Beater Bikes

Apr 17, 2013 View Comments by

Beater BikesTemperatures climbed into the low forties last weekend, not ideal but sufficient for a ride with the assistance of some heated gloves. I headed straight for one of my favorite destinations, Roscoe Village in Coshocton, OH, for a stop at the local coffee house.

The trip isn’t much of a ride on pavement, but I set the GPS on compass mode and started skipping dirt roads on my aging KLR 650, effectively tripling the time and enjoyment getting there. The roads hadn’t received their spring tonic of new gravel yet, and were in bad (sometimes bad is good) shape.

I’d recently noticed white film from residual salt on some paved roads I’d ridden on, and mud from the rutted dirt roads added a brown layer on top of the bike’s salt coating. As I rolled into the driveway, I realized that I should probably give it a quick wash job, but there were other pressing matters so I wheeled the bike into the garage as-is. It dawned on me how nice it is to own what I’ll call a “beater bike,” for lack of a better name, to ride when weather or road conditions are poor.

The KLR isn’t a motorcycle that I don’t care about; it is fairly well maintained and receives regular cosmetic attention as well. I just don’t feel the urgency with it that I have with other bikes when it comes to doling out the maintenance and cleanup time.

There are certain attributes that beater bikes must possess, and here’s my list.

First and foremost, the bike should have some age to it, along with the normal wear-and-tear related scuffs and scratches. I dare say that even a few feet of duct tape doesn’t hurt the cause either. It’s a bike that you can pick up if it falls over without the usual panicked inspection for damage. A broken mirror? Order a generic replacement from J.C. Whitney and be done with it.

The bike should also be of the common variety and possess a reputation for bulletproof reliability. Valve adjustments? Maybe some day I’ll have them checked, and maybe not, so long as it sounds OK. As for fuel, no high-test champagne for this one, it’ll have to make do on regular and be thankful it’s not being fed some who-knows-what from a mason jar in a third world country.

Finally, the bike should be inexpensive, which naturally follows if it’s old and common. Insurance should be cheap as well. It’s no surprise that dual-sports are naturals for the beater bike designation. They’re usually mechanically simple, relatively cheap, versatile, and proudly wear damage that would humiliate other motorcycles.

Wow, this blog has really brought into focus just how important and perhaps under-appreciated the KLR is to me…maybe I should start taking better care of it and buy something even older that I really don’t care about!

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