Sunday, June 30, 2013

Die Motorräder von Rolf

I have never ridden a Harley Davidson. That surprises me. I've always liked them, just never had the chance to ride one. But I have owned a few motorcycles along the way. Well, two actually.

I first learned  to ride on a friend's Honda 70 Mini Trail. These little half mini-bike/half-motorcycles were everywhere when I was a kid, but I haven't seen one in years. I rode his into a tree; the whole clutch, brake concept eluded me at first. I wonder if that one survived?

Flash forward to my junior year of college. With the Capri's reliability a bit of an issue and on-campus difficult, I found a 1981 Honda CB125S at Spinetti's Bike Shop in Jackson, California. Interestingly it was brand new and yet three years old when I found it, having languished in the back of the showroom hidden behind the real motorcycles.

The CB125S was small, but slow.

My mother was of course terrified. To buy the motorcycle I had to promise her I would attach one of those red safety flags kids put on their bicycles. After a convincing lie, I bought the little blue Honda and headed for Sacramento where she would never see it. But mothers don't forget. The next time she visited she went right to the garage and caught me. I probably lied again.

I rode that Honda all through my senior year, hiding it in a bush at school to avoid buying a parking pass. With a whopping 12 horsepower it would do almost 65 if I hugged the tank. Once, fashionably California in a polo shirt and shorts, I had a bee strike me in the throat at about 45 mph. Man, that hurt! I didn't go down, but in the future did wear more clothing.

Here's perhaps the most interesting part of this tale... I never actually got a motorcycle license. I don't remember why, only that I didn't. This caused a bit of a problem a few years later when I decided to get a bigger bike, a much bigger bike.

In 1986 I was stationed in Germany. My neighbor Deiter had a couple of nice BMW motorrads, including an R100 with a sidecar (he called it a "boat"). I badly wanted a BMW. But I didn't have a license from the states, and to get one in Germany would have been expensive and time-consuming.

So, without much thought I broke a half dozen or so Army regulations and bought a 1976 BMW R75/6 from Deiter. We just left the bike in his name with German plates. A simple solution, unless I had gotten caught which probably would have ruined my career as an officer. Did I mention how cool it looked?

Hanging out with Deiter and some other German motorcycle friends, I took the big BMW on a few road trips in Northern Germany and into Holland, the horizontally opposed pistons pulling the handlebars back and forth as I flew down the autobahns. It was all great fun, but eventually the threat of being stopped by the Polizei or military police weighed on me and I sold the bike. I think I even made a bit of money.

That's it. I have not ridden another bike to this day. Interestingly, most of my friends who once owned them don't any more. For most of us there is some internal self-preservation mode that kicks in, as if to say, "this is fun, but the odds are against you." However, if the chance presented itself I would try a Harley, as long as I don't need a license.

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