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THE ONES I RODEClicking the images below jumps to a different section of this web page:
(click any pic* below to enlarge it.)
It all began with my Schwinn bicycle in about 1945, but it was my older cousin David Martin that six years later introduced me to the thrill of straddling a motor on two wheels! He had a 1951 Whizzer - a bicycle with an incredibly thin motor strapped under the top frame bar and connected to the rear wheel by a v-belt. On rare occasions he would come by and give me a ride on it. I had to sit on the metal luggage rack (OUCH!). A year later, he traded in his Whizzer for a Czech Jawa - a "real" motorcycle (125cc ring-ding). Once again, I had to ride on the luggage rack - oooh 'da pain! I marvel that, years later, I was able to sire five handsome children.
I started my own two-wheeled riding life in 1953 when I was not yet 13 years old. It was a 1953 Cushman Eagle that I got brand new for $350. Both of us are barely seen at in the blurry picture at left, along with the 1953 Olds Rocket 98 that was my favorite car of all time (except for Tarbaby, further below). The Eagle was a scooter but without the bathtub look. Getting aboard was like on a "real" motorcycle: One straddled the gas tank. It had a one-cylinder flathead engine (about 500cc = 5hp), and a real clutch [of sorts] and a 2-speed "crash" transmission. It was light blue. Too bad I have no better picture of my own Eagle, but this red one looks just like it and shows good detail. The chain drive you see between the engine and transmission is not stock. The original was a belt drive to the gearbox. The chain drive eliminated all slippage, allowing one to get second-gear "scratch" (tire chirp). Naturally I had chain drive installed on my Eagle. I was king of the hill, especially when an Eagle was featured prominently on the cover of Cycle magazine (September 1951) next to <gasp> a Harley! In many ways they were similar: "springer" front end, "hardtail" rear axle, solo seat, tank-mounted gearshift, and all (note the stock belt/pulley drive).
I first met my life-long friend John Douglass, (who sadly passed away in 2005), one day when me and my my Eagle came up behind a bizarre visage: a flapping leather jacket perched above two bulbous, green "fenders." The whole affair was speeding down 83rd street in the rain, listing 15 degrees to port, whilst belching great quantities of blue smoke. I was later to find out it was John on a Sears Cruisair (aka Vespa) . The engine (a 150cc ring-ding) of this strange machine was hung outside the rear wheel under the starboard fender. Equilibrium under way was only achieved by an eternal leftward lean.
The Eagle surely ruled when compared to the French Solex owned by my other friend Jon. This was a curious conjoining of an overgrown model airplane engine and a spindly-wheeled bicycle. Jon's Solex could not even keep up with John's Cruisair, much less my Eagle or my other other friend John's Eagle. Gee, all my friends were named John - never realized that before now.
But my Eagle began to seem tame when the older brother of a school chum got a red Mustang (brief history here and website here) 10 Horsepower! Three-speed foot-shift transmission! Telescopic forks! I had to have one, but my folks said it was "too fast and powerful." What to do...
Then one March in 1955 I went to the K.C. Boat & Sports show. There I met Keith and Bruce at their Triumph/Harley booth . They had this homely, high-wheeled thing they called a Triumph Tiger Cub. 200cc OHV engine. 10 horsepower, four-speed foot shift, rear shocks to boot! And only $500! Had ta have it!. I convinced my folks that such a tiny,tidy engine would be way safer ("slower" is how I think I put it) than one of those brutish Mustangs with their huge black engines. And they bought it (the safety lie, that is - I paid for the Tiger Cub out of savings from my sacking job at Dad's grocery).
Here I am posing on my brand new Tiger Cub in 1955: I'll never forget that rush of excitement and anxiety, the first time I drag-raced a Mustang. In the parlance of the day, I "walked" him! No one was more surprised than I was. I had no idea the little Cub was so much faster than the once-mighty Mustangs! (Sidebar: Friend Jon later, much later, went on to become a collector of 2-wheeled Mustangs).
Before leaving the world of motor scooters, you just have to take a look at the "Eagle" of today! 100hp with a real bad attitude. Click on --> Defiant Scooter to visit their website!
For the young ones who are just dreaming about having their own two-wheeler, there are exciting possibilities for adding a gas motor to any bicycle (50 mile range @ 35 mph, 5 hp = 3,700 watts). Check it out - unlimited dad/son bonding possibilities for about $150 - many boys dreams might begin here. For those who dream of saving the planet, one can add an electric motor to any bicycle (20 mile range @ 20 mph,
500 watts = 0.7 hp) for only (?) $900.
Over 50 years later I would ride my own high-powered scooter. It was extreme fun, but I sold it in 2008 to get a 1300cc V-4 Sport-Touring machine. More on that further below...
My Mom had always been afraid of my growing love for cycles and she tried to divert my attention by buying me a beautiful paint show horse: Rebel in 1956. But I was not to be dissuaded. Besides, horses were unpredictable and the only injuries I've ever had were due to falls from them. Safe is as safe does, and horses never did that for me.
About 1957 I decided that what I really wanted was a car. Not just any car but something "different". I sold my Tiger Cub and put the money down on a 1958 Volkswagen beetle. The waiting list at that time was over a year. After waiting three months and never seeing my name rise upwards on the list (I think more money "down" had a lot to do with who got their VW and how soon), I decided to get a Morris Minor 1000 which was available immediately. Made in England, the "Morris Mouse" had an 850 cc 4-banger that produced a whomping 35 horsepower. I paid $1,830 for it brand new, The sign on the front says "Down With Detroit" - hardly a patriotic thought either then or by current post "September 11th" standards. I took it off to college, and I remember that there was one "steep" hill (on old "10" highway just east of DeSoto. KS) that, even though I hit it full bore at 65 mph, still required downshifts 4th to 3rd; then from 3rd to 2nd gear just to get to the top. By then speed had dropped to about 25 mph wide open in 2nd. That same hill today could be taken at 70mph by even the "98-lb weakling" of modern autos.
In 1959, I got wind that Engle Motors (a K.C. MO Triumph Dealer) had made a mass buy from England on leftover '58 Tiger 110s. A brand new one "in the crate" could be had for $850. I couldn't resist and here I am on my first big, bad 650cc twin - almost like the Triumph Thunderbird ridden by Marlon Brando in the 1954 movie "The Wild One" (whose influence one clearly can see in my 1955 leather-jacketed pic further above). Here's another shot of the T-110 so you can see more of the 40 hp engine (and cat Tito). This was about the last of the "non-unit" engines having the gearbox entirely separate from the engine.
I was the happiest of teenagers: both a Morris and a motorcycle. My Crusaire-riding friend John traded up to a T-110 as well, and we spent two happy, exceedingly dangerous years riding between Leawood KS and the Missouri Ozarks - the terrors of Highway 50 as it were...
In 1961 I got married and the drafty nature of the convertible seemed too much "roughing it" for the wife and expected new child. So we traded in the ragtop Morris on a 1961 hardtop version which the Brits called a "saloon". You see here the results of a dog-dodging incident in which my fair lady sacrificed both fenders on a bridge railing to save some unknown pooch. Lucky she didn't buy the farm to spare the dog. Oh yes, a responsible married man could hardly be seen tearing around on a motorcycle so the T-110 was sold. But then a few years later...
The other lead guitar player in my band (another story in my life) got a brand new Triumph Bonneville (twin carbs, two more horsepower). Since we were band rivals, naturally I had to have me a 'Bonney, too. So here I am in 1964 on my newish 1963 Bonneville with my newish 1963 son Scott.
In 1966 my Crusaire-friend John & I, and a Leawood policeman opened a Yamaha & BSA motorcycle shop (that's a whole 'nuther story: click here), but here I am with Scott in late autumn 1966 on our brand new Yamaha 305cc . This was an extremely fast machine for any size engine, but I despised the ring-ding sound and yearned for the husky, deep-throat sound of a 4-stroke again. In quick succession I had a 1968 650cc BSA Lightning like this one and a year later a 750cc BSA "Rocket-3" triple cylinder. Here's me on mine in 1968 and here's another pic to show off the details . Another lifelong friend, Tim, also had an identical Rocket-3 and he and I, and sometimes our wives, spent many memorable hours burning up the highways. 30+ years ago now, and it seems like only last week...
For me the cycle shop came to an unpleasant end, so I got rid of my BSA in favor of the latest, baddest thing out of Japan, the Honda K-1 CB750. Here I am on my 1971 "K750" and here's the engine detail - a work of art! In the fall of 1972 I took that fabulous bike to Colorado for the first time. A dreamed-of trek coming true. The summer of '72 the Eagles "Take It Easy' was #1 on the charts. A line from that song was running through my mind the whole six days I was on the road:
"Don't Let The Sound Of Your Own Wheels Drive You Crazy." (But they did...)
"And those who were seen dancing were thought insane by those who could not hear the music."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
The Eagles also revealed the secret to the common thread that strings together all the gemstones (and millstones) of my life:
"So put me on a highway, and show me a sign, and Take It To The Limit one more time."
40+ years later, the amazing Honda CB750 would be named Motorcycle Of The Century by MotorCyclist Magazine. This quote says it all:"The CB750 forged a new reputation for the island nation [of Japan] as an indisputable source of the best engineering, design and technology in the world. More important to motorcycle enthusiasts, the CB750 acted as the archetypal Japanese superbike, kicking off an epic high-performance arms race that continues to this day. There would be no Honda CBR1000RR - nor Kawasaki ZX-10R, or Suzuki GSX-R1000, or Yamaha YZF-R1 - if the CB750 hadnít come first."
The on-line Kneeslider blog also had this to say about the MCM article. Well spoken, lads. It is nice to know now how wisely I had chosen then.
The "K750" was my baby for 5 years (longest I'd ever owned a bike) until Honda came out with the fabulous 1000cc Gold Wing in 1975. Scrimping and saving, I bought a new '76 model. Paid $3,800 for it including the Vetter fairing. At 70,000 miles in 2008, I still have this wonderful machine (for awhile at least). It still runs like a two-wheeled Rolex. I don't expect it will wear out in my lifetime.
I must admit to having an ongoing affair, from 1990-2005, with my unbelievable 4-wheeled mistress, Miss Tarbaby. She caused me to shun my faithful 'Wing for many years, but now the 'Wing & I are good friends again. Here is that hussy Tarbaby, Front and Rear (what most others see), along with me in 1993: Tarbaby was lithe, lean, hot-blooded, and very fast for any car, but especially so for a 2-litre 4-banger (15.7 sec/96 mph quarter mile drag)! Her computer controlled turbo puts out 15 lbs of boost. She's never been dyno'd, but others configured like her have been tested at 250hp. Don't know her actual horsepower, but I do know Tarbaby will do 145 mph. Bike or car, my Valentine-One watches out for me when I'm [way] over the limit - Life is good.
In the various bike pix you may notice that my BSA R3, Honda K750, and Honda Gold Wing all sport a fairing. Since 1969 Vetters have kept the wind and billion bugs out of my face! Founder Craig Vetter has a marvelous website: Click Here - please visit it for lots of wonderful pictures and first-person insight into how a good idea and hard work can turn a dream into a very successful business. I salute Craig Vetter because he helped a lot of others realize their dreams along the way as well. Everyone who reads his story will find inspiration. To see the complete history of his works of functional art (fairings) here's a Vetter Fairing-Spotter page.
Here is my 1976 Gold Wing in a series of shots as I added J.C. Whitney accessories: and rode it through the summer of my life. Here we are in 1980 (at exactly 30K miles) on the way to Yellowstone with my youngest son Brian . And here I am at 51 in '91 with my 'Wing at 50.0K miles: , and here again at 61 in June 2002 at 60.0K miles: Until March 2003 I carved the canyon curves of Colorado ( visit our subdivision website) on that same Gold Wing. But all things must pass, so I decided to give my intrepid 1976 'Wing to youngest son Brian: Passing The Torch
Brian is no longer 12 as in the pic above, but is now old enough to have sons (and daughters) of his own. Brian's own teenage son Scott Robert Martin has just gotten a new dirt bike. Here's a picture of young Scott racing (80cc class) on any Sunday in 2003. Scott's Website is Here
April 2003 was my 50th year riding motorcycles. In celebration of that, and for finding work again after 10 months, I bought a voluptuous '94 Honda ST1100 in March 2003. I call her Rhiannon (rhymes with cannon). I have wanted one of these bad girls for a long time (since they came out in '90). She's hot and fast - a suitable new ride for a crusty old boy like myself! Tarbaby may be faster in absolute top speed, but Rhiannon is way quicker! Rhiannon came to me with only 28,000 miles. She's a real looker, too:
Her adopted (and so appropriate) theme song is: Taken by the Wind - a 1.4 Mb .mp3 (right-click to download) lifted from Fleetwood Mac's haunting tune, Rhiannon.
Here we are in October 2004 when Rhiannon hit 50,000 miles and I had been hit with 64 years :>( Rhiannon is sporting her new look: bottomless and a low neckline; the better to show off the fullness of her beautiful V cleavage (seen even better a few lines below)!
Then there's my obligation to pass along this 2-wheeled obsession to the future generations. Here's me, Rhiannon, and neighbor Brodie in late summer 2004: - he's got that Eye of the Tiger, I think: - and here is a link to a cute video from that same afternoon: Dan and Brodie riding (6.5 Mb .avi).
In June 2003 neighbor Scott and I rode our bikes to Monument Valley AZ - right into the image you see below- Beep Beep - It was to be one of the best rides of either of our lives! Click on the pix below for the ride of your life!
I have posted the best pictures from the entire run at this link: Monument Valley "Checkerboard" Tour
A year later, in June 2004, neighbor Scott and I took an even more remarkable adventure: riding the legendary California 1 and 101 coastal highways. Here's the link to the pictures from The "Left Coast" Tour
For Valentine's Day in 2006 my wife Sheryl got her own, first-ever, motorcycle: a 500cc Kawasaki "Light Cruiser"(left). It wasn't long before the weight, and shifting a 6-speed transmission, became more work than fun for her. So in July 2006 we bought her a really cool Honda Reflex (right), which we named "Stormy". It is a 250cc with automatic transmission. Whenever I ride that Stormy I find it impossible to wipe the grin from my face (you can see the one on Sheryl's face behind her helmet). It's more fun than anything has a right to be.
In April 2006, I passed the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Rider Coach program and became an officially-licenced (by both the state of Colorado & MSF) Motorcycle Safety Instructor: . My hope is that, through passing safety information along to new riders, I will be able to perform a little give-back to the world which has been so beneficient to me.
At left is one of the last pictures taken of black Rhiannon, my 1994 Honda ST1100. From March 2003 (when I got her) to May 2006, we had gone from 27,000 to 63,500 miles together. She is pictured here with grandkids Regan, Riley, and Luke on her back. A perfect ride. Then, surprise! In early May 2006 Sheryl and I traded in both our bikes on this brand new 2005 Honda Gold Wing (GL1800). We bought it still in the crate. Even though it is only the "base" version, it is the 30th anniversary model of the original 1975 'Wing. Significant to us because it was exactly 30 years ago in 1976 that Sheryl and I bought our first new Gold Wing.
Lots of trick stuff on the '05 model: Self-canceling turn signals that actually work [wonder how they do that?]. Active Cruise Control and Anti-Lock brakes. Keyless remote to lock/pop the trunk, and to launch its horn-honking, light-flashing here I am routine. Has an ambient air temp display, driver/passenger intercom, and all the gadget controls are close at hand via lighted thumb buttons. Of course it's all computer managed, including a pretentious "Opening (and Closing) Ceremony" that assails one from the backlit LCD whenever the key is turned on (or off). The engine can not be started until the performance has completed. Fortunately, one can opt out of being so dis-accommodated and I have, of course, so opted. Center vent in the windshield and 4 more at various places in the fairing to let in fresh air (how much can one need)? The 1800cc 118hp high torque flat six pulls strong from 1,500 rpm. Climbs all the steep mountain grades around here 2-up in 5th gear without shifting. Almost like having an automatic transmission. None of this would be so great if her bulk caused uncertainty in the curves. Fortunately the handling is very nimble, almost as good as the lithe ST1100. On the GL1800 I am still able to grind my boots around curves with just as much confidence as before. A recent Cycle Magazine article said this:"During our performance testing, the 2005 Gold Wing 1800 blazed to 60 mph in a quick 4.13 seconds, 100 mph in 11.32 seconds, and the quarter-mile in 12.40 seconds at 109.4 mph."Not bad for the Winnebago of motorcycles!
FLASH: JUNE 2007: As fine a machine as it was in both design and performance, the Gold Wing riding position was all wrong for my increasingly arthritic knees. After only an hour or so in the saddle they would begin to ache almost unbearably. So what is an old geezer to do? After discovering - to my complete surprise - that the variety of seating and leg positions available on Sheryl's 250cc Reflex scooter allowed me 8+ hours in the saddle without any pain whatsoever, I decided to acquire its 600cc big brother, the Honda Silver Wing (yes, and sold the bigger-brother GL1800). At left is the 2004 Silver Wing that I snagged on eBay. 50 horsepower allow it to exceed 100 mph (80 mph climbing mountain passes!) and have better acceleration than most modern sedans. Like its little sister Stormy, the Silver Wing is a complete hoot to ride. You can see many of my pictures and "bad motorscooter" exploits documented at this link. Click this link to read a Silver Wing Road Test. Fast Forward: In April 2008 I sold the fierce Silver Wing because the dark side had - once again - gotten the best of me (see FLASH below).
FLASH JANUARY 2008: Unbelievable as the performance of the 600cc scooter was, I still carried the torch for the looks, performance, and handling of my long lost, lusty Rhiannon. The only thing to do was to strike up a new relationship with her hot young sister. You see her and me at left on one of our first dates. She is a 2005 Honda ST1300. Same horsepower (115) and luscious deep candy red color as my 1800cc Gold Wing, but only 720 pounds "wet" instead of 880 pounds for the portly Gold Wing 1800. Within only a few months I had affectionately - and accurately - named her (or, should it be him) Red Leader (84K .wav file). Twist her throttle and you'll soon know that the Force is with you. So far, no knee pain for me - or maybe it is masked by the facial cramps caused by an unending grin! As you can see at right, above, I love flying! BTW, that little fly-by was done at 8,000+ feet altitude between Walden and Granby, CO. Red Leader wasn't done, but I was. At near sea level, who knows just how fleet s/he might be?
I rode Red Leader on our first 2008 road trip, an outstanding experience which you can share by clicking on this link to 1,050 Miles in Colorado. Red Leader and I were definitely made to feel unwelcome in the two-bit town of Morrison, Colorado where we were victimized in a gotcha speed trap. Morrison has a certain boutique appeal, but is infested with predatory cops. It is just southwest of Denver near the nexus of I-70, E-470, & CO-285. Our advice to you: Just don't ever go there!
Final Update: In March 2010 I was finally healed enough to take the ST1300 on a few brief rides. During the eight months of convalescence since the July 2009 accident, my body clearly had aged (my 70th birthday is July 2010) past the point that riding even the best of the best of bikes was going to be too difficult. Knees and back were weak and painful. Then in April 2010 I made a life-changing decision: I began a campaign for public office. Win or lose there was going to be neither time or stamina to roll America's highways any longer. So in April 2010 I took some photos and placed an ad on Craig's List. Within days Red Leader was sold to a Highway Patrol cop who lives - huge irony - in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
The month before (March 2010) we had foolishly sold my wife's sweet 'Stormy'. Sheryl seldom rode little Stormy and at the time my devious plan was to keep the wicked Red Leader. Along the way, I had put almost 5,000 miles on her cheerful red 250cc scooter. How was I to know then how deeply it had worked its way into my cold, black heart? As I write this final note in July 2010, after 57 years in the saddle, my deepest regret is that happy little Stormy is no longer in my garage.
Over 'n Out.
November 2010: OOPS --- Seems the rumors of my retirement have proven false. Having lost the election my heart turned roadward yet again. I found a great deal (Denver Craigs List) on a 2007 Yamaha Majesty scooter (2,700 miles & $2,500). Couldn't pass it up. This smooth 400cc bike has 35 hp and will hit 100 mph. A surprise bonus is that it gets 65 mpg - almost as good mileage as sweet Stormy (70) and better than the fierce 600cc Silver Wing (only 60). "The Maj" is fast enough to make me grin and light enough for Sheryl to handle solo. Click here for a review. More later...
After 2 1/2 years of riding the eager Majesty, the urge to 'get naked' again overcame me. I had not ridden completely naked since 1968 and my BSA 650cc Lightning. Every motorcycle (and scooter) I've had since then had a full fairing. Even so, the Guzzi 750 more than makes up for lack of wind and weather protection by being nimble and easy to work on. Click these links for more technical info: road test and specifications.
At 73, am I really regressing to some childlike Twilight Zone? I can't say for sure, but when I found this 2004 Moto Guzzi Breva on CraigsList for a bargain price I was hooked. At 750cc and only 40 hp, the Guzzi Breva runs very much like my old '68 Beezer (and the '58 T110). The main and most important differences are that Breva has over the scooters (and old Brit bikes) is the 10 times better braking and 20 times better handling. Lower horsepower only elevates some important truths that riding scooters showed me:I bought this naked bike used on March 04 2013. Nine years old and it had only 6,059 miles on it. By Thanksgiving 2013 the odometer read 18,421. Over 12,000 new miles in nine months.
Riding slower means seeing more. Heart singing is better than heart pounding. Having less power makes one a much better rider. It's more fun to run at Wide Open Throttle more often.
Here's a True Story that sums up the Guzzi Experience:The day before Thanksgiving, I was riding the little Guzzi around my town.Will this be my last bike? Who knows. Please stay tuned.
While stopped at a traffic light, a flash of tiddy pink in the right mirror caught my attention. Looking over my shoulder, I see an amazonic MILF approaching from two feet away
- on foot. As she bent down to read the scarlet Guzzi tank badge, her pink (and low cut) tank top barely contained a breathtaking presentation of cleavage.
I heard her ask me 'What is it?' The most I could manage to croak out was a pitiful 'It's Italian.' Just then the light turned green and my fantasy encounter was over. As I turned the corner, in the mirrors I spied her getting back in her pickup truck.
1945: 1953: 1955: 1958: 1964: 1967: . 1968: 1969: 1971: 1976: 2003: 2003: 2005: 2005: 2005: 2007: 2008: 2010: 2013:
COME, RIDE WITH ME ON THESE TOURS TOO:
Monument Valley 2003
Highway 101, CA, 2004
Gateway, CO, 2008
Monument Valley, 2011.
Glacier National Park,
Going To The Sun Road, 2011
Motorcycle quotes and wisdom.
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* Notice: Many of the pictures on this page were stolen from other websites and are used here with neither credit or permission. Sorry. So go ahead and steal my pix (the majority) and we'll all be even - sort of.