In what could only be distressing to my Dad, I want a new motorcycle. Dad’s a retired firefighter and since Tucson Fire handles EMS calls (ambulance services), he’s seen more than his share of motorcycle-related carnage over 30+ years and knows it doesn’t have to be the rider’s fault. Luckily for Dad, he’s got nothing to worry about because I’ve been known to suffer buyer’s remorse before I even purchase something. Seriously, I’ve walked about Best Buy for 20 minutes with an $8 BluRay movie in hand as I window-shop and talk myself out of it, placing it back on the shelf where I found it before leaving empty handed but with eight bucks still in my wallet. The process of making sure it’s the wisest purchase for my dollar just gets amplified when we’re talking about the few to several thousands of dollars in buying a motorcycle. Because quite frankly, there are just too many good bikes out there for me to have an easy time choosing.
The first iteration of these bikes is still just gorgeous. They still need a valve job every 6,000 miles and don’t make as much power as the newer versions, but the bodywork (er, fuel tank) change in 2008 is just too much plastic “modernization” and not as attractive. The Monster (along with the Triumph Speed Triple) arguably kicked off the naked bike craze, although it’s also just a standard bike depending on what level you buy. A full-out water cooled race bike without a fairing, or a fairly calm standard, the Monster has been in production for 18 years and it’s easy to see why. But with the bike having such a long and varied production cycle, prices vary considerably. It just hurts that the best-looking vintage is also the most maintenance intensive.
BMW R 1100 S
If I were really to get a bike, this is the most likely contender. Updated in 2006 to a 1170cc engine and 1200 moniker, this isn’t a sportbike as it likes to appear (complete with Ducati-esque undertail exhaust), but more of a sports tourer good enough to compete with the vaunted VFR800 Interceptor. It handles well in sporty riding, but is comfortable enough for long rides. And it doesn’t hurt that it has a boxer engine and wheels that are very similar in style to my car. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the Germanic. Fair examples seem to be going for $5,000-$6,000, but too high eBay reserves or mileage have kept me from taking the plunge.
Any old BMW, ’50s or ’60s vintage
They’re gorgeous, more interesting (and weirder, to Americans) than old Harleys with a far more logical engine layout that has the air-cooled cylinders actually out in the air. The boxer engine is better balanced, better cooling, and offers better protection to the rider if laid over than a V-twin. Headlight embedded gauges and a triangular front fork are the just beginning of the retro beauty, but good examples start at $10,000 and let’s be serious- I’d be terrified to endanger it whilst riding around.
Again, prettier and more unique than a Harley, these are available for around $5,000-$6,000. The problem is, while James Bond raced around on one in The World Is Not Enough, the reality is far less dazzling. One of the most comfortable bikes I’ve ridden, it’s absolutely gutless. Concessions were made for style on this bike and to counteract the laws of physics imposed by a shaft-drive, BMW de-tuned the engine dramatically. Add to that how quickly bits drag on the ground in a turn and this stunner is all show but no go.
The last of my BMW kick, I promise. Pictured is actually a 1986 K100RS, because I’m a child of the 80’s and this looked futuristic as all get-out back then. But the better bike is the K75, a horizontal and longitudinally mounted 3-cylinder that was less buzzy than it’s bigger sibling. They’re cheap, but attractive models are hard to find.
1987 Honda Hurricane 1000
This was the first motorcycle I remember fantasizing about as a kid, reading about in “Wheels and Wings”. It was one of those mail order 3-ring binders that would send you a half dozen cards of glamour shots and write ups for various exotic cars and aircraft each month if you subscribed and was aimed at kids. But it’s what I credit for instilling my love of machinery, and this sexy retro beast. It was a superbike in it’s day, but still comfortable enough to go long distances. If I ever find one, I will buy it- even if it just winds up in storage.
I know, right?! This, coming from me, the guy who rails against Harley most days. But in this case they’ve actually made a good bike! It stops, turns, and accelerates just like a modern motorcycle should! The lean angles on this thing are quite good, and insane for a Harley. It may be based on a Sportster, but it actually fits me and doesn’t feel like a toy bike. 25,000 mile service intervals and a kevlar belt drive give it great reliability, and though I think the V-twin isn’t a great motor basis they’ve made it long enough to have it thoroughly de-bugged. They can be had new, with a warranty that covers all service and oil changes (for a time) for right around $10,000. So why haven’t I bought one? It’s a plastic gas tank- and while that’s fine, Harley has trouble with them bulging and warping after actually having fuel in them so they don’t fit on the frame correctly. (Ducati has had this in the past, as well.) If Harley corrects this, or a steel tank becomes available on the aftermarket, this is one I’d really consider.
My two final dream bikes are the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S (Touring model, in white, thank you) and BMW R1200GS Adventure. But both these bikes equipped as I’d like ’em easily break the $20,000 mark and I’m just not willing to do that.
So there you have it, my dream stable of motorcycles. Of course, I’d also like to have a P-51 Mustang…