Harley-Davidson's Dark Days

Harley-Davidson sold these Aermacchi models in the 1970s
Harley-Davidson sold these Aermacchi models in the 1970s

Harley history is rich in tradition, but there were times when the brand suffered from some serious PR problems. The AMF years embody many of those problems. This bike was seen at my town’s annual tag sale. It’s a H-D Aermacchi SX350, I believe. Not sure of the year. Maybe one of you can tell us?
I don’t know much about value of vintage motorcycles like this, but it seems like this model would be a logical addition to a collector’s garage, as a representation of the dark days of Harley history.
 

Selling Motorcycles Makes Me Sad

The lucky new owner of the ZX6R. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
The lucky new owner of the ZX6R. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Why is it so hard to let go?
Yesterday was a sad day. I delivered my 2005 Kawasaki ZX6R track bike to its new owner. The transaction went really smoothly; the new owner is a track day friend who I like and who I know will take good care of the ZX, and I got the price I needed for the bike and all the spares. So why is it so difficult to part with this conglomeration of aluminum, steel, rubber and plastic?
I know I’m not alone. Many people I talk with have the same experience as I when it comes to saying goodbye to a motorcycle they’ve owned for a period of time. I’ve been sad every time I watched the taillight of all my previous bikes roll away in the back of some stranger’s truck or trailer. The Honda CB900F, the RD400 race bike, the Ninja 750, the VFR800, the MZ Scorpion racer, and now the ZX6R.
It makes me wonder what exactly causes this attachment to a machine. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Motorcycling is more than transportation. When we ride, we become immersed in an experience and the motorcycle plays an intimate part in that experience. I equate it to having a dance partner whose subtle moves become familiar over time.
  • Bikes are riding “partners”.  You can become more or less involved and attached with a particular bike depending on the experiences you had “together”. For instance, the motorcycles I have had the most epic experiences on tend to find their way deeply into my heart.
  • Motorcycles become part of a rider’s identity. Deciding to sell a bike that you were proud to own can require you to rethink your identity and sense of individuality. The act of letting one bike go to make room for a new motorcycle requires a certain amount of personal reflection as we transition our identity to the new machine.
  • We invest in our motorcycles, both emotionally and financially. Many of us care for our motorcycles as if they were a human, putting the “good” oil in her,  lubing all the necessary parts, and keeping her clean. We spend money on personalizing our machines so they fit our identity and needs. Whether this is crash protection, chrome or carbon fiber bits, or luggage or navigational farkles that we bought with the idea of finally conquering those epic adventures.

Goodbye ZX6R
My ZX6 spent last night in its new owner’s garage. I can’t help but feel sad, even though it’s new chapter will be as bright as the old. But, does the green ZX mourn for our severed companionship. I hope not. I would hate to think that it felt abandoned like a child left on a doorstep. If there is any consciousness the ZX has, I hope it understands how much I appreciate its friendship and that it will always have a special place in my heart. *sniff
Tell me about your experiences with selling bikes.
What bikes were the hardest for you to let go and why?
A thought on selling race bikes
I’ve sold three race/track bikes. The thing about parting with a bike that you’ve relied on to not only perform well enough to allow you to beat the competition, but also to be solid enough to keep you safe when flirting with the hairy edge of control can be extra difficult. Race bikes require an extra level of personalization so that the suspension, controls, and engine/fueling performance is suited to your individual preferences. A lot of time and money is spent getting a motorcycle right so it can perform on a racetrack at an expert level.
That said, many racers look at their race bikes as journeyman tools that have one purpose; to get the job done. Once it becomes uncompetitive, it is cast aside for a sharper instrument. I don’t mean to sound cold, but the mindset of a serious racer is different than a street rider who takes pride in being a motorcyclist and chooses a particular bike not only for how it performs, but also for the pride the bike gives its owner.
My ZX6 was unique in that it was a track weapon, but not to win trophies, rather to do my job as a track day instructor, and to provide me with fun when I got to run hot laps on my own. As such, I have shared countless miles with it revving over 12k rpm and at sometimes crazy lean angles. It was a companion that made me feel (and look) good. I will miss it dearly.


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A Family who Rides Together…

The tribe
The tribe

My family is full of motorcycle riders, including my wife, Caroline and daughter, Jeannine. Enter another member of the family in the form of Matt, Jeannine’s boyfriend, who rides a 2008 Yamaha R6s and you’ve got a rolling tribe.
My family didn’t start out as motorcyclists. I believe it was my almost crazy obsession with the two-wheeled sport of motorcycling that caused my otherwise sensible wife, Caroline, to take the MSF course in 1995 and trust me to provide her with the constant flow of  knowledge necessary to survive riding a machine that seems to conspire at every moment to toss you to the ground. A few years later she became a MSF instructor.  (I have been an instructor since 1995).

Along came our lovely daughter, Jeannine, who probably assumed every kid’s mom and dad rode motorcycles. After all, there have been stacks of magazines covering every flat surface in the house since she was a baby.

Well, Jeannine is no longer a baby (but she’s still my little girl), and she is an accomplished rider in her own right. She works for Twisted Throttle, has just returned from a week long dual-sort trip through Alaska, and has become accomplished enough of a racetrack rider that I hired her as a control rider for Tony’s Track Days. Proud, this father is.

Now, she brings a new member to the family. Matt and Jeannine’s first date was a ride, he on his R6 and her on her ZX6R. Love at first sight. I discovered that Matt is a good guy (once I put the shotgun down and gave him a chance). I shouldn’t have worried; Jeannine makes good choices.

Caroline has let riding fade a bit more into the background since her many hobbies take her time and energy. However, there is always energy for our annual family motorcycle ride.
 


This year we went back to one of our favorite places on earth: The Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia and North Carolina. We love the scenery, winding roads, the people and Will Beers, the owner of Willville Motorcycle Camp. Will is one of us…a guy who decided that he wanted to surround himself with mountain beauty and motorcycle riders who share his passion for the sport.

Enjoy the gallery of photos from our 2013 trip to the BRP and stay tuned for more posts about my motorcycling family.


 


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