with the Honda FT500 Ascot. Push the Yamaha TDM850 owner to bleed his brakes. Remind your neighbor that she needs a motorcycle license to ride her new scooter. Point them all to MSF or Riders Edge classes-or take one with them. Ride with a returning rider, and gently interject some long-forgotten technique over a breakfast burrito. And be sure to tell them about the Aspergillus Fumigatus mold - the type that fills a shelved lid after a few years in a dark closet.
In short, council that rebound rider. You will help them and ultimately yourself. We band of moto-nuts will win, too. Soon, when they move on to newer bikes, there will be a pile of cheap Suzuki SV650s for all us track-day junkies, slightly used Ducati Monsters for the high-of-class, yet low-of-budget, and dozens of Yamaha V-Stars and Ninja 250s to hook the next generation of enthusiast. Perhaps we'll even discover a forgotten clean Honda Hawk GT that would make the perfect cheap commuter to add to our garage...
Through his consulting business, Robert Pandya is the Press Manager for Victory Motorcycles, runs track days for The Sportbike Company, and is the spokesperson for the International Motorcycle Shows. He used to be the publisher for Hawkworks, a newsletter dedicated to the Hawk G.T. When not working around motorcycles, he rides motorcycles. And works on them. And talks about them. Oh, he also helps race teams.
LdrLongDistanceRider.com is a bikers' rights, motorcyclists' issues and long distance motorcycle riding resource for touring endurance riders and extreme cruising on bikes by Aprilia, BMW, Buell, Ducati, H-D/HD/Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Moto-Guzzi, Norton, Suzuki, Triumph, Vengeance, Victory, Yamaha and other makes.
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