2010 Harley-Davidson Road King Classic

The first 2010 FLHRC review

Winterizing Guide

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Hey folks, I know it’s been a while.  As 2010 came and went, and now we’re staring down 2012, this blog is a lot more for myself than the potential buyers of the one, the only, the Harley Road King Classic.  If you are one of the very few actually looking at buying a 2010 one – which would be smart at present since they’re either used but still cherry or being pushed like mad by the dealers to get out the door – then just the same, welcome to the blog.

That said, I’ve been riding bikes for years but winterizing pretty much never.  I always just rode through the winter without any long gaps, so I never worried about lubing the cylinders or anything like that.  On my old carbureted bike, I would run through a can of B-12 or SeaFoam, usually once or twice in the spring to wake up and then once when my riding frequency dropped off a bit mid/late december.  With the Road King, I’m somewhat ashamed to say I did nothing beyond take her out for 15 minutes every week or so, if that, and that other times she would sit in a nice, heated garage.

So I’m relatively new to this, and I know with my current personal engagements I won’t be riding much between next week and probably March.  Here’s a guide to winterizing that I’ve been working on.  You’ll notice it’s not based in steps, but rather primarily by system.  And also you’ll notice it’s kinda sparse since this is a short-term storage.


Gasoline, the sweetest smelling stuff on earth, is kinda hardcore.  It will eat your fuel lines and it will damage your tank if left to sit for too long (generally speaking, longer than 3 months).  Gasoline breaks down and, chemistry lessons aside (go watch Breaking Bad!), gets corrosive to plastic and metal.  We can combat this in two ways: change the chemistry with an additive or stop the process by running the engine.

I’ve heard that leaving the engine running for just 30 seconds is enough to shake up the fuel system enough to ward off corrosion.  That any acids that form from a breakdown of the gasoline will be amortized by just 30 seconds of combustion.    I repeat this only to ask if anyone knows if that’s true.   I, for one, wouldn’t take the gamble.  Besides, even if true, you want to run at least 5-10 minutes (not more than 60 seconds at idle is necessary, though) to get the oil moving around.  Really though, unless it’s icy, just go for a spin.  It’s the best way to ward off storage blues.

Next up is the old stalwart Sta-Bil.  This stuff is magic.  Accept no substitute.  Add in proportion to your tank size (read the label) and run the engine about 10-15 minutes so that it’s properly mixed in.  This is good for peace of mind; sta-bil is the opposite of a catalyst and will block the formation of corrosives in your tank and fuel lines.



Battery tender! Don’t be shy, that’s what all the cool kids are using.  You can pick one up for under $30 that probably comes with an extra pair of leads.  For long-term storage you will want to take more serious steps (replace plugs, remove battery entirely, etc as your timeline and location require).  If you are under the magical 3-month mark, you can get by with a battery tender and whatever routine maintenance you normally perform – filling/refilling the battery if it’s a couple of years old, testing your lights/horn/blinkers for function (does anyone do this more than once a year?).  I know a guy who uses a volt meter to check whether or not he has any ground out wires.  Good idea in theory, but probably over kill in reality.

Just get a battery tender.

Dramatization. Actual results may vary.


This is the easiest and the hardest part.  It’s easy because you could do it all with 30 seconds without tools and without buying anything.  It’s hardest because you are going to make your bike look like the idiot kid who wears a swim cap.

"Hold on, guys, I have to make myself look stupid."

Basically, it’s the same thing with your air cleaner.  Wrap a plastic bag around it and rubberband it on.  You are preventing moisture, mold, and bugs from getting in there.  Your bike might complain, but you can lay a nice cigar on there come spring and restore your image.

But hold on, we’re not done.  You have to do the same thing to your tailpipes.  Yes, seriously.  Never heard of mice in the muffler? You haven’t been riding long, then.  Mice, rats, spiders, hell even birds have been found in mufflers left open.  Cover ’em.  You may feel like you’re violating the bike by stuffing something up the tailpipe, but you’re preventing much worse penetrations later on.   Now, you’re going to be gentle, and you’re going to spray just a bit of WD-40 onto and into the exhaust holes (recommend you take off your endcaps if they’re not already rusted in place because you failed to do this last year).  I’m only joking when I say you’re being gentle – you are only going to stick a plastic bag up there – but in reality the oil is going to guard the weakened, blasted metal of your exhaust endpoints from the rust that can surely take purchase over the course of the winter.  Stuff a plastic grocery bag into each tailpipe, just so it blocks the opening.  Then, if you really want to be anal (hardy har har…) you can wrap the whole muffler in a garbage bag, right up to the header pipes.  Overkill, maybe, but it certainly can’t hurt.

The only real cost is knowing your bike is the kid who wears a cap in the pool.  What a Melvin…



I hope I don’t have to repeat myself, that you should be using a sythentic like, oh, I dunno, AMSOIL.  Because you already know, right?  Ok.

Here’s something that’s hard to type, because I still don’t know if I believe it.  Change your oil before you winterize.

What what waaaaaaaat?

Yes, change your oil – send your bike into winter with fresh oil.  The reason for this is that impurities in your oil can end up getting a headstart on your engine.  The oil is inert; it is the lifeblood of your engine and it can do no harm.  But the impurities, the bits of metal and the specs of dirt and the who-knows-what, that stuff gets harder to pull out if it’s spent a while living inside your bike.  So change the oil for storage, even though that seems to violate common sense.

And don’t fuck over your future self, change the filter too.  If you’re going to try some lazy excuse, I’m going to give you the part number.  K&N 171C.  You can get a K&N off Amazon and it can be at your house before you know it.

For the oil, since you are changing it for  the winter storage rather than after or notwithstanding the storage, you can actually use a different weight.  In the North East you can go as low as 5w30, but that’s speaking very generally.  For myself, I know that there will be a few days over the next 3 months that reach 60 degrees, and I don’t like 5w30 for days that warm.  We’re talking about a 103ci air-cooled engine, it has needs, man.  I go with the middleground and use  10w40.  In summer, I like 20w50.  That’s what works for me, where I live, how I ride, and with the exhaust/fuel systems (+PCV) I have.



Ok, not technically a system, you got me there.  You would not lose my respect riding a bike that was all function and no sexy, but it’s another thing to favor function to the point of neglecting your aesthetics.  Your paint needs love.  Wax it, even if no one is going to see the bike because it’s in your garage, even if you are going to put a cover over it, even if the wax will all wear off when you take the bike out.   Like the bible says, do not be like the hypocrites or the vain and do it for the reward of people seeing you, but instead do it in private.  I’m not religious but I get it – you gain something doing it right, and it’s worth more than having people think better of you.  So when it’s just you and the bike, pop the seat off and get under that rear fender, wax the shit out of it and know that the wax will protect your glorious paint from the evils of the world.  Amen.

For the leather, you can go nuts and make a blend of cedarwood oil, beeswax, and plenty of other stuff.  You can also just use the little spray bottle called “leather treatment” that’s sold in every auto parts store in the country.  I don’t over think it, I just spray the leather spray on my leather.  Done.

For your chrome, the lightest mist of WD-40 will prevent rust.  Takes seconds, saves $$$$.



Write a list for yourself so you know what has been done.  You should be keeping a service log, but if not (or your $tealer does all your work), at least keep track of this stuff.

And learn to suck it up and get the bike out for 15 minutes on days when you normally wouldn’t.  You don’t need to hop on the highway, you can just putt around the block at 20mph.  Twice a month, if you can, can make almost all of this winterizing advice moot.  Get some good gloves and make it happen.

Last up – remember to check your gear!  Things have a way of falling apart when you aren’t looking.


Ride safe, and happy winter to all.

"One must imagine Sisyphus happy"


Written by MacDuff

December 20, 2011 at 4:43 pm

RIDE REPORT: 2010 Indian Chief Vintage

with 4 comments

Oh boy.


But how would she compare against the 2010 FLHRC?

She’s beautiful.

Indian’s got a stable of demo bikes they’re hauling around the coastline states nearest their North Carolina factory.  I happened to get a taste while the gettin’ was good.

The day was bright and warm for spring.  Perfect for riding.  I stopped in at the dealer hosting the demo truck and was a little early for the next ride.  They were organizing group rides rather than sending out each man alone.  Works for me.  I handed them my license and signed up.

In the 20-odd minutes I had to kill, I browsed the showroom.  While I pulled up on my Harley, I parked it off away so that no one could see how I rode in.  I don’t look like a biker and for once I wanted that to work for me.  So as a joe-nobody-know-nuthin’, I began oggling these bikes the way they deserved.

A friendly man approached me after a few moments and started spouting ad lines.  “Baker 6-speed transmission!” and “Brembo 4-piston brakes!” were things he spoke.  I nodded and backed away, content to just admire the bikes on the floor.

Because they are gorgeous.

Then an actual salesmen appeared and brought the finer touch.

“They’re for the man who doesn’t want to see his bike in every parking lot.”  That was the line that stuck out most; and that would be great if he didn’t follow it up with this: “It’s for the man who wants his bike to be beautiful, but doesn’t want to go through the hassle of customizing it.”


Why would *anyone* want that? Strike 1, Indian! You call other manufacturers cookie cutter bikes, then you admit that your bikes are all the same? Who wins that one? Idiots!

So we talked specs, because what the hell else is there to do – argue aesthetics?

The engines are all 105ci. The frames of each Indian are identical.  Same engine, chassis, console, bars, everything.  It’s like communism (in theory).  On the bright side: nothing’s wrong with that.

The cables are all braided, the exhaust is perfectly tuned and easily swapped over to the “performance” variety with pre-configured baffles for the familiar sum of $400.  The bikes are all hand-assembled in the USA.  Leather is all brown (sometimes red-brown, but never black) and hand-tooled.  Everything is chrome – they don’t sell upgraded chrome parts because they’re all there.

The only differences between the different models is the paint (color/texture), fringe, bags, fender shape, and a few other little nuances that I’ll let you imagine for yourself.

All models have lollipop front assist lamps but bullet tail lights – an anachronism, if I’m not mistaken.  Try to do that on a Harley and you will be laughed at.  The Indian dealership I visited even had a 1941 Indian Chief on display and it had no taillights.  You tell me what’s up, why they’d bother adding the wrong style.

An interesting point is that the Indian, after years of being extinct, was resurrected and the first production bikes came out in 2009.  I asked what had changed between 2009 and 2011 and the only change has been that now, as of 2011, the turn signals self-cancel.  That’s a good design, needing no touch-ups.  Harley put a different frame on their touring bikes in 2007, 2008, 2009 – 2010.  Seriously.

But that’s about all I could say until I took one out for a spin.

The ride itself was a great time.  We were given a police escort, and if you’ve never had it, it’s basically 1st class on an airline combined with road head in your car.  It’s absolutely the best.  All stop signs, traffic lights, and even oncoming traffic were halted so that we might cruise on through in 3rd gear, puttering happily along.  A living wet dream, basically.

The five of us rode with the Indian leader and the police escort for about a half hour.  Very generous.  It was all road – a few sweet turns and plenty of straightaways to feel out the engine.  No fake pause or slowdowns to get oggled; everyone there understood that these were pure eyecandy, right out of the box.  The rest of this ride report is about the actual ride.

First up: immediate impressions.  The saddle was like a baby’s ass.  I was wearing pants, I promise, but I could still feel how nice the leather was. Riding position was very comfortable.  I have long arms, but still, the bike just fit very well. It’s not as wide as my Road King.  No highway pegs on these machines (but they do have mustache crash bars).  The floorboards were large enough and the controls were all intuitive – except the turn signal, which on 2011’s is now self-canceling (like on Harleys).  I rode a 2010 and pressed the turn signal button to cancel my turns even when I was sure I had already done so.  I don’t miss that from my pre-harley days…

The bike purrs rather than roars.  An easy fix, I’m sure, but starting it up I was expecting more than a sewing machine.

The center console, once I pulled away from under the demo truck’s shadow, was awful.  In shade, it seemed fine, but in the daylight it was barely viewable.  Fortunately the transmission was brand new and the graceful heel-toe shifter would pop right into neutral without any mucking around (Indian 1, Harley 0), so it didn’t matter that the green-lit “N” was illegible.

The suspension was a problem. It seemed a little weak going over bumps and hitting some damaged pavement.  Certainly not the kind of comfort I would want on a bike that’s over $30,000.

The engine, on the open road, proved to be something of a toy.  To clarify, the bike could really move, but it took a while to get there.  That points to decent horsepower but sad torque.  Whether the transmission could be adjusted to provide more balance to the power or not, that’s a question for an Indian engineer.  For myself, I wanted a lot more dazzle out of a large, sparkling v-twin made in the USA.

There wasn’t much cornering to speak of on the demo ride, but the bike felt much lighter than my FLHRC on the turns.  Part of that comes from sitting a bit lower, though once I got back home I dropped the Road Zeppelin for the stock seat and I was right back where the Indian had me sitting.

The brakes were strong, and while no Indian offers ABS (and according to the Indian salesman, Harley will soon be doing away with ABS on their bikes … even though in reality they now offer ABS on 2011 soft tails), I could not get the brakes to lock.  They are new, and they grip and you stop and it’s as simple as that.  Very nice, but no different than a BMW or Harley tourer with ABS turned off (Brembo makes a helluva brake).

And I suppose that’s all.  It was a great experience and the bikes are gorgeous, but riding home on my Harley I felt no more lingering “what if’s” about owning an Indian (not that I could afford one…).


Gorgeous, even if the front and rear tail light styles do not match.  Have you seen those fenders? DAT ASS…

High-quality feel.


Very good handling.

Adequate performance, but with an engine that size it’s just a few tricks here and there to tease out very good performance.

Made 100% in the USA (not sure if this is a pro, actually).


Mediocre suspension.

Poor console visibility.

Turn signals require canceling (until 2011).

All Indians are the same bike with maybe a dozen different features between them.


Cost: MSRP varies from $28k to $35k, depending on features.


Not as good as a Harley Road King Classic, though it might look prettier some days.   Save your money: admire Indians but ride what you love.

Written by MacDuff

May 12, 2011 at 11:19 am

Anti-Fog Visors Not Yet Available

with 2 comments

…but they exist.

THIS is an article on Web Bike World about the RIA/RIA2 coating that is a fog-proof treatment for glass/plastics that has successfully been implemented for motorcycle visors.

The anti-fog technology has been announced as “ready for implementation” for motorcycle helmet manufacturers.

All that’s left is for us to contact our favorite manufacturers and request the RIA treatment become an available option for helmet visors.

Here are some of the big companies – get in touch with your favorite maker and request RIA anti-fog coating!

ICON – http://www.rideicon.com/contact.jsp

SHOEI – customerservice@shoei.com

HJC – info@hjchelmets.com

ARAI – [assholes require you to create an account…] http://www.araiamericas.com/#/home

BELL – support@bellhelmets.com

KBC – customerservice@kbchelmet.com

NOLAN – info@nolan.it

Per the article: For more information, contact Mr. Laurent Evano, VP Support Department at RIA Anti-Fog (levano@riaantifog.com).

Written by MacDuff

April 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Oil, Oil, Oil

with one comment

Hello! Long time.  Hope everyone’s well!  I have been getting a few hundred page views a day, so I figure I better feed the animals.

First up, I am never going to make that post about installing header pipes.  All I have to say is to remember to change your head gasket.  Be gentle getting it out and use lube to get it in.  Michael Scott to the white courtesy phone, please.

Next, I have been continuing on with the oil research game and I wanted to present my notes to anyone else in the situation I was in not too long ago.  That’s what the rest of this will be about, so if you aren’t here for the oil discussion, then I wish you safe rides and please continue to message/comment if you have questions – I still get the comments and will reply by email or by reply post.  I say this in case it’s another few months before I post again ^_^



Here’s my short answer for anyone googling for what to use to change the oil in their 2010 harley davidson touring bike (road king, road king classic, electra glide, street glide, or ultra glide): 20W50. Put in 2.5 quarts and adjust the level slowly if more is needed. Don’t buy the cheap stuff, buy a brand you’ve heard of before.

We’ll talk about that in detail below.

The dino v synthetic dispute will never end.  Let me just say that for motorcycles, it’s a different ball game than for cars or trucks.  Yes, they’re internal combustion engines, but no, they are not identical in terms of needs.

Let’s take the pieces one by one.


20W50 is the best weight oil to use in your 96-cubic-inch air-cooled 45-degree V Twin if there’s no snow on the ground.

This is a summer-ish blend which will protect your bike in ambient temperatures up to 96 degrees.  If it’s hotter than that, on your ’10 tourer you will need to switch into parade mode (rock the throttle forward to kill one of the pistons).  Or better yet: don’t ride! 96 is good weather to hit the beach until sundown.  If you live someplace where it’s that warm, you need different oil and you need to not listen to me.

20W50 is also good down to about 30 degrees, so again, don’t run this weight if you are in a place too cold: see above, ignore me.

Now if you’re in the standard north american climate, 20W50 will do you right.  It’s a thick-film oil that will keep your bike’s guts sloshing around nice and pretty.  No grinding, no damage, just smooth-as-butter operation.  This is what you want, a thick oil to withstand all the heat that will build up on your air-cooled ride.  Long stop lights and blistering pavement will make you happy you used the hearty stuff.

10W40 has often been the common choice – maybe that’s just a hold over from what you’d put in your car.  10W40 is inappropriate for motorcycles as bikes have a wet clutch – the engine oil flows through the transmission.  The problem is that the stress of shifting is much worse than the regular stress of circulating in a hot engine.

Oil is made of “stuff” (can get into it later) and that stuff will break down under too much stress.  10W40 is fine to use in a regular, non-wet-clutch engine, because it will keep its integrity up to a few hundred degrees (normal operating temperatures within the cylinders).  When you start running oil through the clutch, the oil then has to deal with extreme pressure.  10W40 cannot cut it. It thins out and you’ll get grinding.  You will know your oil is unsuitable if, when changing it, it is significantly darker than it was going in OR, worse, if you can detect metal fillings in the oil.  That means you’re grinding up your gears and you will start to experience slippage and ultimately a dead transmission unless you can identify the problem.  Using the right oil is the first step.

15w50 is also sufficient and at times preferred – such as if you have mornings that are in the 20’s but afternoons in the 70’s (which could be anywhere with the way the planet’s climate has been these last few years).

I’m not making this stuff up.  20W50, or 15W50, are both measures of different types of “additives” and the same type of oil.  The first number is low-temp viscosity and the second number is high-temp viscosity.  Note that for both of my recommendations above, the high-temp viscosity is 50 SAE.  Again, a thicker, high-viscosity oil is better for the hard life of an air-cooled V twin. The first number applies to the engine when it’s been sitting (off).  If you have a 20-degree morning and your bike’s been sitting, the lower your low-temp viscosity number, the better.  Unfortunately, the lower it goes, the more frequently you have to change your oil as the lower its viscosity the more easily it breaks down.

Now let’s talk about those additives.

Synthetic vs Fossil/Dino/Organic

What would you say if I told you that many “synthetic” oils are not man-made? It’s true.  Amsoil is one of the only truly lab-created synthetic motor oils.  It works like a charm, and it’s not much more costly than the other synthetics.  Is it better? Yes.  Do you need it? No.  Or, to be more precise, no you don’t need it unless your engine is old and you want to ensure the maximum life out of it.  Thanks to a court case from about 10 years ago, the word “synthetic” is a marketing term and does not require an absence of organic bases.  So what’s the difference?

Ask a scientist.  I’m only interested in the short answer and I hope that will suffice.

Other than Amsoil, when you buy a “synthetic” oil you are actually buying a highly-reformed dinosaur oil.  It’s pulled from the earth and broken into all its pieces.  Then they save the “stuff” that works best in engines and add some “stuff” that makes up for what they took out.  What they add is generally superior to regularly-refined dinosaur oil.  It can help your engine stay cooler and run more smoothly, plus it’s cheaper to make than pure synthetics like Amsoil.  It’s win-win.

So what is regular dinosaur oil? Petroleum and wax.  Seriously.  Synthetics were invented by the Air Force during WWII to help those badass newfangled radial engines from blowing themselves up.  Not to get into molecular chemistry, but the “base” of the oil, the “stuff” that oil is made of, is classified by a Group.  The Group II oils are petroleum and wax (literally paraffin); Group III are petroleum with newer, better additives.  As such, any Group III dino oil is roughly the same as a pure synthetic.  You won’t be able to learn the Group # of an oil you pick up at the store unless you google it.  Or if you check here, since I know a few and I’ll mention the alternatives* I’ve found to AMSOIL.

Synthetic Oils for Bikes

–Mobil 1 [Delvac or regular]

–Shell Rotella

*I only bothered looking up alternatives to AMSOIL as I needed oil right away and could not wait a week for shipping.  That’ll learn me for not stockpiling it!

Notice what is NOT on the list: Valvoline.

What if you want to use regular dino oil (Group III)?

Dino Oils for Bikes

–Mobil 1 [Delvac or regular]

–Shell Rotella / Helix


Still not on the list: Valvoline.

Don’t ask me why, but vavoline oil breaks down far before its rating should suggest.  It’s shit.  If you take nothing else from this article, take this: valvoline sucks.

The Wrap-Up

Get a multi-oil with weights that sit where you want to sit on the trade-off spectrum.  If it’s summer, go 20W50 and change it after 3k miles.  If it’s winter, maybe 5W50 and change it after 2k miles.

Don’t use SAE 40 (xxW40) in your engine.

Don’t use paint bucket liners to hold spent oil, that shit will melt ’em and bleed all over the floor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-oxmolHtEc

Nelson’s in Brooklyn: Best Shop Around

with 4 comments

This is just a little rave for Nelson’s of Brooklyn.  The name is the only thing conceivably wrong with the shop:  Nelson’s Hawg House.  Oh well.

The whole story is that my brother was having trouble with his ’02 Sportster.  He’s been to Nelson’s before and always had good service.  This time, the bike would stall randomly.  It only happened 4 times, but it was enough to make us cancel a trip.  The first time it was during idle.  The second time was at 90mph along a perfectly level patch of freeway on a bright August day.  The third time was in 70-degree weather doing about 30 in stop-and-go Brooklyn traffic.  The 4th time was 10 minutes later after crossing the Verrazano, somewhere in Staten Island (NEVER GO TO STATEN ISLAND).

So he brought it in.

All armchair mechanics probably want to say it was dirt in the fuel lines or gunk in the carb.  I told him to run through a tank with b-12, which kicks the ever-loving shit out of any crud that builds up in your system (unless it gets a chance to really take hold [years of neglect, seen it m’self]).  He was hoping it was the module.

Long story short, it was actually an electrical problem.  Who knew? The bike never had trouble starting, the lights/horn/blinkers all worked fine, and yet that’s what it was.

But none of this matters for the story.

I called them up, as this was happening the week before my brother’s birthday, and I told them to send me the bill.  They told me they laughed so hard at everything we did, and that the problem was  so trivial and fixed so easily, they didn’t ask for one red cent.

If there’s any better recommendation than that for being a stand-up shop, you tell me and I will eat raw shit.

So that’s Nelson’s at 140 12th Street, Brooklyn NY.  Call them at (718) 788-5558 if you are anywhere in NYC, north/central NJ, or long island.  They will treat you right.

Meanwhile, in Road King Classic land, I’m a few hundred late for my 5k service.  But I’m on it …I must confess I have something else eating my time now that the weather’s bad, so if anything I’m planning rides for next season.

Written by MacDuff

November 8, 2010 at 4:46 pm

In other news

with one comment

I crossed the 5k mile mark.

It’s been over a year. On the “Ride Love” scale, I’m hovering somewhere between “Pansy” and “Pussy” but it’s been a really crazy summer for me: I was dark for over 7 weeks, and the rest of my obligations got folded into the remaining few weeks. Yada yada yada yada, 5k miles in 1 year is laughable. Do your worst, internet.

Service notes to follow. And yes, those pipes notes will come too.

Written by MacDuff

October 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Willing To Admit It: I Sold It And Cried

with 3 comments

You know all about my Road King Classic, and all the time and work (and $$$$) I’ve invested over the last year.  But what you don’t know is I have – well, had – another bike.

It was a beater.  A 2001 Suzuki Volusia.  Dropped, scraped, plonked, drilled, hammered, crushed, stalled, rusted, burnt, creaking and abused, it was my baby.  It was my first bike and I truly, truly loved it.  The best motorcycle ride of my whole life was some random monday I took off work to go haul my volusia out of an impound lot – it had been towed on a friday before a  would-be summer weekend of non-stop riding, leaving me considering firearms as an alternative to waiting until monday to get my bike back  –  I paid $110 for the bullshit of not having my registration sticker on the plate (only New Jersey, the assrape capital of the USA, cares about this) and threw a leg over the saddle.   The engine popped to life and I sped off, probably no faster than 50mph, up some backwater stretch of route 9.  That was the happiest bike moment of my life, and the moment to which I compare all other trips and twistys and curb conversations: that is the best thing about owning a motorcycle, and maybe among the best of all things in this world.  Call it freedom, call it sitting in the wind, call it self-enacted drama, or don’t call it anything.  It was just the best.  The best.  That was some years ago.

I sold that bike yesterday.

Some 20-year-old and his heavy-accent father came to my house in the afternoon.  It was overcast.  I put a quick 2 miles on the bike to warm her up and make sure she’d start like a champ when they came.  Parked the bike just-so on the grass and left a spare helmet conspicuously nearby for the test-ride.  While once I would have never let some asshole take my bike for a spin, I knew that the volusia’s no looker and it’s the solid, well-maintained engine that would seal the deal, so I found myself pushing them to take a test ride when they hesitated.  They circled and poked and spoke in some language I don’t know – polish or czech, if television has taught me anything – and asked what I thought were actually stupid questions, considering…

You can guess from what you know of me through this blog that I do my own routine work.  Hell, my next entry will probably be my 5k service notes, and then when it’s too cold to ride I’ll do that write-up of the V&H headers and my muffler project(s).  But these guys don’t know me from adam.  The kid actually called me “sir” which I tried not smile at.  As it turned out, they were only interested in looks.  They came to see my bike after I said it was a beater: great for riding, not that pretty.  I can only assume they have their reasons.

They never asked about who took care of the bike (me, a shop, or  no one), they never asked what work had been done, and they didn’t realize it was shaft-driven until they asked me “Transmission.  Good?”

The offer they gave me was some $700 below the price I advertised, which of course I padded a bit.  They made a great show of pointing out all the cosmetic flaws the bike had, which – unfortunately for them as I negotiate for a living – would have been great to knock the price down except that I was selling a beater.  I stood by an unassailable claim: this bike is worth what I’m asking, and if you want to go check out the unscraped and unscratched deals for $2000 more, I won’t take it personally.  They said they’d call me after a day or two, but they hung out in their truck for 10 minutes and came back over to me to try again after I went back outside to put the bike in the garage before the rain.  They waved cash at me, I stood firm, and in the end I settled for $40 less than my asking price.  I rule.

This is what I was thinking as I pull out the title and sign the back.  I check the “odometer cannot be trusted” and remember how much work this bike needs.  I unlocked the “secret” compartment under the seat to remove the registration to sign that over to them, and I remember that the old, expired registration is in there too because I never ride this bike.  I focus on my relief of washing my hands of this beautiful little runt.  I sign the papers and give them to the man.  I hand the key to his son and tell him “Safe ride.”

He starts it up, just like he did 10 minutes ago when I talked him into a test ride.  There’s that fat, happy crackle and the splashing-fart sound I love so much and it echoes off of the houses on the block.  He straps on his helmet and does a little K-turn in my neighbor’s driveway.  I am s tanding in the neglected grass of my front lawn as he twists the throttle and zips up to his father, who is strapping down the saddlebags and the stock windshield and 2up seat in the bed.  I yell for my wife, because she should see this.  Closure.  I think this as the truck starts and he follows my bike.  Not my bike, Bartosz’s bike.  I have flash of self-consciousness, realizing exactly what a huge piece of my life that bike represents.

I met my wife a few days before I got that bike – I met her while shopping for it.  She told me “I don’t like motorcycles” (she said the same thing about … oh, everything I love).  We went riding on that bike the day we got married.  I rode it to her apartment for years while we were breaking up and making up.   Actually we got engaged right after (and because of) a crash we had riding that bike*.  I went across half of the US, bridges and ferries and fields and cities, you name it.  I dragged a saddlebag for 40 miles through Maryland.  I met some of the best people I know while my ass was in that seat.  Somewhere in the swampland of Virginia I met the devil on the road while I rode that bike.  I went helmetles in Pennsylvania and I stalled in the Berkshires of Vermont.  I don’t even know how fast I ever got her going or how many miles I rode in all those years because the spedometer linkage broke** (changing the front tire) two weeks after I bought her.

I watched this kid ride away and I cried.  You can steal my harley and I will either beat you or shoot you, depending on where you’re doing your theiving, but you bet your ass I won’t cry about it.  That will never happen again.  There is only one first.

Now I don’t want to end this on a sad note.  So let’s pretend we’re at a party for people who love motorcycles, and I’m giving a toast.  Maybe someone will chime in with a witty limerick when I’m through…either way, life on two wheels is the best life there is (except for flying, maybe).  Here’s to the bikes we ride, new and old, used and pristine, and the many miles ahead.  I will drink to the memories my bike gave me: the midnight rides to and from the apartments of girls I knew, the offered lessons met by excuses from a faded friend, the first time I went riding in a pack and felt really part of something, the time I first showed up to a big family party and was met with “hey, a motorcycle!!!”  and all the dirty looks I got from cagers stuck in rush hour as I zipped by.  It was a good ride my bike gave me.  Here’s to the next.

Ride safe out there.  Count your blessings.  Go pour yourself a glass, sit on your bike, and drink to the good fortune you have.  And if you do this in public and get a DUI, don’t blame MacDuff.

*We went down and after I shut the engine and scooped the little lady off the side of the road and righted the bike, she told me through tears that I shouldn’t feel bad, that she would get back on when I said we were ready.   I went and got a ring a few days later.

**The odometer reads 13233, but on the title it’s mis-printed (somehow …;) as 13337.  For you squares out there, that’s an elite number.

Written by MacDuff

October 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Not Riding