BACK IN THE DAY
Okay, we left this tale with Mike and I going to buy a motorcycle that we would share – mostly so we can cut our costs regarding the daily commute from Hamilton to St. Catharines in order to go to University. Although many, many people warned us about buying a bike together, Mike and I decided that since we’d known one another since Grade 6, and since our wives got along as well as we did, and since we had no plans for the bike except commuting, there would be no problems that we couldn’t solve.
The first thing we had to do was get our bike licences – that was a new deal back then, so we borrowed my cousin’s Suzuki 125 and bombed all over the area until we felt confident enough to book our tests with the MTO. We both passed with little problem, and then got to the fun part – test driving motorcycles! However, when we got to the Dealers, we found out the first difference between cars and bikes – when buying a car test drives were expected, but when buying a bike, there was no such thing! You had to visit several different Dealers and then beg someone to take you out on the bike as a passenger – that was as close to a test ride as was available!
The other thing that I should mention here is that back in the day, only hoodlums and misfits actually rode motorcycles. The rider population at that time consisted primarily of motorcycle gangs and other people of questionable character. In fact, the Japanese motorcycles were just being introduced into North America – prior to this, if you wanted to ride, you got to choose from Harley Davidson and “British bikes” – Triumph, Norton and BSA. All of them were basically unreliable and leaked oil at the slightest provocation. In order to combat this view of bikers and in order to shake the label of unreliability, Honda was spending millions trying to convince the public that “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”.
That was enough to convince us that we should go ahead and buy a bike, and after visiting all of the bike dealers, we decided to purchase a Honda 350 from a combined Harley-Honda dealership. The dealer tried his best to talk us into a Harley (the last of the rebuildable bikes according to him) as opposed to the Honda. We weren’t having any – we wanted to picture ourselves as one of the “nicest people” riding a Honda, rather than an outlaw or a member of the “1%” who identified themselves as a “Biker”, and almost invariably rode HD’s.
After riding around on the back of a Honda CB450 Hellcat (the dealer convinced us that going two-up on a 450 was equivalent to riding a CB350 alone) we started negotiating, and came to an agreement that we would purchase a brand new CB350 for $900! It came in several heinous colours, and we chose the delightful turquoise (to differentiate ourselves from the 1% who always rode in black and on black). Just before we were scheduled to pick the bike up, two things occurred that should have alerted me that this may not be the best decision that I had made in my life. Firstly, the dealer phoned and told me that the price had now gone up to $1000, and when I complained and pointed out that we had made a deal, his answer was “Too bad – if you don’t want to pay a grand, you can take your business elsewhere”. I called Mike, and although he agreed with me that the dealer was a prick, it was still the best value that we had found after an extensive search.
The second problem raised its ugly head when the dealer called to let us know that the bike was in, and that we should show up and write him a cheque for the balance. I called Mike to let him know the good news, and he then informed me that his wife wouldn’t allow him to buy a bike – with or without me. I was gobsmacked, and said in desperation “You aren’t going to let your wife tell you what to do, are you”? His answer was unexpected but excruciatingly clear – “I sure as hell am!”. My answer was just as clear and unequivocal – “Alright, I’ll buy it myself, but don’t think that you will ever get to ride it”. “You can sit on the back, but as far as I’m concerned you are simply a package that I get to deliver 5 days a week. Mike was quiet, but agreed that since he wasn’t contributing to the cost of the bike, he would pay for the majority of the gas.
So, I told the dealer to go ahead and prepare the bike and let me know when it was ready. He called on a Saturday, and came out on the 450 to pick me up and take me to the dealership to claim my bike. I had purchased a used helmet from my sister’s boyfriend (it was a white half-helmet) since he had just sold his scooter and had no use for it anymore. You must understand that when I mounted the 350cc at the dealer, the biggest bike I had actually piloted was my cousin’s 125 Suzuki (which had 15 horsepower) so the Honda (at 36 horsepower) felt like the fastest and most powerful vehicle on the road to me!
After riding around for about an hour (scaring the crap out of myself several times) and convinced that I was now a competent (if not brilliant) rider, I went over to Mike’s house in order to take him for a ride and rub it in that I had a bike and he didn’t. I was incredibly disappointed and crushed that he was not home for me to brag on. In fact, no one was at his house, and it dawned on me that the whole family was probably at their cottage on Lake Erie. Since getting to the cottage demanded that I ride on a highway with a speed limit of 60mph (100kph for the younger demographic) I decided that that was a perfect excuse to get some highway experience and still get to brag about my purchase and make him envious. That story will have to be saved until next time, since I have run out of space for this week – trust me though, it’s a story worth waiting for…
Questions / comments, always welcome.