14 May 2015

How Not To Buy A Motorbike For Your Girl...

...or for yourself, if you fall into the same category as me. When I first started to ride a motorcycle, Josh bought me a vintage Honda. By "vintage" Honda, I mean it was a 1980 Honda CM200T--the Twinstar. Technically, it is considered a vintage vehicle, as it is over 25 years old. This was key, as there was no title for the bike, and it had never been registered. Being a "vintage" bike made it much easier and less expensive to title and register it in the state of Colorado.

The first night I had my first bike--so exciting!


This bike cost $400.00. Cosmetically, it was a mess. Mechanically, it was okay, and would need a little work. Work was put into it, along with a little money, and I had a bike to ride around town while learning and getting comfortable both with the machine itself and being in traffic on one.

The time finally came when I felt confident enough to venture out in rush-hour traffic, and ride to work. Choosing a surface street route, we set out on the six-and-a-half mile journey on a cool and cloudy day. I was feeling pretty good! Look at me, I'm riding a motorcycle! To work! I'm not going to have to pay for parking!! Woohoo!

Then the bike died. While sitting at a red light, just two blocks from my destination. Just died.

I pulled in the clutch and hit the button. Nothing.

I put it into neutral (oh my god, the traffic light changed and the people behind me are gonna be so pissed...), pulled out the kick start and tried to kick it. Nothing.

I'm pretty sure Josh was yelling at me this whole time, but you can bet your ass I was in full panic mode and ignoring him. I just wanted my bike to start.

It wouldn't, and I was not going to piss off rush-hour traffic anymore. I got off my bike and pushed the fucking thing onto the sidewalk, and yelled at Josh that I was just going to push it the last two blocks. When the light next changed, Josh went through the intersection and rode around the block to the loading dock where we park, left his bike and came looking for me. I was pushing my (thankfully not 500 lb.!) bike uphill along the sidewalk of the one-way street going in the opposite direction. When I got to the next intersection, I crossed with my bike at the crosswalk (like an 8 year old little girl with her banana seat bike) and continued pushing it to the loading dock.

On that cool and cloudy morning, I was sweating so badly, I needed a second shower at 7:45 a.m.

We never got the bike started, and eventually we had to load it into the pick-up, get it home, replace the bad battery, and do some other things to it.

THIS WAS NOT A GOOD FIRST EXPERIENCE! In case you were wondering....

A price tag of $400.00 may seem like a good idea for something a person is trying for the first time--not sure of whether it is going to be something they like or not--but that can backfire if one's thriftiness creates a bad experience.

So, we move onto my second bike. I continue to ride, decide I really like it, and my first trip on a motorcycle will be to Alaska with two guys who have dual-sport bikes. Well, I guess that is what I should get, so we can all go the same places and not be limited by the capabilities of someone's bike that is not like the others. (Oh yeah, I totally just sang Sesame Street in my head, "One of these things is not like the other...") Over the next couple of months, I sit on every dual-sport bike out there. We laugh about most, running down mental lists of everything we would have to do to make one fit me.

Then, I finally realize the easiest and best choice for me is the BMW F650GS. Josh rolled his eyes, made snarky remarks, and may possibly have kicked something. Where I saw a good fit and reliability, he saw dollar signs. And, rightly so. By a long reach, the BMWs were considerably more than anything else. Eventually we compromised on the idea of buying an older one, feeling we could put a little more money into it to make it "my" bike from the start.

Right after I got my new bike--the ever-so-much-newer BMW

You know how you should never buy the first model year of something--wait until they can work some of the problems out? Don't buy the second year either....

Actually, that's a little unfair. The first nine years of that bike's life were probably easy and reliable. It only had 20,000 miles put on over those nine years; few, if any of them, were dirt. It probably didn't hit the ground once. Then, I got my little paws on it, and rode the shit out of it for the next three and a half years.

I've had a few unexpected problems with it. I found out about some weird little quirks on the trip to Alaska. I have to say, that was tough. When speeding down a highway in Idaho in the pouring rain, and the speedometer cut out and the ABS light came on, I got a little freaked out. When riding through a campground in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and the engine kept cutting out as I would come to a stop, I got a little freaked out.

I do not like being in the middle of NOWHERE and not understanding why my mode of transportation does not work.

That fact brings me to Utah, less than two weeks ago. After stopping for the night after my first day of riding to San Diego, I decided to start the bike a bit later to move it a little.


I don't mean it didn't start. I mean NOTHING happened. No lights came on. It made no sounds.

I freaked out.

Mentally, I could not deal with it at that moment, so I left it until the next morning. I began tearing down my bike, thinking of two things it could possibly be. Did you read one of my posts back in September when I stopped on my way to Granby and my bike refused to start? Well, it wound up being the same problem; at least this time I knew what to look for. All in all, it didn't take me long to fix and return my bike to its whole state, and put the luggage back on. But it cost me some time, and some emotional drama.

I made it to San Diego without further problems. But...then my headlight went out. To the service manual on the iPad I went, Friday after work, and I pulled my headlight assembly apart. The light isn't the problem. A severed wire is. I realize I don't have the tools to fix the problem as it is, but if I can get a new multi-pin plug, I could borrow some wire strippers and re-wire a whole new plug. Off I go to the BMW dealership on Monday to get the part. It is un-gettable. Not that they don't have it in stock, but that it is not something that can be gotten. Period. But I am reassured, after looking at it with the parts guy, that the service department could absolutely fix it for me.

I love the first time I take something apart, squirreling different hardware to separate places, fervently hoping I will remember where it all goes, and put it back appropriately.
At least it was pretty clear what the problem was...

They aren't open on Mandays. They are open Tuesday through Saturday, 9-6. I work Tuesday through Saturday, 9-6. No worries, they have loaners. Call, bring the bike in, take a loaner, come pick up the bike when it's done.

I call Tuesday morning. Four times. No one answers, and the system won't allow me to leave a message. I finally get through in the afternoon and am told: 1--they can't get me in until the following Thursday (a week and a half away!), and 2--I can't have a loaner for that fix. They changed the policy and it's only for people having scheduled maintenance done. I tell them I will figure something out about getting the bike there and picking it up (hey, that's what Uber is for), but is there anything sooner as this is my only mode of transportation, and I kind of need a headlight. No. I can call everyday and see if there's a cancellation, but they overbooked and they are down a tech.

Now I'm super frustrated. With the proper tools and a garage with power, I could do this fix in, conservatively, two hours. But I don't have those things. I call around to a few shops in San Diego, and no one will touch it because it's a BMW.

I am one good sales job and 20 minutes away from buying a new bike. Oh yeah, I'd get a Beemer again, but I'd get a NEW ONE. I would buy one that for the next three years of hard riding, would be taken care of by the dealership.

$10,000 for a new bike. Adding up everything I've put into this bike, no I probably have not spent that on it. But the peace of mind in knowing that my bike would start every fucking time, and that, most likely, my headlight would work, would be well worth it to me. I don't want to be a mechanic. I don't. No desire. I'm glad to know that I can be, to a certain extent, when I have to be, but I don't want to have to be. And I don't want to worry every time I start my bike, about whether it actually will or not.

Pony up the money, and buy some peace of mind. There are many people who would not have made it past that first bad experience, and I totally understand that. I am so glad I did, and kept riding because I love it. But if you ride, and you are trying to get someone else interested in it, give them a fighting chance. If you don't ride, but you think you want to, give yourself that same fighting chance. My opinion is it's worth it.

My dinner the evening I realized I couldn't fix my headlight. I may have been consoling myself a little....

P. S. I know I owe you stories about Moab. I am slowly finishing them up. Between getting myself to San Diego to start a new contract, and trying to get my bike working properly...I've been a little busy. They're coming!