I Have Been Riding Wrong

Hello Readers –

The activity of motorcycling is a personal experience. Sure, you may carry a pillion or ride in a group, but generally speaking the experience is yours. I think most of us who ride understand that. When the still ongoing pandemic hit the end of 2020 with no end in sight, the rest of the world came to this realization as well. In the US (where I am based), the motorcycle market exploded and bikes left dealership floors and private-sale garages faster than at any in time in documented history. People knew they needed to “social distance” to get out and experience their (now much smaller) worlds, and a large number chose to do so on motorcycles. A phrase coined by a number of people; “Social distancing at 60 miles an hour”.

Safe to say that late-winter/early-spring of 2021 was not the time to go look for a “deal” on a new bike. It was at that exact point that I went shopping for a new addition to my garage. I ended up spending far more than I would have 8 months prior, but came away with a new-old-stock 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ (the top spec touring model).

2019 Kawaski Versys at Kinze Innovation Center in Williamsburg, IA ca. 2021

I can picture what you are thinking; “He bought a bike at the wrong time in history, great story, but what is he doing to “ride wrong”?” Allow me to explain…

I was re-introduced to motorcycling 12 years ago, after growing up riding off-road bikes. Like many “re-riders” I stopped riding dirt-bikes when I got my car driving license and realized that the “whole” world available to me on pavement. Road motorcycling was not a thing in my family or friend group at the time, and so the dirt-bike was parked and the car was put into service. I went off to college and began making my way in the world. Several years later, I was presented with an opportunity to move back to my hometown, and I took it. I began nurturing relationships with old friends and family that I had lost touch with over the previous 10 years. In a twist of “two-wheeled fate”, a majority of my family (those who I was close with) and my old friends had taken up motorcycle road-riding and I wanted to fit in. I got my learner permit and purchased my first bike. This is where the “wrong” starts.

2004 Yamaha V-Start 1100 Classic in my driveway ca. 2012

My first taste of motorcycle ownership was a 2004 V-Star (Yamaha) 1100 Classic. I bought it used for roughly $5000USD in 2012. As I live (and lived at the time) in the Midwest US, this is a pretty standard “starter” bike. A traditional cruiser, a “metric” cruiser, for the budget conscious beginning rider. It was a good machine and I enjoyed riding it for the short time I had it before greener (or blue-er, as it were) pastures came calling.

2012 Victory Cross Country at Berthoud Pass, CO ca. 2015

Six months after purchasing my first motorcycle with cash (go me), I traded it in on my second motorcycle and my first bike loan (go bank). I bought a brand-new 2012 Victory Cross Country (and later added the color matched top-case from the touring model).

If you’re keeping score at home, I went from a cruiser to a bagger (a cruiser with bags). I could try and answer the theological question as to why I chose a Victory over the more-popular Harley Davidson options, but to be honest, there was a Victory dealership in my hometown and I enjoyed riding something that was not seen every day (this is a recurring theme).

Nothing sounds like “riding wrong” yet, right? I’m getting there, I promise.

On my Vic(tory), I got to experience more of the country than I ever did in a car. I rode it to Colorado, and then took it to Colorado when I eventually relocated there for my professional aspirations. I rode it to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. I then took it up the Beartooth Pass in Montana. I loved that bike and to this day, I still miss it.

I kept the Victory for four years; long enough to pay off the loan, and want something “different”.

2017 Indian Roadmaster at Houghton, MI ca. 2019

My version of different was a full dress 2017 Indian Roadmaster, which I ordered in the Willow-Green and Ivory-Cream two-tone trim in 2016 (when the new model was announced). A well-built, solid machine that has taken me to several amazing locations around the US.

So here we are… I’ve had three bikes all of which fall into the American “cruiser” space in one way or another. The riding position, the weight, and of course; the look.

As we return to present-day, I still own the Indian, but its days are numbered. When I purchased the Kawasaki, I did so to dip my toes into the Adventure/Sports Touring market, and I ended up jumping all the way in. I have come to love the upright seating position of the Versys. I have found that it greatly increases my endurance and yet my comfort does not suffer. 500, or more, mile days on any of the previous bikes, while definitely possible, would leave me feeling sore and fatigued for days following the ride. This previous summer/fall I took a 10 day ride on the Versys. I rode several back-to-back 500 plus mile days (including a couple of 650 mile days) in several different conditions and was always ready for more. I have quickly become a fan of being able to stand on the pegs for a quick rear-end break, but also for the comfort and control that the position brings. Along with the ergo-factors, the obvious improvement in handling and power-to-weight is an absolute life-changing upgrade.

I started this post talking about the personal nature of motorcycling, none of the previous bikes that I have owned are bad, or wrong, they just don’t fit me. I learned this once I started riding by myself. There is NOTHING wrong with riding as part of a group, but I truly believe that the key is knowing what type of rider YOU are before you do. I made that mistake and ended up purchasing bikes that “fit in” with the group (Almost; I purchased both a Victory and an Indian and rode with Harley riders, you know how that went). I was “riding wrong” because I was riding a bike, or bike style, that did not fit me as a rider. I now know what I want to ride and how I want to ride and I am better for it. In the end, it has re-ignited my passion for motorcycling and that is all that matters!

Thanks for reading, I’m curious about your thoughts. Do you agree?


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