Well, now I know I'm not alone. Even worse, some of you are making a living at it. Great!
Now I have something to show my wife when she wants to know why I want to buy 30 yr. old motorcycles. I can point to a few of you
guys and say, "Look at him! He keeps his in the living room!" Makes me look a lot better.
In 1968 I was 10 years old and fell in love with a red 62 CT 105 that Dad's camping buddy owned. (we called it a trail 55, or just "the
55"). The old guy took me for a spin around the campground and I was hooked.
After that, my fate was sealed. We went camping nearly every weekend in the summer, and as soon as we had set up, I was pestering
someone to take me for a ride. Since it was not ours, polite decorum did not allow me to ask to drive it. That was asking too much, and was
the topic of much conversation over the dinner table for a couple of years. A few years later, the old fellow that owned the 55 saw fit to
upgrade to a trail 90, and I badgered Dad until he bought the 55. I think the price was 125 bucks.
The evening we got it I was so excited that I made him take me for our first ride on the local "trails". (There was an extensive network of
motorcycle trails in the hills around my city. I had already explored some on my bicycle.) We drove duo up to the "meadow" which was the starting point for the steep trails and hill climbs.
I dismounted and after a discussion with Dad, he decided to give a particularily steep, short hill a try, just to see what the 55 could do. We
had the rear sprocket that was as big as a basketball. I think it was about a thousand tooth. It mounted over the "street" sprocket. In the
stock configuration you had to remove the rear axle and wheel to change down from the big "trail" sprocket to the "street" sprocket, but our
previous owner, being a rather ingenious fellow, had come up with an upgrade. He had a step back sprocket holder machined and installed
on the smaller sprocket so that when he wanted the trail sprocket, he could shift the big one back or forth about 3/4 of an inch and remount it,
allowing you to switch from one sprocket to the other without removing the axle. I don't know if this was ever standard for these, but since these were the only 55's in town, we thought it was inventive.
Dad and I had also performed an upgrade to the 55. Earlier that evening we had gone to the Honda shop and spend 6 dollars on an
upgrade rear view mirror. This was for safety, considering the newness of the new owners. It was bigger and shinier than it's origonal counterpart, and made a good addition to the left handlebar. We were both very proud of it.
Anyway, we got out the tool pouch, took the chain off, added the length of extender chain, and moved the big "trail" sprocket over on top
of the "street" sprocket. Bolted the two sprockets together, put the chain back on, snugged up the tensioners, and we were ready. Our loins
thusly girded, we had a short, manly conversation on which of the three gears Dad would use to attempt his assault on Mt. Everest.
Unanimous decision was to use "first". (to this day, I remember logically convincing Dad that first was the only way to go)
For those of you who don't have a 55, top speed in first is about 6 mph. (in "trail" mode)
Dad sat astride our new steed, stomped the auto shift into first, and headed for the hill. He had it wound out in about 3 feet, so the
remaining 10 yards were covered in what I would later describe as a "plug-cleaning" max rpm mode.
It's kinda hard to describe what happened next, because words cannot do justice to the rich visual picture that unfolded before my 12 yr.
old eyes. (did I forget to tell you that Dad had driven the 55 down the street a few times before he bought it, but had never had it on a hill?)
Dad never had a chance. He made it up as far as the length of the bike. The front tire came off the ground, and all that torque drove the
rear tire right on by. He noticed something was wrong when the front tire was about 5 ft. in the air as he started sliding off the back of the seat
. Too late for any corrective action, he managed a reverse flying W off the back as the rear tire and front tire changed ends. The Honda made
a perfect 3 point landing on the handlebars, crushing our new mirror, and slid down the hill greasy side up.
The shock was overwhelming. This was the most spectacular thing I had ever seen. I couldn't wait for my turn. I think Dad was a little
shocked too, because he did something I'd never seen him do before. He picked himself up, picked up the bike, and then in one swift move,
tore the remains of the brand new rear view mirror off the handlebar and threw it into the weeds. I thought we could still salvage what was left
of the mirror, but obviously Dad had other thoughts. All that was left was a shiny, chromed stub, and a wild look in Dad's eyes. I remember thinking I was glad he went first, and not me.
Since he couldn't yell at me for wrecking his new bike, the only thing left was for me to take a turn. I couldn't do any worse, seeing as the
only damageable part on the entire motorcycle was laying in the weeds about 300 feet away. (Dad used to pitch a lot of baseball) We both
resolved that I should venture a cog higher for my attempt. I did, and flew up the hill like a scalded dog. I also employed a heretofor unknown
riding technique(at least in our small circle) of leaning forward. Eureka! My off road career was thus launched.
From then on I spent most of my summer weekends driving the 55 along the mountain back roads of WV, and the weekdays riding the
thing in my back yard. To this day, there are ruts in the ground from where I made the u-turn around the maple tree.
In '72 I was hankering for more power. Dad finally buckled under the pressure and found a new CT90 that some guy won in a raffle and
didn't want. Three hundred dollars later I was sitting on a full 7 hp of pure aggression. For the next few years I spent my riding days at the
back of the pack, relying on skill, luck and momentum to keep up with the older guys on the RM 400's, DT1's, and other "big" bikes. In my
spare time I would "power tune" the 90. This consisted of advancing the timing until it rattled and removing the little spark arrestor thingy that
screwed into the very end of the muffler. I learned how to read plugs and changed them often. (sometimes 3 or 4 times a day)
One of the older kids in the trailer club had a '73 350 scrambler, and let me ride it. It felt like a Cadillac compared to my 90. I again fell in love. That was a real bike. I dreamed about that bike.
Things happen fast when you are in high school. I graduated and enrolled in college, and again bamboozled my parents into letting me
spend all my paper route money on a motorcycle to ride back and forth to school on. That fall I got a good deal on a leftover 75 Yamaha DT
400. I was partial to Honda's, but the price was right, the yellow tank with white decal was drop dead goregous, and the thing would wheelie
in three gears. (I didn't tell dad about that part) It took about two weeks before I got over the feeling that the handlebars were going to be
ripped out of my hands when I twisted the throttle. I drove it back and forth to school all winter.
Somehow I scraped up a few bucks and bought a clapped out 72 Honda XL 250 for a project. I bought the Poweroll(sp?) big bore and
cam kit, and hogged the beast out to 300 cc. The Honda shop guy who drilled it out said he had never taken so much steel out of the liner. I
added one of the then new supertrapp mufflers, and preceeded to plow the backyard with the torque off idle. The project died from lack of
interest, so it's still not done. Ignition problems and lack of money killed it. Plus dad yelled at me for rooting up the backyard.
Fastfoward 20 some years. I had decided to get back to my roots, and set about looking for the bike of my childhood dreams, a 73 CL
350, in red. I looked all over the eastern seaboard but found nothing but junk or high prices. Dejected, I whinned out my story to an old
friend I was visiting back in my hometown. He threw the Saturday paper in my lap and there was an ad for a 73 Honda 350. Turns out the
guy lived about a half mile from my parents house. His wife told him to sell it or send it to the dump. The negotiations took about 5 seconds,
and 500 bucks later I had a red 73 with 12K origonal miles. Owner mods included a sissy bar on the back, which was removed about 2
minutes after I pulled it into Dad's garage. It had the usual rounded out screws on the points cover and fairly well hammered right side case,
but other than that, she was cherry. ( I never knew Honda loved their screws so much) Minor dissambly for cleaning and polishing, a little
touch up paint on the tank, new rubber, NOS side case, a bunch of those damb screws, and she's back on the road. Childhood memories
leave a lot to be desired, as the 'new' 350 is a little on the harsh side. But I still managed to ride it over 300 miles from DC to WV for a fun weekend.
I gave the 90 to my nephew, who sold it a few years ago. We gave the 55 to the honda shop, to get the 90 running. The XL250 is still buried under a pile of junk in the basement.
So that's the story of my first ride. This is quite a addiction you guys got.