Okay, I am not going to buy a motorcycle Kim, I am not going to buy a motorcycle Kim, I am not going to buy a motorcycle Kim, I am not going to buy a motorcycle Kim (Kim, of C60Crew fame, is a friend who loves guitars and motorcycles). But if I were going to buy a motorcycle, I'd buy a retro motorcycle, and this is it, this is the one, here it is:
It's a Yamaha SR400. Four hundred cc, fuel injection and kick start (!). This is a note-perfect channeling of pure 1970s two-wheeler style if you ask me. Might be the most perfect retro anything ever. HypothetiMike would get this.
But I can't pillage the hypothetiMiata savings account.
My younger brother Scott forbade me to get a motorcycle when I was in my 20s...he said I am too absent-minded and that I'd for sure kill myself. I figured he was probably right, and have never owned a motorcycle. Scott is pretty wise.
I did used to tool around Washington D.C. on my family's moped, which was pretty hairy because it couldn't keep up with traffic except on slower roads. I got very good at looking into parked cars to see if anyone might be about to open a door. I wouldn't survive on that moped today, what with all the pickup trucks and SUVs all over everywhere. I'd be picked off by some F150's driver's-side door opening in front of my face at 37 mph.
Thus endeth the first-ever and last-ever motorcycle post on TOP. Back to regular programming! Cheerio.
UPDATE Kim Kirkpatrick responds: "Michael, honestly you are the only longtime and true friend I have not suggested buy a motorcycle but now that you have brought it up...I really think you should go through the NYSMP class and get a license. We can discuss which used BMW to purchase after you pass that."
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Featured Comments from:
[Dr.] Geoff Wittig: "Hah. I owned a motorcycle extremely similar to the above 'retro' model back in 1979. It was Honda's plain vanilla 360cc four-stroke model. Kick-start, manual everything, so simple mechanically that even I could tune it up. Not very big, but still more than fast enough to kill yourself on it. After two years of happiness and a few close calls, I sold it to pay for an engagement ring for the woman I'm still happily married to.
"Since then I have intermittently entertained the notion of buying another motorcycle, this despite seeing plenty of harrowing injuries and fatalities in my 30+ years of emergency room experience as a physician. The last time I mused about getting a motorcycle to my long-suffering wife, about five years ago, she agreeable said, 'Go ahead. Just make sure when you crash it you're killed outright so I don't have to change your diaper and push your wheelchair.' Followed by her sweet smile.
"So, I crossed that off my list of wants."
Mike replies: My doctor brother calls them "donorcycles."
Can I still want an electric Morgan three-wheeler for my runs to the grocery store in Penn Yan?
Ben Rosengart: "Calling it now: Mike is going to buy a motorcycle."
Mike replies: Shut up shut up shut up shut up :-)
JG: "I recall the ER doc who stitched me up after I parked my father's Honda 750 into the front of a car at 35 mph (or viewed another way, the driver of the car parked it on top of my father's Honda 750 at 35 mph) telling me I didn't need any painkiller because I rode a 'murdercycle' and therefore was tough enough to grit it out."
Mike replies: That's a little harsh, not to mention somewhat anti-Hippocratic. But I hope you answered "f--k yeah."
John Longenecker: "Retro motorcycle: get a Ural w/sidecar two-wheel drive. You can ride in the snow. It's more or less a 1930s BMW but new. Sit Stay Ride is a good sidecar/dog movie."
Mark Sampson: "Not quite a non sequitur here. I was just out running errands (in the car) when a rider on a Ural-with-sidecar combo pulled up next to me at a traffic light. Riding in the sidecar was a life-size plastic human skeleton...at least I think it was plastic."
JohnMFlores: "Having owned both Miatas (yes, plural) and motorcycles (yes, way too plural), I'd say that they are both excellent ways to explore the countryside. But there's something special about two-wheeled travel. You make yourself vulnerable to the world on a motorcycle and that vulnerability is rewarded ten times over in the immersiveness of the experience and the camaraderie with fellow motorcyclists. After twenty years of riding (including my share of accidents), the reward has far outweighed the risk."
[John, who visited TOP World HQ in 2016, writes for RoadRUNNER magazine. —Ed.]
Bruce Rubenstein: "The SR400 is not a retro '70s motorcycle. It is Yamaha's second take of a British '50s 'Thumper' (4 stroke single-piston) motorcycle. The first Yamaha retro-thumper was the SR500. I worked in a Yamaha shop from 1976–80. I bought a SR500 the first year it was introduced in 1978, and modified it for club level road racing. While it looked like a wonderful reincarnation of an English cafe racer, it had the mediocre handling of a mid '70s Japanese motorcycle. Its primary virtues were low maintenance and high reliability. My race buddy and I won trophies numerous times in endurance races. Neither the SR500 or SR400 were all that interesting to ride, but a wonderful concept, they didn't sell well, but became cult bikes.
"I am sure if you bought a SR400, drained the gas out of it and put it in your living room you would enjoy it very much. Riding a motorcycle probably isn't a wise bucket list item for someone over 60 unless they are rather athletic."
Mike replies: I'm often mistaken for a top athlete. People think I'm pool champ Buddy Hall.
Tim Smith: "What? A Japanese bike? No. They're fine and all, but jeez, for a tube amplifier guy, you surprise me. You've become confused somehow. It must be a Triumph. Or, if you have to, a BSA. They are the complete and total shizz. They even smell good. Plus they come with a guaranteed oil drip from the crankcase and a wonky electrical system that will challenge even the best scientist from NASA. But, if what you want is old school cool, they absolutely reek of it. Think Leica M4 with a gas tank. Seriously."
Mike replies: I should have mentioned—I don't actually know anything about motorcycles.
kirk tuck: "Ducati or walk."
Dave Levingston: "I was a life-long motorcyclist. I gave it up a few years ago because I became afraid. I'm old enough now that my reflexes aren't what they used to be and I kept thinking about some close calls that wouldn't be close calls today. Before, drivers would often not see me. Today, they aren't even looking as they stare at their phones.
"But I rode for many years, crossing the country several times. I usually did long tours with my best friend who I met in photo school. He photographed and wrote for Rider magazine...still does now and then. I was often the model for his bike photos and as a result have been on the cover of Rider. My friend wrote stories about our tours that were published in the magazine. This resulted in my fleeting 15 minutes of fame as other riders started to recognize us when we were out on trips.
1975 Yamaha XS650B twin (via XS650.com)
"But, if you want a real retro bike, find an old Yahama 650 twin. It's the Miata of motorcycles. The Japanese looked at a Triumph 650 and said, 'We could make that work.' and they did. The Yahama didn't leak oil and the vibration didn't loosen your fillings. Later the Japanese looked at an MG-B and turned out one that worked, called the Miata."
Mike replies: Actually, the "father of the Miata," Bob Hall, was channeling the Lotus Elan, but I take your point. (By the way, Bob thinks the new ND post-2016 MX-5 is the best Miata ever, according to an interview on Automobilemag.com. But I digress.)
Mark: "Might I suggest a look at markonabike.com. Mark Wallace, a photographer and educator, having produced and starred in a few hundred Adorama videos teaching every aspect of photography over many years, embarked on a solo around-the-world motorcycle trip. Truly great read.
"I owned a Kawasaki 650SR in my teenage years and into my 20s. After emerging relatively unscathed from two accidents, I divested of it before strike three. That hasn’t stopped me from an occasional drop in of my local Harley dealer though. I decided on a 911 instead."
Mike replies: Very sensible.