Friday I finally gave into my wild side and did something I’d been talking about for years now. I stopped over at the local DMV office and picked up my motorcycle license. It only took me two tries to get it.
A part of me has kind of wanted to get a motorcycle since my teenage years, although even then I just felt like it wasn’t practical — there were always better things to spend my hard-earned money on. Last year, though, as the reality of adulthood and all of the unglamorous expenses associated with it settled in (gas money, utility bills, car insurance, car maintenance, health insurance, retirement plans, dog food, etc.) a motorcycle started to seem more and more practical.
Kristen and I have two cars. One gets great gas mileage and is a reliable commuter. The other needs an oil tanker for support and scares truck drivers that see it barreling towards them on the highway. Whenever the idea of buying a new car comes up, though, it always seems either out of reach or just more than we want to take on right now. A brand new, decked out motorcycle, however, would cost less than half the price of a decent commuter car. It’d also be hard, or impossible, for a car in our price range to outdo the 50mpg rating of a big cruiser. When I realize the weather here is plenty warm enough for me to be happy riding a bike to work 12 months out of the year, it almost seems like the question is “Why haven’t I got one yet?” Now that I’ve started making a 90-mile loop to Sanford each day to do correspondent work for The Sanford Herald, the need for a bike seems even more urgent.
It’s still a commitment I’m hesitant to make. No matter how comparatively cheap the bike might be, it’s still thousands of dollars that could be spent on renovating our home, buying furniture to fill one of our four empty rooms or paying off some of the debt we’ve managed to accumulate in the real world.
When the day comes that the practicality of a cheap new vehicle that’s fun to drive and just happens to get incredible gas mileage overpowers my desire to save money long enough for me to get to a bike shop, the battle will be over. I already know what I want.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted a classic looking, air-cooled cruiser. I also knew that I didn’t want a Harley, partly because I just like to be different and partly because I think they’re overpriced after building the industry’s largest and oldest group of brand-loyal riders and want-to-be riders. I did want a bike with a quality company to stand behind it, some years of proven performance on the street and a realistic price tag. I think the Yamaha V Star line fits the bill nicely.
I really love the big over-sized fenders and retro styling of the V Star Classics — they have everything I’ve ever wanted in a bike. This left me with yet another choice, though. Should I get the reasonably priced V Star Classic 650, available brand new for just $6500, or spend almost $3,000 more for the the better powered 1100 model? My first instinct told me to go ahead and grab the 650 and be done with it. Then I started to think about what the extra power would really mean. In a 3-ton car, power is power; It doesn’t really matter too much what a driver is built like. On a 500 pound vehicle, though, when I add myself I’m adding 50% more weight to the setup right away, so that’s bound to have an impact. Another big reason I want a motorcycle is to take fun rides in the country with Kristen, as well as pretty frequent simple weekend getaways, meaning some extra weight for luggage too. I realized that there is a reason they make the bike with a bigger engine available, and I’m it.
The other thing that pushed me to want the 1100 is the idea that a good motorcycle is timeless. My hope is that I will get the bike I really want new, I’ll maintain it well, it will always be in style and always perform like that the great simple machine that it is and I will never have to buy another motorcycle again. I knew that if I settled for the 650 the first time around, there would be a good chance that I would want more power. I doubted seriously that if I bought the 1100 I would ever be wishing for a slightly lighter, significantly slower ride though.
This just left one more choice: color. I always wanted a blue bike, but I just don’t like the galaxy blue that Yamaha has offered for the past two years. It’s too bright. Black and white are just boring biker colors. Red is a fun color, but I already have a red truck and, next to black and white, it’s the third most popular color out there. Fortunately, a good alternative is available. The 2009 V Star Classic 1100 is available in a charcoal silver with black and red flames etched into the gas tank and rear fender. The charcoal has just a hint of the gun-metal blue I’d been looking for, and the black flames really serve to bring it out in a classy, subtle way.
The best part is Kristen likes it too. The only real question left now is:
Or no studs?
Images taken from http://www.starmotorcycles.com.