The Ones That Got Away

Apr 07, 2012 View Comments by

We’ve all had the conversation “If you could have any bike, what would it be?” And, of course, there are laundry lists of dream machines that any and every good gear head would love to have gracing their garage, or in most cases, their living rooms. Who wouldn’t love to gaze upon a Vincent Black Shadow perched majestically atop the custom built riser between the Brunswick Zanzibar billiards table and the Kiss pinball machine. Or maybe it’s that Norton Manx sitting atop the polar bear skin rug in front of the fireplace. Or even the spotless, twin shock Harley-Davidson XR750 (street legal, no doubt) in the climate controlled workshop/garage between the Laverda Jota 1000 and Steve McQueen’s Husqvarna 400 desert racer. Yeah, fantasies are wonderful, but largely unattainable, especially when you forget which deep fryer you hid your lottery ticket beneath. So for this little exercise, let’s change the rules a little bit. Let’s talk about those dream machines for the real rider. You know, the one that got away because the kid needed shoes, the mortgage was due, your buddy needed bond money or some such other trivial nonsense. What was that machine on Craigslist that made you swoon – the day college tuition was due, that one bike you saw sitting next to the road with the “For Sale” sign – the day after you wrote the check to get the transmission in the wife’s car replaced, or that barn find Brit bike your neighbor’s nephew told you about the morning you took your dog in for an MRI. Here are a few of mine.

1970s Can-Am motocrosser

I was on my way somewhere and was even in the truck. I passed a small bike shop south of Charlottesville, VA. In the parking lot was a 70s era Can Am motocross racer with a hardware store “For Sale” sign, I slowed briefly. Kathy would have killed me. Apparently, she wanted to buy a house or something and forbade me from spending any more money.

1976 Honda CB400F

I was on tour for RoadRUNNER in upstate New York and saw one of these beauties sitting at the end of a driveway. A hand lettered, cardboard sign with $750 was leaning against it. It was in shockingly good condition and would have been worth the rift with Kathy. I was 600 miles from home and on a bike.

1984 Yamaha RZ350

My hero Kenny Roberts endorsed these bikes, even lent his signature to the headlight shroud. They were nimble, blindingly fast for such a small bike, had that two-stroke exhaust note akin to a swarm of attacking hornets, and a guy I worked with was selling one. It was even black and yellow, like the racers King Kenny rode to glory on the GP circuit. Unfortunately, the life of a wannabe rock star precluded dropping $1000 on one of the coolest bikes ever. Frankly, the life of a wannabe rock star precluded holding a steady job and, at the time, $1000 was closer to annual income than the price of the bike.

These are just a few of many I’ve regretted over the years. I know I have a few more I’d like to get off my chest, but now it’s your turn. Please share a few stories of the dream bikes that slipped through your fingers. It really does help a guilty conscience to come clean.

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About the author

At 16, I got my motorcycle license and cut my street teeth aboard a Honda MT250 dual sport. I quickly discovered that motorcycle touring was an excellent antidote for acute wanderlust.