Over the years I have owned 9 motorcycles. Each one contributed a great deal to my life - most contributions were positive, but a couple of them were pretty painful. I still bear their scars today.
This is actually a series of pages. Some pages deal exclusively with one bike - some cover more than one; probably because I donít have many pictures of those bikes and/or donít have as much to say about them.
DISCLAIMER: These pages contain graphic pictures and descriptions of the motorcycling experience. May not be suitable for wimps, the safety-crazed, small children, and some barnyard animals. Proceed at your own discretion.
The pages are sequenced in chronological order. This first one will cover the beginnings of my fascination with motorcycles, and my first bike as well. Then weíll proceed to the others, as they proceeded into my life.
If you donít want to bother with the history, you can go straight to my current ride by clicking here:
But, I didnít put forth all this effort so you could skip it completely, so Iíd appreciate it if youíll take the time to follow along as planned.
Here are the bikes in my life... so far:
As I grew up in the late fifties and early sixties, there were quite a few motorcycles around. It was common to hear the blat of an unmuffled Harley or Triumph any time you were outside near a road. And, in the early sixties, we were starting to hear the high-pitched buzz of small-displacement two-strokes as well. But, bikers had a bad reputation back then, so riding wasnít a socially acceptable thing to do, regardless how small and friendly the machine. Besides, everyone knew how dangerous the things were. Who in their right mind would put themselves at risk to ride one?
My Dad made it perfectly clear how he felt about them. He considered them to be "suicide machines" and strictly forbade me to ever get on one, whether as the rider or as a passenger. As a result, any contact I had with motorcycles had to be completely clandestine.
Iím not sure what got me interested in them at first. There were a few motorcycle magazines on the stands, and I was an avid reader. I became addicted to reading the car mags of the day, and quickly included the bike mags in that group. Maybe thatís where it got started. Or, maybe it was the occasional brush with them in real life. Standing at an intersection and seeing one rumble past. Encountering one at a service station while we were fueling the car. Or just hearing one in the distance, the staccato of its exhaust echoing off the bluff across the lake on a warm summer evening.
But I do know what cemented my interest in bikes: When several high school buddies acquired bikes. Thatís when my interest really got going in earnest.
I think I was a junior and just beginning to drive when one of the seniors bought a 250 Ducati Monza. He rode it awhile and then sold it to another classmate, and then a couple other guys bought identical machines. It seems odd, in retrospect, that a small town in the middle of the Missouri Ozarks would become home to a fleet of somewhat rare Italian machinery, but thatís exactly what happened. Three of my classmates were soon mounted on the same bike.
That Ducati is what hooked me. I thought it was simply beautiful. By todayís standards it wasnít much of a motorcycle, but thereís a lot to be said for simplicity. A single 250cc cylinder stood up prominently from the engine and gearbox casing, cradled within a single downtube frame. Wire spoke wheels, a black seat, chrome handlebars and headlight nacelle were in just the right position. But two things really set that bike off: The brightly chromed exhaust pipe that bent down and flowed back along the right side of the bike, and the brilliant blue paint that was applied to the tank and sidecover in just the right proportion to the rest of the bike. Larry finally found a picture of his 63 Monza, actually, of his and Mike's. This is what they looked like parked in Larry's front yard.
Yeah, I know it's black and white, but it's the best we can do right now. Soon as Larry digs through his piles of files and finds his color slides, we'll get one in color on here.
I rode behind Larry and Mike on a number of occasions. All such rides were both thrilling and frightening. Thrilling because itís a lot of fun. Frightening because, well, partly because itís a very out-of-control feeling to be on the back of a bike as it leans this way and that, and as the acceleration tries to scoot you off the back of the seat and the deceleration throws you up against the riderís back. But it was also frightening because both Larry and Mike were wild men aboard those machines, and it seemed they were bent either on crashing and killing me, or scaring me to death. They never did the former, but they sure did accomplish the latter! (To this day I can think of no greater scare than riding passenger on the back of a bike. I admire the many people who ride passenger for their courage, especially those who are crazy enough to ride behind me!) In spite of that, though, I still had the desire, the need, to ride.
My first ride on a two-wheeler came aboard a rented mo-ped. A place out on Indian Point Road had a fleet of them and several of us guys went out there and paid a few bucks to sample life "in the wind". We rode back to Branson on them at breakneck speeds reaching as high as 45 mph. It was great.
I learned an important lesson about motorcycles from that rented mo-ped, though. I learned they donít handle like cars, or even bicycles. I learned this lesson once we got into town and I had to negotiate my first 90-degree city street intersection. I bent the little buzzer into a left turn at about 20 mph and promptly found myself running into the right-hand ditch. Realizing I was off the road, I went into panic mode and froze at the controls. The mo-ped proceeded through the ditch, into a yard, and directly into the side of a metal outbuilding. KA-BLAM!! The metal building reverberated with the noise of my impact.
I didnít fall over, but simply sat there astride the still-running mo-ped, my ears ringing from both the sound and the whack my head had taken. Then three little kids came running around the side of the building, yelling at each other. "It was a bomb!" one was saying. "No, it was a big bird!" said another. Then they saw me and just stood there with their mouths open.
As quickly as I could, I backed up the mo-ped and got it pointed back at the street and took off. I didnít want to have to answer any questions to an adult-type person right then.
That 20 or so mile ride was the second-longest ride on a two-wheeler I ever got in before I bought my first motorcycle. The longest one was when Larry (or was it Mike?) let me take his Ducati from Branson to Springfield one day - I forget why. I donít remember much about that ride except that it disillusioned me about the Monza. It was a real vibrator. The bars jarred my bones clear up to my eyeballs and my feet would hardly stay on the pegs at speed. Somewhere along the way the clutch cable came adrift and I had to stop and re-attach it with the pliers Larry (Mike?) had given me for such an eventuality. I finally got it to Springfield, but it wasnít as enjoyable an experience as I had anticipated. Nonetheless, my enthusiasm for motorcycles continued, and I vowed that one day I would own one. Many years passed before I did, but it finally happened.
It was the summer of 69. I was 23, newly married, just beginning to make my own way in the world. Ken, a coworker and high school friend, had just bought a new motorcycle, a Honda CL 350, the street bike with high pipes. Dan, another coworker, was looking at the new Yamaha CT1, a 175 two-stroke dual purpose bike. We were sitting in Kenís apartment, talking about the bikes, and I made the comment that I had always wanted a motorcycle, but my father would never allow me to have one. A silence hung in the air while we all assimilated those words. Then I said, "Hey. Iím old enough to go buy one if I want to!" One of my first major independent decisions. The following day I rode home on a brand-new CT1.
Don't you just hate it when you have to rely on someone else to take a picture of you and they can't seem to get it centered? This is my first motorcycle, a 1969 Yamaha CT1, a 175 cc two stroke single cylinder dual purpose bike. It was produced to capitalize on the huge success of the DT1, its 250cc predecessor. I bought it because it was about 50 lbs lighter than the larger-engined DT1, and I intended to do some semi-serious woods riding where weight makes a big difference.
This picture was taken in Colorado, somewhere near the Royal Gorge, in August of '69. I had owned the bike about two months at the time three of my pals and I decided to go wander around in the mountains. What a trip!
If you want to relive that trip with me, you can do so by clicking here:
(CLICK to be inserted when those pages are ready)
After the trip to Colorado, the CT1 was stripped of its roadgoing equipment and turned into a strictly off-road bike. For the next several years it saw duty almost every winter weekend in the Mark Twain National Forest down around Chadwick, Missouri. While I had it stripped down, I got the bright idea to paint it as well. It was supposed to be a bright metallic red, but it came out more of a light purple - probably because of the dark primer I used under the main coat. As you can see, I painted the helmet to match. The missing "Yamaha" badge, lost somewhere in the woods, is conspicuous in this shot. The canteen came in very handy after a few hard hours on the trail.
The sharp eye will also notice the front half of the front fender is missing. All those bikes, you see, came standard with a regular street-style fender, mounted down close to the tire. Fine, as long as you were on pavement, but if you ever ventured onto a muddy trail you soon found out why true dirt bikes have high-mount front fenders. With an inch (or less) clearance, mud can pack tightly between tire and fender in as little as one rotation of the tire, making a very effective brake!
So, we all had to re-mount the fenders on our DT-1s and CT-1s. The stock aluminum ones, however, would soon crack and break off due to the vibration. Some enterprising individual started selling plastic ones on the aftermarket; they were semi-cheap, at about $5.00 each, but they had to be properly mounted to avoid the dreaded crack'n break syndrome. As you can see from this shot, I hadn't yet learned that secret.
Why not just run without one, you ask? Ha! Try it sometime. There's a reason for those fenders! I lost mine just after hitting the woods on the first leg of an enduro one morning, and by the time I got to the lunch stop, no one, not my fellow riders, friends, not even my WATT who met me with lunch, could recognize me. I was one big mud splatter!
The hitching posts shown here, by the way, were installed for people who rode horses of the more traditional kind. They didn't associate with us much, for some reason...
Snowmobile? I don't need no steenkin' snowmobile!!!
I never did get rid of this bike. A friend did it for me; I left it in storage in his garage while I worked in another town, and after several months he gave it away. Oh well. My woods riding days were over by then.
Click here to go to the page featuring my next two bikes:
Who says you can't go