Hal's Ride Along Motorcycling Memory Lane
Let's take a ride through my four decade motorcycle odyssey and stroll through single track memory lane by reminiscing on some of the most memorable models out of the 37 I've owned. Let's not even mention the hundreds I've ridden as there were the years that I was running motorcycle magazines when I had a warehouse stuffed to the rafters with brand new motorcycles, some several months prior to public introduction, and all begging to be ridden. I've truly been blessed to be able to ride everything the wheels off of darn near everything from MV Agusta racers all the way down to Yamaha GT80s. Ah, those were the days, my friends!
Out of the 37 I've owned here are my three absolute favorites. There were lots of other motorcycles, but somehow none of them measured up to this legendary trinity.
Honda CB350Four. The smallest four cylinder motorcycle ever offered for sale in America, and arguably the nicest, sweetest, cutest middleweight bike ever made. The engine was crafted like a Rolex, with intricate little details everywhere. The powerband stretched well into five figures. It was a motorcycle that simply couldn't be improved upon. When I wax prosaic about this bike, most riders think I'm insane. It wasn't particularly fast, had eye-flattening acceleration or handled like it was on rails. No, it wasn't the bike you would choose to race Z1s or tour across the country with. It just did everything well enough. It was the most perfectly balanced motorcycle I have ever ridden. It was a friendly, forgiving, fun machine. It was the type of bike that always left you with a smile on your face. And that made it one of the best motorcycles in history.
Yamaha XT500. I flew to California to buy the first of these revolutionary new yet nostalgic thumpers and had it shipped back in a crate to Toronto so I would have the first in Canada! The flight and shipping cost me as much as the bike. It was worth a dozen times as much. I have spent much time analyzing just what this bike did to me to engrave itself on my memory. Just looking at the photos of this motorcycle is equivalent to a whole afternoon of Transcendental Meditation. I end up joyous, refreshed and content just thinking about this bike. I had the most fun on this thumper than on 20 other bikes. I would spend hours just going around in circles on the big hydro field behind the house, driving the neighbours crazy. I just couldn't get enough of this bike. None of the later XTs had the perfect styling magic. Just this first refrigerator-white delectable nostalgia machine. It doesn't get any better. Sigh.
Harley Davidson Sportster XLH1000. I didn't care if my butt hurt so bad from the thin seat that I could barely get off the saddle after a long ride. I didn't care that the extended front end made the steering a bit squirrely. I didn't care that the peanut tank held barely enough fuel to go between stations. I didn't care if I was going deaf from the exhaust note. When I was riding my Sportster, I was Brando, Captain America and The Terminator all rolled into one. I made a cross-country film for the State University of New York just as an excuse to ride this baby across America. Once, I got pulled over by the cops and asked what club I belonged to. I answered "The Rotary."
Please, Lord. Take me back in time, give me my youth and just one day to ride all three of these bikes again, then you can take me away.
Let's go on to the other 34 (I don't have photos of all my own bikes after all these years, I wish I did, so in some cases I'm substituting generic images of bikes as close to mine as possible).