Scott's 1992 Honda Nighthawk CB750
There are some things in life that you put off and put off, thinking that you'll get around to them soon enough, but once you get around to them, you cannot understand why you waited as long as you did. This is the case with me and motorcycling. For years, friends of mine that rode were nagging me to get a bike. As a result of my lengthy career in higher education, I had a large chunk of student loans to payoff. So I kept putting my friends off and delaying the motorcycle experience for some unknown day in the future. This went on for about eight years and I had not really given the idea serious consideration.
Enter an innocent camping trip. My friend Will Bird rides his new Kawasaki ZRX-1100 on this trip. While sitting around the campfire drinking beer and solving the mysteries of the universe, I casually ask him what became of his old Nighthawk? He informs me it is for sale at a dealership in Dallas. Brian Jones, another of my biker nut friends, does not miss the opportunity to nag me some more and suggest that Will's Nighthawk would be the perfect bike for me. One thing leads to another and before I know it, Beth (my wife) and I are rationalizing that future day into the present. To top it off, Will agrees to sell us the bike for $2250 and even throw in the Tourmaster soft luggage he has for it.
We finish the weekend of camping. All that time, all I can think of is what it will be like to finally have a motorcycle. One thing that does not go through my head is the realization that the purchase of a motorcycle starts a person down a dangerously steep slope of never ending money spending. I convince myself that we'll be into the whole thing for about $3500 for the bike and all necessary gear. When you quit laughing and wipe the tears from your eyes, try to understand, I had no experience in the matter!
Getting the Bike
We get home to Huntsville and I start making all the preparations for my trip back up to Dallas at the first opportunity to collect the bike. Dad is kind of excited about me getting a bike so he gives me the day off from work and sends me on my way with his truck and trailer. Saturday morning bright and early, Will and I head down to the dealership to get the bike. I had seen the bike before on several occasions and never really thought much of it. But when I walk in the door of the dealership and see the bike sitting there on the showroom floor, I am amazed at how good it looks. It is in far better condition than I remembered. It has about 4000 miles on it and is immaculate. We quickly load the bike on to the trailer and head back to Will's place. The rest of the afternoon is spent visiting bike shops all over Dallas looking for a helmet, gloves, cover, lock, etc,...
Prior to this, I had little, if any, experience riding motorcycles. Before heading home to Huntsville, I stop off at Brian's house for a bit. I can not resist unloading the bike and taking it for a slow spin around the neighborhood. It is exhilarating and terrifying all at once hehe. I know "how" to ride, but I have not developed the muscle reflexes to ride, so I have to think about everything I do. I have seldom felt so clumsy in my life hehe. But time is wasting and I have to get back home, so I load it back up, say my goodbyes and hit the road.
It is a beautiful day. The two and a half hour drive home is torture. All I can think about is the fact that it is so nice and that I should be riding the bike before it gets dark. I finally have to put the cruise control on so that I will quit speeding to get home. As soon as I pull in the driveway at my parent's place, I unload the bike, park the truck and trailer and get out my camera. Just in case something happens to it, I want a picture of what it looks like the day I got it. Right side / Left side
Getting to Know the Bike
It is about 5:30 or 6:00pm and the sun is getting low in the sky. I still have to get in some riding just to get the excitement out of my system. I lovingly crank it up and let it warm up, the low rumbling of the pipes intoxicating me. I don my helmet and gloves and gingerly steer it out onto the road, which is loose and large gravel. I very slowly make my way up to the main paved road, about a quarter of a mile away. Then I just start riding real slow out to the main highway, turn around, come back and do it again and again. I am sure the neighbors are laughing at me. But this is a perfect place to practice. There is one left handed and one right handed ninety degree turn, a nice long straight and a short straight, and no traffic.
I am amazed at how scary it is to lean to bike into a turn. Brian and Will both warned me that this particular bike is heavy with a high center of gravity. I can flat foot it, but while moving at low speeds I have a terrible sense of balance. Slowly but surely, I start getting the feel for the bike and getting up to fifty miles per hour or so on the straight. After about forty-five minutes, it starts getting dark so I make my way back to the house and lock up the bike for the night. Unfortunately, I have no good place to keep it at my apartment, so I leave it at my parent's place, where I also happen to work. The next few weeks, when we are slow at work, I seldom miss an opportunity to take the bike out for a short spin or to just tinker with it, hehe.
Getting Serious about Riding
I soon realize that if I am going to get serious about riding motorcycles, I should get serious about learning some basic skills before I get myself killed doing something really stupid. So I decide to sign up for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. Beth had ridden behind me a few times on the bike and decided she was not real wild about staring at the back of my helmet, so she asked if she could take the class with me. Who was I to say no?
We sign up for the nearest and earliest course we can find. It takes an entire weekend and it is very hot. However, we both have a blast doing the class together. I highly recommend the class to couples wanting to ride together. It is time well spent together. On the way home Beth casually mentions that she simply has to have her own bike... Remember that comment about the never ending spending of money? So as soon as we get home I start canvassing the local cycle trader and online want ads looking for a good bike for her. Eventually, we settle on the Yamaha Virago XV535, a small twin cruiser that looks pretty sharp. I find one for her in Austin and we soon have it home.
Having completed the MSF course, in Texas all that is left to do to get our motorcycle rating on our license is to take a simple twenty question multiple choice test at the DPS station. Beth beats me to it and actually gets her license before me, something she likes telling people for some reason. Once we get our licenses, we ride every day unless it rains. I even ride when it rains. I start riding to work every day and pretty much quit driving the car completely for the next year or more. The weekend after getting Beth's bike, Will comes over from Austin on his ZRX-1100 to do some riding with us. It is a great chance to get some more pictures and show Will some of the great roads in the Huntsville area.
During the next seven or eight months, we do tons of rides in the evenings and weekends. During this time, Beth racks up nearly 6000 miles and I get about 10000 miles under my belt. We use any excuse to ride the bikes and make several trips to Dallas, Houston and Austin to visit friends and relatives.
Our first "Bike Trip" is out to Concan, Texas. This is a tiny town west of San Antonio lost in the Texas Hill Country. Prior to the trip, I put new tires on the Nighthawk and get a Corbin seat. The seat is fantastic and makes a HUGE difference in how comfortable the bike is on long rides, especially for the passenger! We do a few hundred miles this weekend. It is New Year's, the dreaded Y2K. It is a beautiful 65 degrees all weekend without a cloud in the sky. Fantastic biking weather. We have a great time, so much so that Beth and I decide we need to do a serious bike trip in the not to distant future.
The new years weekend left a craving in me for a bike with more potential. So I start shopping around and edumacating myself about the myriad choices of bikes on the market. I thought I wanted a 2000 Suzuki Katana 750, then once again Brian seizes on an opportunity and tells me that I should check out the Honda VFR. That is it, you can hear my nails screeching as I hang on, trying to slow my slide down the steep slope of motorcycling!
No Love Like the First Love
Make no mistake about it, the Nighthawk cannot hold its own against the VFR in any sense. Nonetheless, the Nighthawk will always hold a special place in my heart. There are the memories of exploring now familiar roads for the first time, the rush of leaning the bike over at thirty miles an hour and feeling like I was doing a hundred, the excitement of doing something completely new for the first time, getting to know the idiosyncrasies of the bike, and a host of other warm memories. I spent many a beautiful lazy afternoons lovingly washing and detailing it. I designed custom crash bars and highway peg mounts for it from stainless steel. I learned how to balance the bike, counter steer, brake, swerve and all those other things I now take for granted at times. This bike may have been a bit top heavy and it wallowed like a fattened pig when I threw it into corners, but it is still my first love and I miss it at times. Unfortunately, the new owner sees it as merely transportation and the romance is completely lost on him. He laid it down on the highway doing about seventy and thrashed one side of it :-( He is fine. It broke my heart hearing about that. But now I have my VFR to sooth the longings...