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Born to Ride

So my first street motorcycle was a 1983 Honda Interceptor 750. I was 16 when I bought it, and hanging on Martha’s Vineyard, where I lived with three friends in a one-bedroom apartment and worked on a roofing crew. The apartment below ours was occupied by a stoner named Rocket, which in all likelihood was not his given name, but I never heard anyone call him anything else. Funny. I just remembered about Rocket; hadn’t thought of him in a quarter-century or more. He must be at least 70 by now. If he’s still around.

I bought the bike for $500 out of the backyard of a middle-aged man who’d wrecked it and quickly lost interest; I would later learn far more than I wanted to know about wrecking bikes and losing interest (I believe this is called “foreshadowing”). The Honda was dinged up, but ran great, and I rode it a whole lot, and I am beyond grateful that the only time I dropped it I was in a parking lot spinning the back tire to show off for a girl I liked but who no doubt (and rightly so) had me pegged for a fool. Because really I had no business on such a powerful motorcycle. I mean, I’d had a couple of dirt bikes – a sweet old Honda Elsinore 125 among them – before the Interceptor, and I’d ridden my friends’ street bikes from time-to-time, but I was pretty green.

I rode the 750 for a while – couple of years, anyway – then bought an early 90’s Honda Hurricane 600. Smaller than the 750, but way quicker, and much more nimble. This one had been dumped, too, and I bought it cheap, too, though I don’t remember how cheap. Maybe $1000, $1200. Rode it all over the place, as much as possible. I vividly remember descending the snowed-packed dirt hill from my house, legs as outriggers, trying to keep it upright until I hit the dry pavement. Shivering to beat the band. During this period of my late teens, I also had a YZ125 (dirt bike), a XR200 (dirt bike), and a CR250 (dirt bike). No doubt there was something else in there, too, but it’s escaped my memory.

Ok. So I rode the Hurricane for a while, then sold it and bought a really nice Kawasaki GPZ750 from an older gentleman who’d babied it. First bike I owned that was in such good condition. I liked that motorcycle a lot, though like so many of those early sport bikes, it was too much engine mounted to too little suspension. Still. Fun, fun bike, and even pretty comfy.

After the GPZ – which I sold to I don’t know who – I had a KZ1000, then a KZ750 and, somewhere in there, a really cool little Honda CB350 twin. Gutless but style for miles and you know what a sucker I am for style. Seems like maybe I had a KX250 dirt bike in there, too, but I could be misremembering. I definitely remember the little XL125 I mentioned a few days back, and the Suzuki DR350 I fell off and rang my bell so hard I couldn’t remember my boys’ names. Puked a bunch, too. Truth told, that kind of put me off motorcycles. I just sort of reached a point where I realized the risk was no longer worth the thrill, and I sold the DR and that was it. With the exception of a handful of minor, low-speed dirt bike get-offs, it remains the only time I’ve dumped a bike, and I intend to keep it that way.

I just realized how few of you probably care about any of this, but it’s sorta fun for me, so thanks for humoring me.

34 thoughts on “Born to Ride”

  1. I’m a sucker for all kinds of mechanical proclivities myself Ben. It was actually refreshing for me. My wife thinks I’m redneck leaning I guess, but I put myself in your category, of just liking cool powered thingys.

  2. Bought a little 185 street bike at 18, rode the hell out of it for a year or two then stashed it while moving around the country and reproducing, got it back out for a few years, had to stash it again during divorce, then sold it to buy gold to make a ring for a new man. Many years later after offspring were grown I toyed with buying another, took a buddies out for a spin, was like heaven until I had a *very* close call with a blind idiot in a car which convinced me to never get on one again. Tho my old creaking and aching body still can feel the call of that thrill. Vroomvroomvroom!

  3. My husband didn’t need motorcycles to draw my attention to him (we met at such a young age, he only had a moped since that is all his parents would let him have.) But, it didn’t hurt that someone I already thought was pretty cool could ride such powerful machines. We’ve had street and dirt bikes living with us over the years but the one that remains (albeit, taken apart a bit) is a Triumph Thunderbird Sport. Pretty thing and was fun to hang onto his waist and go along for the ride. Think he wouldn’t be too put out if our boys develop an interest in dirt bikes but we’ll see. They tear around the woods on bikes of the non-motor variety and I personally enjoy their motor sounds more than the real thing. I think all boys must be born knowing how to make that brrrrrrrrrrrrr…ppppppbbbbtttttt….sound. 🙂

      1. Have you read them (or read yourself) Beverly Cleary’s “The Mouse and the Motorcycle?” The main character, Ralph S. Mouse, finds a boy’s toy motorcycle and learns the only way to make it go is to make the motor sounds. Many adventures transpire after that discovery. A great aloud you all might enjoy. And full of great mid-1960s sayings like “gee whiz” and “Scout’s honor.” Peace!

      2. I remember that book from when I was a lil’ tyke! I’d totally forgotten about it; thanks for the reminder.

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      3. There’s a movie? Figures I wouldn’t know that. 🙂 I can imagine it’s fun to watch.

      4. We watched them on Netflix a while ago, but check Youtube, I think full movies are on there too. One called Mouse and Motorcycle and the other is a sequel I think. Enjoy!!

      5. I used to love the mouse and the motorcycle series. As I remember, there were several. The sense of freedom I got, a huge, completely unattainable freedom I felt reading those… The same with a book called The Car I read as an older kid, maybe long about middle school. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  4. You’re on a tear man! I know that “pegged for a tool” feeling so very well. Consider a rusted little pick up with wooden bumpers and plywood adorned with a handcrafted sharks fin inplace of the sun roof.

  5. I rescind my previous comment; you’ve definitely had more vehicles than I, and I’m not on track to beat you… I’m trying to slow that crap down.
    I’m sure there are some folks that would say weather updates from Vermont aren’t interesting, too. It takes all kinds… But your ability to create a vivid mind picture with few words makes it OK.

    1. It’s sort of embarrassing for me to admit how many rigs I’ve owned – and I know I’ve forgotten a bunch. But what the hell. And I’m slowing it down, too.

  6. Cohen singing the phone book, Hewitt writing vehicle lists… it all works.

    I’ve never thought about it before, but your posts got me thinking so I added them up… turns out I’ve had 8 vehicles in nearly 30 years of driving. Child’s play.

  7. Tripping down memory lane is fun.

    My kids have never shown much interest in either motorcycles or ATVs. There are some ATVs at my MIL’s ranch in Colorado that the kids could ride as much as the wanted, but they never ride them unless prompted to do so.

    I had one of those “oh shit” near death motorcycle experiences that makes you park the bike when I was riding next to another guy on I-89 one night and a third guy thought that it would be funny to turn off his lights and ride between us at over 100 mph. It wasn’t funny and in an instant I realized how close to being badly injured or even dead I had been, so I went home, parked the bike, a Kawasaki KH750H2 hot rod, and never rode a street bike again.

    1. Yeah, our boys aren’t much interested in motorcycles/atv’s/snowmachines, and that’s just fine with me.

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  8. “red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme”.
    Funny, at 63 I’ve been fighting the temptation to get a bike again, and the one I think of is a CB750. I had a CB450 twin for a couple years back when, dumped it when I was on an outside curve on a country 2-lane and another bike, coming the other way, came into my lane to avoid pedestrians taking up his. I would look different today if I hadn’t had a face shield on my helmet.
    Still, there seems to be a siren song that calls out when you get to a certain place in time..

  9. Ben, completely off motorcycle topic, but I am watching this DVD called “Fermentation Workshop” with Sandor Ellix Katz, and guess what! I see Ben Hewitt sitting in the audience, taking notes. 🙂 I had to double check the publisher of the DVD to make sure it was you! Anyway, good workshop.

    1. wow, that must’ve been a decade ago, butI remember going to that. I was writing an article on Sandor for some magazine or another

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      1. Yes, DVD is dated 2010, and you look like a baby. He is really great though, I learned a lot just from that workshop, looks like he is still holding a lot of live workshops around the world!

  10. As a former “biker” myself I love reading stories like that and I too love remembering the fun times I had. I started with similar bike like you; a Suzuki GS750. The cylinders dies, so I out on 850 cylinders, which matched perfectly. That the bike simply became one repair job with parts dying or falling off everywhere.
    And I too went for a Gpz750, but unlike you never really liked the bike. It rode….. not well, I thought. Then I went for the real deal; a Yamaha FZXR1000. A real sports machine and ohh the adventures I had with it! Nothing short of a miracle I am still alive AND in one piece!
    Now I have a Honda 360 2-cylinder bike, lying around in parts in my father in law’s garage. It’s been there for a decade and I doubt it will ever see a day on the road again….. But I do dream of a Dnepr or Ural with sidecar (you know those copied early BMW’s) regularly. Maybe one day… but chances are tiny.

    1. I did plenty of side car riding in those as a kid, rocks, mud and bugs splattering on the windshield! They dont seem to be too big here, but there is a dealer in our town here who sells them. American Southwest has great weather and super fun roads for bikers.

  11. It’s really gratifying to see how a simple “throw away” post brings out so many comments and memories. Thank you, all

  12. Always loved motorbikes but mum was deathly afraid of bikes in general and it wasn’t until I was 12 or so that I learned to ride a bicycle even. Bought a 90cc Honda cross over scooter/motor bike, that’s a scooter look with full size wheels, when I was eighteen and loved it, mother not so much. Also got a boyfriend that had a real bike which my mother hated, (my father wasn’t too keen on the boy either). Much later in life I was introduced to dirt biking. Would visit a friend in Mesa, AZ, and go out into the desert. My bike was 100cc, his 110cc. I fell a lot at first and he helped my up numerous times. Loved the really tricky hills and dales with big loose rocks for some reason, the more difficult the more I enjoyed it. Last ride was in February of 2007 and I had just turned 60. My friend no longer rides, or does the hiking and climbing we did together, after all he is 10 yrs older than me. I’m very thankful to him for introducing me to all the amazing outdoor activities we did together with dirt biking being my absolute love.

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