Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dreams, Perspective and...Maybe Growing Up a Little?

It was the summer of 1986, or so, and I had a part-time job delivering a weekly newspaper in my neighborhood in Maryland. I already knew that, sooner or later, I'd be a motorcyclist, but at this point in time, I was relegated to a BMX bicycle, which was where pretty much all of my meager earnings from the paper route went. While out delivering papers on my route, I started to notice a particular line of Honda motorcycles showing up pretty much everywhere. Some were 500cc bikes, some were 700 or 750cc bikes, and every once in a while, I'd even see a mighty 1000cc version of the bike. Whatever size, I was immediately drawn to the bike any time I saw one. White, with red and/or blue trim, a modestly sized fairing surrounding the single square headlight, and the beautiful V-4 engine on display for the world to see, I thought it was the most beautiful bike I'd ever seen. The bike was, of course, the first generation of Honda's legendary Interceptor, and I was so taken by the bike that, to this day, I still think that the only suitable color for a proper sportbike is white.

When Honda introduced the Interceptor, the press and public alike raved over it. As one of the first generation of true sportbikes, the Interceptor was one of the quickest, best handling bikes around. It truly was revolutionary. As a testament to the job Honda did on the design of that bike, the modern version of the bike lives on in Honda's current lineup as the VFR800, albeit as a sport-tourer rather than a pure sport bike. Nevertheless, it has a devoted fan base, holding its own against such rivals as the Triumph Sprint and Suzuki Bandit.

When I recently saw a 1985 VF700 Interceptor on Craigslist, I packed up my riding gear, drove an hour out of town to the current owner's house, and looked over the bike, thrilled to possibly bring a childhood dream to life. Seeing the bike in person, I was all but sold.

You see, after seven years and roughly 40,000 miles on my V-Strom, I've started to become a little bored with it. I had hoped that either my XS750 Cafe Racer or the '78 Goldwing might deliver a little more performance than the "slow" V-Strom, but the V-Strom has proven to be quicker off the line than either of my other bikes, and absolutely eats up the vintage bikes in the handling department. Something a little sportier, a little sexier, a little more exciting was what I was hoping to find with the Interceptor, and so far, things were looking good. I was about ready to hand over the cash for the bike, but first, a quick test ride to make sure it really was working as advertised. I fired up the engine, and my-oh-my, what a glorious sound that emanated from that beautiful V-4 engine! I put the bike in gear, feathered the clutch and rode down the block onto the highway, and...


When I rode the Interceptor, I felt like I was on my familiar, somewhat stodgy V-Strom. Sure, the riding position was a little sportier, but I was profoundly disappointed by the performance. This bike was a legend, groundbreaking. It was the stuff of some thirty-odd years of dreams. And it felt almost exactly like my old, faithful standby. There was no rush of adrenaline when I spun the throttle. It tracked around corners well enough, but didn't exactly carve them the way I expected a sportbike -- even an older sportbike -- to do. It was good, solid...but not terribly exciting.

I walked away from the sale, feeling rather depressed.

A few days later, I had a bit of an epiphany. The problem was that I had essentially started my motorcycle life on what truly is an amazingly good motorcycle, but since that was all I had ever known, I was taking it for granted. Before I bought the V-Strom, I spent hours studying the bike on-line, reading every review and magazine article I could find. While a lot of owners were somewhat self-deprecating about the bike (I'd heard the term, "old fart's bike" thrown around quite a bit on the Stromtrooper forum), most of the actual reviews I'd read were overwhelmingly positive. Having owned mine for so long, I'd have to agree with the reviews. My V-Strom has handled every combination of poor roads, ham-fisted rider technique, crappy weather and bad judgment that I've thrown at it, and despite all of that, it has never, not even once, stranded me anywhere. With its somewhat bulbous front fairing, it is perhaps not the sexiest bike ever made, but it has been nothing less than an excellent motorcycle, and after riding the Interceptor, I began to realize just how little credit I had given my bike, and to some degree, how much I had built up the Interceptor in my mind.

I once read that sometimes fantasies are best left unrealized. The Interceptor, my two-wheeled fantasy since before I was old enough to even have a license, will remain just that, I think. It's a beautiful motorcycle, with an amazing exhaust note, but I wouldn't trade my V-Strom for one.

As for something a little sportier...well, a few weeks later, my wife pointed out another ad that she found on Craigslist, and now, I'm the proud owner of a low-mileage, 2006 Triumph Speed Triple:

...but that's another story for another day. For now, I have two brand new tires and freshly-installed braided steel brake lines on my V-Strom. It's time for a post-maintenance shake-down ride :)

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