After reading Cherie-Lynn’s post about learning to ride this year, I thought I would write a bit from my viewpoint as the husband and Encourager-in-Chief. Here are two posts (second will be published next Monday) – one about my first
love bike and the other about my first big trip on that bike.
My First Bike
I started riding when I was at university (almost 30 years ago) as a lark. I had been saying that I wanted to get a bike but had almost no money to spare while at school. I had never had a bike of any kind growing up so I had no idea how to ride or anything about bikes really. Parental authorities felt that motorcycles were dangerous (yeah OK) and that a dirt bike of any kind was not suitable for an accident prone young boy. We did have a snowmobile (a ’70 Bombardier Olympique) that we ran mercilessly in the winter, but I always had lusted after the YZ80s and minibikes I had seen but had never ridden. I’m not sure if the snowmobile was safer the way that I drove it but it was more acceptable in the North (at least in my family).
One of my roommates at school mentioned that his family had an old bike at the cottage that I could get for almost nothing. I was past the age of consent and shooting off my mouth so he called my bluff and I bought the bike. $150 bought me a sturdy little ’78 Kawasaki KZ200 in fair shape (this was about ’89). A little more money got it certified and insured and a short written test earned me a motorcycle beginner’s license. This was prior to graduated licensing (like way prior). A short lesson in “there’s the clutch – there’s the brake – be careful” and I was on the road with the firm advice to “take the course” ASAP. The bike weighed 185 lbs and turned out an estimated 12 horsepower. I could get it up to about 95 km/h if I was going downhill, wind at my back with my chin pressed to the tank. I took the local riding course run by the Canadian Safety Council (I think) at Conestoga College. I passed the test for my M and the instructors gave me and my classmates the admonishment that we still had a lot to learn. It wasn’t long before I was riding it everywhere. I had to. I had no other vehicle and hated walking or taking the bus.
That bike was so much fun. Up to ~60km/h it accelerated like a sports car (remember, I had no experience on any other kind of bike) and it cost about $3.50 a week in gas. I paid $10/month to park on a pad next to the Engineering buildings instead of $40 across the road. Not only that, it was the perfect antidote to the peer pressure around drinking while at school in an engineering program. The stigma of drinking and driving was growing rapidly and I found if I had the bike, the pressure was off and I was still cool (OK – U of Waterloo Engineering cool) with the guys. When I started riding I had decided that zero alcohol was going to be my rule – a rule I still adhere to today. I’m only a light drinker anyway so it’s not a big sacrifice to stick to soda and coffee when riding.
For the rest of that summer and well into the fall I fell in love with my little bike. It took me everywhere and I rode it until I had to stop for icy conditions. The money I saved by not drinking easily paid for all of my bike expenses that first year. These days I have two large bikes (86 Concours ZG1000 and a 99 Vulcan Drifter VN1500J) but I still say that a small bike is just plain fun to ride.
Bottom Line: In my books, start on a used little bike like a CBR125/250 or a Ninja 250 or one of the small 250 cruisers (Rebel, Marauder, V-Star) and have some fun while you’re learning. They are cheap and fun to learn on. That’s what I did and never regretted a moment of it.
Leave me a comment and let me know what your first bike was.