I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to self-confidence, or having a sense of “cool.” When facing a pretty girl, I might as well have been confronting a mirror in which I only saw a skinny, awkward boy with nothing relevant to talk about. I rode smaller displacement motorcycles and ATVs throughout my youth, and when I was 19, I bought my first real street bike: a 1975 CB750. While riding it to Kutztown University from my parents’ home in the Poconos, something amazing happened. There was this little gas station in Mount Pocono, where I often stopped to fuel up and grab a drink before getting on the string of highways that led to KU.
When I dismounted at the pump, I noticed these two girls sitting on the bench to the right of the store entrance. I was wearing this awesome dark brown, collarless leather jacket from the ‘60s that I inherited from my father, so I was already walking a little taller than usual. I could tell they were talking about me, but behind this rebellious facade I’m still awkward me, so I strode right past them and into the store. I was painfully conscious of them when I came out to fill my tank, and did so without looking in their direction…I couldn’t look. I got back on my bike and that’s when I heard it. “My friend thinks you’re hot.” What followed can only be explained by being filled with the spirit of cool itself. I pulled my hand away from the starter button, reached down to swing out the kick starter and primed the motor with a dramatic little twist of the throttle, all while throwing them a look that would make
James Dean jealous. In my mind I was praying—or pleading: start on the first kick, start on the first kick. One solid thrust and that single-cam four came to life with a snarl. Without breaking my smoldering stare, the words just came out of me in the voice of a much taller man…a much cooler man. “Your friend’s right.” Time stood still for a moment. I could see the silent reaction in their eyes…it was like they couldn’t breathe. I broke my gaze and rode off, like a hero riding his horse into the sunset. My entire being was smiling. That was more than 20 years ago, and I wouldn’t know if I ever saw those two girls again. I don’t even remember what they looked like, but that moment…that powerful moment of “cool” has stuck with me to this day, straightening my posture and adding a little strut to my swagger. It’s still a facade, but now I’m much better at hiding my self-consciousness and awkward shyness. One thing is for certain: it’s truly amazing what a motorcycle can do.
Keith Hoekstra, Locust Grove, Virginia
“Don’t be a tease,” my mother always said. She wouldn’t have been happy about your March 2018 article, “Not So Hopeless!” In the middle of a cold and snowy winter, we Midwesterners are more readers than riders—and what could be more entrancing than a tale about tackling the Iron Butt in the Hopeless Class?! But Jerry Smith’s article, accompanied by some enticing photos, was too short on details and insights about the challenges of riding 11,000 miles in eleven days…on a ‘74 Suzuki Water Buffalo! What makes Rider so special is your unique ability to get inside the motorcycling experience. So more in-depth reporting, please, on Jerry Anderson’s impressive 78th place finish. No teasing — not nice!
Bruce Ente, Cleveland, Ohio
I just finished reading the article on Jerry Anderson and the GT750 Water Buffalo doing the Iron Butt and have to ask: why do most of the photos show him riding a red bike, but the one picture from Prudhoe Bay have him on an un-faired blue bike? Does the Iron Butt allow pony express style riding? (Ride the bike until it gets tired and jump on a fresh steed for the next section, in this case to Alaska.) Did he leave the bike for tires, repairs and such, head off for the next leg and then finish on the original bike? Just curious, as there was no explanation about the route or the reason for the different bike in the picture.
Herb Marcus, Palmdale, California
The Prudhoe Bay photo is from an earlier ride, not the Iron Butt Rally. IBR riders must start and finish the event on the same bike, except in extreme cases such as when a mechanical breakdown makes it impossible for the original bike to go on. In this instance the rider can use another bike, but is assessed a huge points penalty for doing so. –JS
In the March 2018 Response section you replied to a letter titled “Stay Away,” referencing the Pendleton Bike Week in Pendleton, Washington. The last time I checked, Pendleton was still located in Oregon.
Paul Meshke, Newcastle, Washington
Both the city of Pendleton and Pendleton Bike Week are definitely still in Oregon. Apparently your EIC’s mind was there for a moment as well. –EIC
I’ve really enjoyed the “Re-Cycling” articles you’ve been running, being of the age that means many of those bikes were the “next big thing” when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. I especially enjoyed Jerry Smith’s remembrance of the BMW K100RS. I am one of those who thinks the first follow-up bike to this, the K75, was—and still is—one of the best machines the Bavarians have ever built. The K75 is not plagued by the vibration issues of the 100, and still has plenty of “fun power.” I’ve owned several bikes, and my current ride (for the last 3 years) is an ‘86 K75 set up as an RT, with less than 30k miles—barely broken in. It is without question the smoothest bike I’ve ridden at highway speeds. I can cruise at 80 mph all day without any vibration fatigue. Get the engine up to 4,000 rpm and hold on!
Quinn Van Paepeghem, Meridian, Idaho
As a long-time subscriber, I always enjoy your timely articles and reviews. I particularly look forward to everything written by the esteemed Clement Salvadori and my good friend, Eric Trow! However, after reading a letter to the Editor in your March 2018 issue, entitled “Less is More,” I must respectfully disagree with the writer’s opinion that “hitting the road with a minimum of things greatly enhances the rider’s experience” and his conclusion “that is what motorcycle touring is supposed to be all about.”
My wife and I lead small group tours all over the U.S. I’ve been the owner of three Yamaha FJRs since 2004, and her current ride of choice is the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS with integrated hard bags. In addition to being one of the best all-around sport touring machines on the road, I can pack enough gear on my FJR to stay on the road for 3 weeks or more without wearing the same street clothes twice. I’ve never done laundry on a tour. I utilize a large tank bag, a 40-liter waterproof Givi bag strapped to the passenger seat and my Yamaha top box with a liner for my clothes and personal items. I rarely even open the side bags, as my left one contains tools, a tire repair kit including mini-compressor, duct tape, etc., and my right bag stores extra rain gear and cold weather stuff. The Missus straps a 25-liter Firstgear waterproof bag on her passenger seat and I have room for any extra gear she can’t squeeze into her side bags.
Based on my experience touring in the States and a few times in Europe over the last 20 years, it is my opinion that there’s no reason to “hit the road with a minimum of things,” but rather to fully enjoy the capabilities of one’s machine, while still benefitting from some of the creature comforts that we all enjoy!
Marc Berger, North Easton, Massachusetts
Regarding the “Scenic Southern Colorado” Favorite Ride by Tim Kessel in the March 2018 issue: on one of our trips after attending a rally in Billings, Montana, we rode U.S. Route 550 from Montrose, south to Durango, Colorado. Climbing the San Juan Mountain Pass (11,018 feet) on the Million Dollar Highway was interesting and fun. However, with no shoulder or guardrail and a huge drop-off on the right as you climb the pass, it does require your complete attention. I would agree with Tim when he says the road is awe-inspiring, historically significant and more than a little dangerous. It is not for the faint of heart! On another western trip we rode U.S. Route 50 from Montrose through the Curecanti National Recreation Area and past the Blue Mesa Reservoir to Gunnison, then crossed Monarch Pass (11,312 feet). We continued east on U.S. 50 to Bridgeport, West Virginia. I always enjoy reading articles about places and roads we have ridden over the years.
Dave Bohrer, Silver Spring, Maryland
My 2007 KLR650 (“Re-Cycling,” March 2018) will always be remembered as “the one that got away.” Dependable, frugal and loads of fun, together we explored California’s foothills and gold country for too short a period of time. On those rare occasions when she and I went down on a gravelly bend or in some unanticipated mud hole along a forest byway, the result was always a story. With her replacement, however, a fine, handsome European model, the result was always about a $1500 tab.
Dave Delgardo, Cloverdale, California
Loved the Retrospective on Bultaco (February 2018). I raced them in the early ‘60s to late ‘70s, riding most all the dirt models. When they first appeared in SoCal (AMA District 37) they quickly proved to be light, fast and good handling, and became hugely successful, first in TTs then in motocross, desert racing and enduros. You mentioned that some parts fit more than one model, and some motors were also interchangeable. A 175cc race motor could be bolted into a tiny 100cc Lobito frame. It was awesome, but a real handful! Thanks for the memories.
Ben Harwell, Hailey, Idaho
I loved the Riding Around (March 2018) article, but the photo of the Hoosac Tunnel brought back a flood of memories. My grandfather was the Station Agent for the Boston and Maine Station in Millers Falls, Massachusetts. When I was around seven (this was in 1944 or ’45), granddad took me on a round trip to Albany for the express purpose of riding through the tunnel. I remember the conductor hurrying through the cars making sure all the doors and windows were shut against the smoke that swirled around the outside like some monster determined to find its way in. Thanks for the memories.
Carter Brough, Whitney, Texas
In Clement Salvadori’s article on the turbo Kawasaki (Retrospective, March 2018), he states the swing arm is single-sided. I never saw one that was single-sided. I can see the disk brake caliper on the right side through the back wheel in the photo, no single side there either. Still, some good history on a really fun bike. Keep it up.
James Garton, Pewaukee, Wisconsin
No, single-sided it’s not. Simple-minded we are. –EIC