I always enjoy Eric Trow’s Stayin’ Safe articles and have learned a lot from them. I wanted to comment on November’s “Wheel He or Won’t He?” tip. I’ve used this technique for several years as it’s a much safer way to judge a driver’s intention, rather than hoping eye contact is enough. Meanwhile, here in the Northeast it seems drivers in their big SUVs have adopted a “right of weight” method of approaching intersections rather than the legally accepted right of way. A recent incident brought both of these concepts together. While approaching the traffic circle on the Bronx River Parkway in a northerly direction one morning, I slowed, downshifted and covered the brakes as you never know what to expect. A driver had stopped at the yield sign but had a set of those “spinner” hubcaps mounted. While she was stopped as required, the “spinners” tricked my brain into a false survival reaction, and I began braking even though she was not in motion. I quickly recovered when I realized what was happening and proceeded smoothly through, but I guess the point is, nothing is 100 percent foolproof. Situational awareness is truly the only thing we can all rely on to get us through our daily rides!
Bob Fattizzi, Scarsdale, New York
I’m a little behind in my magazine reading, so I was catching up a bit one day not too long ago. When I read Mark Tuttle’s editorial in the April 2018 issue (“The Ones That Got Away”), I felt compelled to write my first letter to the editor. I, too, miss just about every motorcycle I’ve owned and sold. The Honda VTX1800 and Shadow 1100, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod…even the dirt bikes that have tried to kill me. But when I came to the point where he mentioned the one he missed the most (a 1980 Kawasaki KZ650), it really resonated with me. My first brand new street bike was a 1978 KZ650C. I dreamed about owning that bike from the first time I saw it. I was a senior in high school and had a poster on my bedroom wall of that bike heeled over into a curve (showing off those nice mag wheels), and every night before I went to bed I imagined myself on it. Yeah, I had the Farrah Fawcett poster too, but knew I would never have her! Finally I figured I could swing payments with my part-time job and living at home, so I bought it. I took it with me to college where it met its fate…and I almost met mine, as we collided with the right side of the big ol’ Buick that decided to turn left in front of me. I was really lucky that day because I didn’t have a stitch of safety gear on (I was twenty-something and bulletproof!), but the bike…not so much. Decided I had probably used up my luck and, since it was almost winter, I took the insurance money and bought a car.
Fast-forward 40 years, and one day as I drank my coffee, just for giggles, I typed KZ650 into Google. Bam. Up comes its brother, the 1978 KZ650SR, which was the bike my best friend bought shortly after I bought mine. It’s for sale and a day’s drive from me. Now it sits in my garage with the rest of the bikes and gets ridden fairly regularly. It’s not as fast as it seemed back then and it always has a mechanical issue or two (heck, it’s 40 years old!), but it sure feels good to have one again. Like seeing an old friend after many years and bringing him home to meet the family.
Ron Dickerson, via email
Clement’s December 2018 Road Tales sent me back to 1971 and a modest Kawasaki dealership in Jacksonville, Illinois. With cash in pocket, I entered the showroom and focused my gaze for the first time on a line of newly-minted 125E Enduros. Whoever designed the paint scheme for that motorcycle must have been an intuitive artist, as the gold on red on burnt orange of the tank and fenders got branded into my brain so deeply that I can clearly see them still today. The visual appeal was so overpowering that I offered up my hard-earned money without a peep of negotiation. Forty-seven years later I now better understand my weakness for a good-looking machine and make sure to leave the credit card behind when I enter a motorcycle showroom.
Jim Luken, Conway, South Carolina
I very much enjoyed reading “Not So Saddle-Sore” (One-Track Mind, December 2018). My friends and I have been riding the Pacific Northwest and Canada for several years. This summer one leg of our ride took us from Anacortes to Winthrop, Washington, then across the Canadian border up to some impressive wine country. Our first leg up the coast to the Olympic Peninsula finished with a ferry crossing across Puget Sound, where we visited with a few riders on new Indian motorcycles. We talked about the impressive details of those bikes on our Sena Bluetooth headsets as we enjoyed riding over the North Cascade Highway. Reading Mark’s article was like enjoying that ride all over again. Thanks for all the great ride articles, safety tips and new gear info. It all adds up to great memories and fuel for future adventures.
Bob Warsaw, Bend, Oregon
Reading “Laing’s Journey” by Trevor Marc Hughes in the December 2018 issue was awesome. No, today’s motorcycle travel cannot compare to the harshness of his journey, but in many ways my experience has been the same: avoiding cities, camping to get a real feel of the land (I still like it at 70) and meeting people from so many walks of life. As he said, traveling by two wheels is so different than by four. It felt good hearing that from a guy traveling by motorcycle 100-plus years ago, when even traveling by car was an adventure. When on a motorcycle I am part of the place I am traveling through, not just a passer-by.
Jerry Stevens, Flower Mound, Texas
After reading Eric Trow’s article, “Gold Rush!” (Riding Well, December 2018), I had to write. Five years ago two buddies and I accidentally ended up on the Tail of the Dragon. Although it was the middle of the week, it seemed like there were 1,000 riders on that short stretch of road. We sat for more than two hours on the downhill side of the mountain due to a head-on motorcycle crash where one rider crossed the centerline and hit the oncoming bike. Eric’s article was a good reminder of why it can be best to be especially careful on popular motorcycle destinations.
Rick Close, Newburg, Pennsylvania
When I read the letter from Mr. Kunkel (Response, December 2018), I was reminded of the rides I used to take with my mom. When I first started riding 48 years ago, she wanted nothing to do with it! As a widow with four kids, she didn’t want her only son killed on a motorcycle. She would often watch me race off-road in a motocross or ice race, but didn’t like me on the street. After a few years she consented to a ride on the back of my dual-sport bike. And just like that, she caught the bug! The next year I bought a full-fledged street machine so I could take her along easier.
When we celebrated her 90th birthday recently, her twin sister showed up in a wheelchair and a van, while my Ma arrived on the back of a KTM 950!
We just said a final goodbye to her last year, at 101 years young. She spent her last ten years in a home suffering from Alzheimer’s. In her early 90s, after weeks of her begging for rides all winter I picked her up and we wandered around the neighborhood for about an hour. The attendants weren’t happy about that but she didn’t care. She couldn’t remember things for more than 15-20 minutes at that point, but she talked about that ride for a week! One comment stays with me yet today: “People who don’t do this don’t know what they’re missing!” Amen, Mom, amen!
Gary Nelson, Muskegon, Michigan
Like every month, when my December issue arrived I quickly turned to Road Tales to see what words of wisdom Clement had for me. Although it is rare, I believe I’ve detected a minor error. As the proud owner of my second 1968 Norton Commando Fastback, I believe Clem erred when he referred to a 1967 Norton Commando. Although it was 1967 when the Commando was unveiled at Earl’s Court, it was a 1968 model. The one I owned in 1971 was reduced to molten rubble after a fire caused by a failed theft attempt. After completing some tweaks this fall, I believe the replacement is ready to roll–once the snow melts!
Steve Herberg, Plattsburgh, New York
Steven, thanks for pointing out my clumsy mistake. The Commando was first seen at
the Earl’s Court show in September of 1967, but the first production version was not sold until May of 1968. Trust your ‘68 Fastback will take you down to Americade next year. – Clement
I enjoyed Bill Stermer’s “Alps the Easy Way” (December 2018), particularly his observation that after reaching the pass at Cime de la Bonette (9,193 feet), his sense of accomplishment was gently placed in context when he “met a bicyclist from Chicago who had pedaled his way to the top.” After many years as a touring cyclist, including a 17-month, 22,000-mile ride as a somewhat younger man, I returned to motorcycling in 2014 and have enjoyed it immensely. But now, when I see a license plate frame proclaiming “Iron Butt Association: World’s Toughest Riders,” I tend to think of those, including a few friends and acquaintances, who have competed in RAAM, the Race Across America: coast-to-coast in 8-10 days, pedaling all the way.
Bill Harlan, Rochester Hills, Michigan