Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Old? yes, Bold...

Not so much.

Why do I like those bikes?  Having spent nearly 25 years in the MC business, I seem to have a soft spot for simple, functional, mechanically accessible bikes.  Over the years I was fortunate enough to have ridden some cutting edge machinery. 

I rode the super-bikes like the Hustlers, Mach III's and IV's, the Excessive Eleven's, The Turbo's (all but the Suzuki) the original Ninja's and everything since then.  The single R's, the double and triple RRR's  Japanese bikes, German bikes, Italian bikes, Brit bikes...

I've had V Max's in the garage, CBX's, Ducati's, Gold Wings, Venturer's and Venture's... and still, I like the operational ease of my XT's, the VX, and even my little TY 175.

Last year, while contemplating what and how I was going to make the 350 work for what I wanted down south here in Arizona, I kept punting my head into the proverbial brick wall.  There was no way it was ever going to be a road bike.  Take today for example, I ran down I-17 for a visit to Bob's Used bikes parts... the posted speed is 55MPH.  I can cruise relatively easily in sixth gear at that speed, with the engine turning 5000 revs.  Not exactly stratospheric but for the air cooled 4 valve single, acceptable.  Of course traffic in every lane is at least 20 mph above that and sometimes even more, judging by the paint being sucked off my fuel tank in the vacuum!  Even if the engine were capable of ton up speeds, which it isn't, the seating position, the lightness and the tires conspire against such antics. 

It's a dang good compromise bike for what I bought her to do.  That is, to legally get me to the boonies and without too much fuss, across the mountain trails.  My fill up yesterday showed 84MPImperialG, that's 70 MPUSG.  Loaded we wouldn't exceed 300 lbs and for me, tiptoeing across the Bradshaw's, that's plenty.

I noticed yesterday that all those country roads are now posted... you must be street legal, and have a motorcycle license to ride out there.  Now to give you an idea of what "out there" is like, the only vehicles I came across in the back country were 3 Jeep Jeeps, and a VW engined buggy!  I mean, who goes out there but the hard core guys and still you need all the paperwork now.  Long gone are the days you could tear across the Mojave on your Husky or Triumph twin.

So I was on the prowl for a more suitable bike that I could ride to Apache Junction or Globe or Tombstone with.  It had to be powerful enough, able to ride at freeway speeds at least for short distances, comfortable enough so that I could toss some soft bags and a tank bag on and maybe explore the state or even California or New Mexico.

It had to be skinny to get it into my humble little back yard and light enough that I could spin it around on the side stand to point it back out.  Do you know how many motorcycles fit this bill...?  Not many I can tell you.  Sure there are dozens of 250 Ninja's for sale, but I wanted something more practical than that.  There are a few GS or EX 500's but they lean more towards sporty.  Although I wasn't looking for a DR 650 or KLR 650, I wanted a bike I could ride down a 10 mile gravel trail to get to a overlook.  I even test rode a couple of Buell Blast's!!!

I ended up by buying a 1982 Honda FT 500 Ascot.  A street bike that started its life as a dirt bike.  Light at 350 odd pounds, strong enough at 35 hp to give me 65 mph speed, and comfortable enough that a small windshield and cordura bags would allow me to ride the black top a much greater distance than my little dual purpose XT.

It needs work, and that's pretty much what I have been doing this first week.  Scrounging around in the boxes the previous owner left me, I've now got brakes, lights (except for a missing headlight) and I've been able to ride it around my complex a couple of turns to makes certain the running gear is mechanically good before I spend the real bucks on her.  Cosmetically, she needs some attention, being badly sun faded, but that's not what I was after. 

I wanted a simple reliable, decently comfortable road bike that could, in a pinch, manage that short gravel secondary road.

In the next few days I will finish off my Bike Bandit shopping list and order up some parts.  My goal is to have this Ascot do some kind of loop before I leave here this time round.

Wish me luck, send me good vibes, or cash would be appreciated too, after all... we're keeping this old Honda out of Bob's 5 acres of bent frames, rusted hulks and boat anchor engines.

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