Ridin’ and Fixin’ them

Funny how fellow riders react to my passion for old motorcycles.  My old pals from Clearwater, FL couldn’t care less, preferring to concentrate on the latest Transformers-looking GSXR1PANTVRZX that require 10 hours of training just to learn how to zero de trip meter. They often ask me “why do you spend so much time on those old things?” My answer is always the same: If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.

It might be a matter of age too. With one exception, the FL guys are much younger so they didn’t lust for these bikes in the dealers showroom, staring at them for hours like they were posters of Ursula Andress coming out of the Caribbean sea. The first Yamaha dealer in my little sleepy town (across from Rio de Janeiro) opened its doors in 1973. Its tiny showroom was cramped with DTs, RDs, and TXs. Brazil usually got its models from the International lineup (Europe, Asia, Africa, and So. America) so the colors were a bit different than what was sold in the US. For example, our TX500s and TX650s were gold and black, looking just like the American TX750.  Add the RD200 and the showroom looked (and it was!) a gold mine. I spent more time there than I did in school!

Region might be another factor. Every time I take one of the old ladies out for a spin around here (N. Georgia), I get a lot of compliments and – the best part – questions about the bike. Refueling stops on the ‘75 650 generally earn a thumbs-up or two.  Dogwood Rally’s boss Marty Hallberg introduced me to a nice group of chaps that immediately identified every bike I rode to our meetings. I can’t wait to see if they can correctly identify the year/model of the little Ducati when they see it.

I do like the modern stuff but working and riding those old things make us feel “at home.” For me it’s like I’m on an intravenous drip of pure endorphins.  Perhaps it’s the satisfaction of working with my hands.

Matthew Crawford explains that very nicely (if not scientifically) in his book “Shop Class as Soul Craft”. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend that you do so. And quickly.

John Chaves – jchaves@xs650society.com

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